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Halt and Catch Fire - New Coke + The Way In - Double Review: "Everything's coming up Mutiny"

First of all, sorry for the incredibly long delay. 3 episodes went by and it was impossible for me to review because of some personal issues I had to take care of. Since I already have, there should be no more delays. I’ll cover 2 episodes on this review and one which I’ll post around tomorrow or Thursdays at the latest.
Once again, sorry for such a big delay.

New Coke

With the apologies out of the way, I must say: it is a very good time to be a Halt and Catch Fire fan right now. Most of the issues that plagued the show around season 1 are long gone and through all the episodes the show has rolled out it looks more and more promising as it goes by.

“New Coke” is not an stellar episode by any means, but it is a pretty solid one in which we are allowed to explore the characters interactions farther, and we get to see how much the gang needs to be back together.

Each character on Halt and Catch Fire has a unique set of tools that allows them to make groundbreaking advances in technologies: Joe is the visionary, Gordon is the executor, Cameron is the creative mind and Donna is the pragmatic one. We saw them all together during season 1 but due to the limited time frame they had and the differences they were unable to overcome they strayed and got separated from each other. But now that they are on their own their projects aren’t doing any better.

Take Cameron and Donna’s meeting with potential investors: if Joe was there he would have most likely convinced them to invest since that is what he is good at. Left on their own, Cameron and Donna were unable to make a decent impression. It also says about the lack of coordination they have: both of them come with different outcomes and speak in different manners through the meeting.

As a matter of fact, communication is key factor in what’s going on with Donna and Cameron: they are essentially in different worlds and it’s making their path towards making Mutiny a viable business harder and harder.

During the episode, one of Mutiny’s game, Parallax has been hacked by a former Mutiny subscriber, Tom. Cameron and Donna track him down and warn him to stop what’s he's doing. The twist is that we come to learn that Tom is actually interested on working in Mutiny, to help it become something better and he and Cameron reach an understanding for him to come work on Mutiny. Which makes Donna reasonably angry since she wasn’t consulted on this decision. The lack of communication between these two, as mentioned above, is reaching a breaking point. Not yet, but it’s closer and closer.

Joe isn’t that much better on his own; though he is pretty happy with his relationship with Sara, he is pretty unsatisfied with his work. Sara’s dad offered him a job and Joe took him as he convinced him that he wouldn’t find any jobs anywhere else; and to his surprise, is a highly demoralizing desk job on a dark cubicle.

Lee Pace’s portray of Joe’s demolished spirit is spot on; this isn’t the kind of job he would like to do, it’s a job that doesn’t play into his strength and that looks pretty much like a dead end. Luckily for him, a call from Sara makes it clear that he is being tested by Sara’s father and Joe’s determination to pass the test would be key for the following episodes.

Meanwhile, Gordon is showing us just how obsessed he can be, to the point where he becomes a pretty neglecting father: for starters, he is obviously addicted to cocaine, which is just one of the many issues his character is crossing. The other one is that he needs guidance over his projects, he has no idea of what to do on his own, so of course he takes a big interest on Donna’s projects. It is great character work, on one hand, but it comes too strong as an overwhelming feeling of shame cover most of the scenes he is. I think both the script and McNairy’s performances could have dialed it down a bit.

Seriously, I rolled my eyes when he asked Stan to pick up the girls from school; the guy hasn’t seen them in 2 years! That was too much; I understand that the writers are letting us know how absorbed Gordon is getting, but I’d rather look for some other ways to treat this character trait.

As for John Bosworth, which comes into play during this episode, god! I’m just really happy to see him back! He didn’t have that much screen time (which will come during the next episode). He is mocked upon and everyone else is giving him a hard time since he is an ex convict. The key moment comes with the letter reading: everyone was being really callous about it until Bos comes into scene and asks them to keep reading.

The letter displays how hopeless and helpless he felt during his time on prison. It’s sad and as Cameron comes in and realizes what’s going on she sends everyone away, and Bos also leaves, not ready to talk about it.

