Saturday, August 26, 2017

REVIEW: 'Halt and Catch Fire' - Gordon Worries About How a New Project Will Affect Haley in 'Miscellaneous'

AMC's Halt and Catch Fire - Episode 4.03 "Miscellaneous"

Cameron promotes her game at an industry conference. Donna squares off against old rivals. Gordon struggles to support Joe's newest idea.

There has been such fluidity to the storytelling on Halt and Catch Fire over the years. It's one of its most admirable qualities. These are such beloved characters. And yet, they are in a constant state of evolution. They become different people in order to best adapt to the situation. Adaptation is key for their survival in this business. Their relationships with one another are constantly changing. Joe and Cameron are once again loving each other. It's a kind of depth that could feel wrong after all the previous betrayals. And yet, it's because of those experiences that they can form a bond of understanding. They've loved and hurt the other. In this moment in time, they are loving each other once more. Of course, their relationship is destructive to the rest of the world. Joe was too busy talking on the phone while his and Gordon's company was going under. It's only now that he realizes the urgency of the situation. But it's also a show about acceptance. It's about knowing when to pursue a good idea and when to just let it go. These characters have worked at so many different companies over the years. Some of them were true passion projects. And now, they all find themselves attached to something that embraces the future and allows them to stay relevant in this crazy and constantly shifting world. The feedback is still brutal. There's still the fluidity in the personal relationships. But there's a level of understanding as well that makes every single interaction rich with power and context.

Gordon is once again upset with Joe and Cameron because they allowed their personal relationship to flourish once more. He sees that dynamic as this completely destructive thing that destroys both of them and the people around them when they are allowed to be together. It's not something they are deliberately hiding from him or flaunting in front of him. It's just a new development in their individual lives that he has to cope with once more. He has to accept that his latest business venture has failed and that his friends are starting to see each other again. It's a level of acceptance that takes awhile to fully take. He has such a complicated history with both of them. Neither Cameron nor Joe have always been reliable. They frequently chase after their own dreams. When they are successful, it's great to be in that environment with them. It's so exciting. But when it starts to turn to destruction, it's a horrible experience because they are selfish people who have a tendency to push the people around them into the ground alongside the company. Gordon has seen this pattern before. And yet, he's still willing to be friends with Joe and Cameron. He simply doesn't have the time to waste worrying over what may or may happen next.

And yet, Gordon is a responsible parent for worrying about Haley getting too invested in this new internet project with Joe. It's Joe once again attaching onto the next good idea. He saw Haley's cataloging project on Gordon's computer. He had the same idea. And now, he wants to make it a reality. It's a way for him and Gordon to stay relevant in the new technological era. It's creating a service for people that they simply can't get anywhere else. Joe wants to catalogue the entire internet. He wants to give it a personal touch. He wants to treat this deal like any other business decision. He wants to buy Haley out of the concept for thousands of dollars. Gordon thinks it's inappropriate because Haley is still just a 14-year-old girl. But Haley actually wants to continue working on it. She wants to be there right alongside Joe and Gordon as they figure this idea out. It's something that she is passionate about. Gordon is worried because he's seen firsthand what happens to the people who work with Joe. It can be a disastrous relationship that further changes the person. He doesn't want that to happen to Haley. He doesn't believe she can properly cope with his manipulative tendencies to get what he wants. Gordon loves Joe but he's also aware of who he truly is and the damage he inflicts on other people. He wants to shield Haley from that life altogether. It seems like innocent fun now but he knows what's on the horizon.

It's up to Cameron to get Gordon to accept that he shouldn't stomp on Haley's dreams just because of the fears he has. She is going through her own problems right now. She's in the midst of a divorce and avoiding unpacking any of the stuff Tom has mailed to her. Her new game failed to get a good review when she gave it to a very excited fan. And now, the project is being shelved indefinitely. She's wallowing in the sadness of that decision. She's not ready to look for the next great idea that will completely change the industry. She wants to mourn the death of this project. That makes her different from Joe and he respects that. It also brings her back to Gordon. They are once again able to play games together as friends. Cameron isn't inspired by the current trend of first-person shooter games and their pointless violence. But it's what she and Gordon are playing. It's what allows them to talk again. It's nice to see that after a moment of uncertainty because of her being with Joe again. Gordon is even proud to proclaim that he would be happy if his daughters grew up to be like Cameron. He does see her as a good influence. It's because of her insights that he allows Haley to continue working on this project with Joe. He's still worried about the future and needs to tell Donna about what's going on. But he's also excited to spend more time with his daughter. It's the next generation picking up the mantle of what the previous one is doing in this industry.

But the show is also setting up a major conflict between Gordon and Donna. That was abundantly clear in the previous episode when she encouraged Rover to apply its software code to being a search engine for the internet. She heard the idea from Gordon because of Joe. And then, she was slyly able to introduce it to this team. She's pushing for excellence. She's the one becoming incredibly destructive this season. She no longer cares what anymore thinks. She is confident with her life and her vision for the company. She's determined to make it happen and is furious when the progress isn't good enough. That's a horrible quality in a boss that doesn't inspire her team to greatness. But her putting on a good face to forge some camaraderie with the people of this company is incredibly forced as well. Everyone is able to see through it and knows that Donna is still going to be a very demanding and impersonal boss. She's completely focused on the product. But that creates a huge obstacle in the future because her daughter is now her competitor. She was easily able to cast aside and ruin a major friendship in the battle for control of a company in the past. The lingering effects of the divide between Cameron and Donna are still so palpable. But now, Donna is going after her daughter's company. Gordon knows how to put up a fight. It just makes everything much more complicated. Donna wants to succeed in this venture. But so do Gordon, Joe and Haley. They have the same idea and the understanding that only one company can come out on top. It's just bound to rip this family apart and do irreparable harm to everyone involved.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Miscellaneous" was written by Zack Whedon and directed by Jeff Freilich. 
  • Was that opening scene where Cameron broke the news to Tom about sleeping with Joe all that necessary? It was information already given to the audience in the previous two episodes. Did seeing Tom's reaction change anything? Or did it just confirm that they were always on this tragic trajectory since that moment? Or perhaps the creative team just wanted Mark O'Brien to be seen one last time in this final season.
  • The moment with Tom also provides nice symmetry to the episode. It opens with the key moment of destruction in the marriage. And then, it ends first with Cameron losing one box because she left it on top of her car and then her just deciding to throw all of them out. It's clear that she is done with this part of her life and doesn't want to look back anymore.
  • Right now, the only problem with Haley working for the Comet search engine is her being sent inappropriate websites. The logistics of it all are perfectly fine. She has an independent study at school which she can use to work on the platform. Plus, Gordon is more than willing to take on Donna in order for her to do this.
  • New office dynamics are starting to become challenging for Donna. She has always had a good rapport with Diane. But now, it's being compromised because Diane doesn't like the way Donna is leading her new project. She saw a pregnant woman crying in the stairwell. That's not okay at all - although the characters don't learn about her being pregnant until later on.
  • Gordon needs to know how Joe is doing in order to allow Haley to continue being a part of this project. So, he asks the one person who will give him an honest answer because she's known him for just as long as he has. Cameron knows that Joe's mood changes from moment to moment. All one can ask for is if he is good right now - which he is but could change in an instant.
  • Donna didn't have to ask Cameron a question on her panel about the future of gaming. She walked into the room out of curiosity and listened to the disagreement that was falling upon the panelists. And then, she decided to step up. It's like her kicking Cameron when she is down. She's dredging up the past once more. It's bitter and hard to watch. It continues to hurt so profoundly because I just want the two of them to make up before the series is over with for good.