When they do talk about it, Bos decides that there are stuff that he has to take care of, which we’ll see during the next episode. The door is open for his return once he ties every loose end.

This episode was mostly busy work, it’s working towards a coherent narrative; if the season premiere set up the chess table, we are looking at the first moves of the pieces; these are the right moves, but as it often happens during the first moves of chess, it isn’t particularly exciting.

Grade: B

Stray Observations:

-As usual, the music on the show is its own character, and it’s amazing.

-I like that the show mentioned Joe’s abysmal references, it makes all the more clear the consequences of Joe’s act through his life and the first season.

-One of the best things about “New Coke” is watching Toby Huss’ John coming back into play: it is one of the most delightful performances on the show along with Lee Pace’s and Kerry Bishé

-I love how Sara is so supportive over Joe and how much he appreciates it. It’s a bit weird, but refreshing to see Joe on such a healthy relationship and I think it has allowed for some better directions for his character during this season. Good stuff.

-Cameron’s face when asked if she wants to have kids is priceless. Donna, of course, keeps her cool.

-Cameron: “Sorry, are you going to give us the money or not?”

The Way In

“The Way In” is probably one of the best - if not best - episodes the show has done so far. It works so well because a lot of things happen, there’s thrill, incredible performances and we’re finally looking at the big picture of the season. The table has been set, and the pieces move accordingly, but now we get a glimpse on what’s the strategy here, and it looks fairly brilliant.

I didn’t note it in “New Coke”’s review, but Joe and Sara moved to Dallas due to Joe’s job, which means he is in near distance of everyone else, Gordon, Cameron and Donna. Sara asks him if he would like to invite his “friends” from Dallas to dinner and that would result on some really great moments.

But I’m getting ahead of myself; first of all, most of my complains about Gordon during the previous episode seems to be treated immediately here, since the show dials down a bit from his addictive personality and plays it just a little bit more subtly. But just a little, because his obsession would be key to some of the big conflicts during the episode.

Gordon has grown an obsession on Mutiny’s games and that obviously comes from his lack of original ideas; he thinks he can improve on Mutiny’s softwares and develops his own, “Sonaris” to map it all out, which would only bring out catastrophy later on..

Meanwhile, Joe is struggling to make something of his new job as his new boss, Eugine, is pretty much in the way. As he tries to improve his workplace by adding new systems and mechanics to make everything more efficient, Eugine essentially just blocks every idea that he has, making his work all the more excruciating.

And then when he comes to talk to Sara’s dad about his plans for the department he surprises Joe by saying that he can take over it as he has proven to be willing to take on even the worst taks possible down there. He has passed his test and he puts Joe in a position of power that will most likely change everything.

He previously talked with Sara about having a dinner party and so he invited Gordon and Donna, who accept the invitation mostly because they are curious to see how Joe ended up and who he ended up with. And just before going there, Gordon decides to take his “Sonaris” floppy disk for a drive, believing he would help improving Mutiny.

In the midst of all this, Cameron is working on the new levels of her game “Parallex” to which Tom’s come to argue that the game has become repetitive and Mutiny’s efforts would be better off somewhere else. Cameron is hurt by that, she is strong headed so she wants to make Parallax relevant again, but she knows Tom is right. She is developing ideas just as Gordon and Donna are getting into Joe’s place. Soon, everything will tie up together.

The dinner party is a showcase of excellent scenes that deal with the man that Joe used to be and the man that he is now: it is really important for him to make an impression out of Gordon and Donna so he starts talking about how he is reaching up in his job and how his house is just temporary until he gets something better.

Luckily, Sara puts him in his place and Joe realizes that she is right, that he shouldn’t pretend around anyone. And then he tells Gordon that he didn’t get a dime from Cardiff, that he is working somewhere he would rather not and living on a house that is a huge step down from where he used to. And yet he would not change anything of that because he has Sara.

Sara is the best thing that could have happened to Joe as a character; though he still has ambition and flaws, he becomes more relatable and he develops a persona that feels new and improved, it’s an evolution that I really like to see. And Gordon can tell that.

One of the best moments of the episode, however, comes when Sonaris starts overdriving the data from Mutiny’s database and everything starts to crumble over there. Cameron tries to reach out to Donna and she gets the number to Joe’s house. She calls and as she hears his voice she goes silent.

Mackenzie Davis totally dominates during this episode, especially during this scene, in which she falls into complete shock as she realizes where Donna is. Her face tells it all: Joe is around, and she can’t accept it, she feels vulnerable and betrayed all the same. There is no dialogue, but Mackenzie Davis kills it just by delivering that shocked look on her face. And then she says to shut everything down.

Then Donna and Gordon pass by Mutiny and it is revealed that a program named Sonaris destroyed the data. And shit goes down.
Donna realizes that Gordon sent it and she is caught up in the middle of a fight between Cameron and Gordon; Cameron is rightfully pissed, and she starts to insult Gordon claiming that he doesn’t know what “original” means and that he should leave them be, that he is just a sellout. Gordon responds by revealing that Donna has kept the boat afloat by paying for the debts with her own money and as such Mutiny hasn’t had any actual success. It’s a strong, devastating scene in which one’s response can be summed up to just “oh, shit” as everything unfolds.

Cameron points out to Donna that while for her it is a job for her it’s her life since she lives on her workplace, so it means much more to her, it means that she has to deal with every downfall on every second. She also warns Donna that if she ever puts a dime of her own to save Mutiny she is fired; she would rather crash and burn than be saved.

The next morning, while checking out the subscribers, as she sees there are none for anything, not even “Parallax” Cameron just meltdowns, as she goes through a panic attack. The comes Tom to the rescue in one of the most tender moments of the whole show; she reminds her of what the game was at its beginning and he reminds her that she just needs to recapture the essence of it, helping her get through her panic attack. I’m running out of words to praise Mackenzie Davis’ performance, it was honestly emmy worthy during this episode.

I left Bos for last since he had his own storyline during the episode. He had much more screentime than last time, and we get to see how he tries to put everything back together. His family is scattered, life moved on without him, and he is left with an ex-wife that treats him like a mere booty call and wants him separated from his life.

Bos’ reunion with his son is very moving since he is willing to forgive him, and he wants his father to be a part of his life. It’s heartwarming, and though Bos’ family life is still pretty scattered, his son offers him hope that things can eventually be sorted out. He gives him his beloved car and returns to Mutiny (I assume) by bus.

Bos is in a quest for redemption, he wants to fix his relationship with his family and he wants to work with Cameron on Mutiny, he wants to do things right and as such he becomes a character that we can fully support, besides Toby Huss’ performance is top notch so it makes Bos even more sympathetic.

“The Way In” is the episode that finally ties the main characters together, and while Bos feels marginalized from the main narrative, his story still stands out, even as a mere B plot. As a whole it works splendid, the performance, the characters and the twists are all in tune with the show’s best qualities, resulting in a very splendid episode. After this episode, I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season is saving for us.

Grade: A-

Stray Observations:

-So why isn't this an A? I just have the feeling a stronger episode may come in. This one was pretty spectacular, but I'm saving the "A" garde for an episode that does all what "The Way In" did plus adding some bigger twist or progress on Mutiny's story arc. But for all intents and purposes, you may consider this episode a straight A.

-Gordon and Donna somehow are making their relationship work, but they are so wrapped out in their own things that they are neglecting their children. I sense a storyline coming up about that. Maybe a social worker will threat to take them away?

-Donna fell asleep on the cab, so how the hell did the cab driver knew where to go?

-Joe's realization at the end of the episode makes me thing that he will try to merge Sara's dad business with Mutiny by the end of the season. The question is not if he can make that happen, but rather how would he get Cameron to side with him again after all the games she played with her.

About the Author - Pablo
I'm currently studying Psychology while also writing fantasy books (one already published in my home country, Chile, you can check it out on the facebook icon). I watch many different types of shows, including my favorites Revenge, Game of Thrones, Once Upon a Time and about 23 more. Currently writing reviews for Once Upon a Time, The 100 and Halt and Catch Fire
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