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Halt and Catch Fire - Extract and Defend + 10Broad36 - Double Review: "Mind Exploration & Power Plays"

Last season, Halt and Catch Fire was a show that I liked, but as this season has gone by and evolved, I have to say that Halt and Catch Fire is a show I’m starting to fall for. It’s still far away from my favorites - which are usually genre shows -, but it is a show that is gaining more and more of my affection as it goes on. It doesn’t have the highest stakes, but it does have a bunch of interesting characters that I grow to like more and more as the weeks go by, and that’s what has made this season pretty remarkable.

These past 2 episodes have kept on building connections with the characters; everything is starting to tie up together and some turns have left our main characters somewhat lost, but they are still trying to move forward; it’s a very interesting journey that clicks because the characters have clicked, more than ever before.

So let’s see how they fared on these past 2 episodes.

Extract and Defend

The biggest flaw of “Infiltrator” is that it spends more time than necessary exploring the mind of each character and the movement towards some specific plot points become slower and a bit more tedious. Take Gordon’s sudden trip to a nightclub, in which he wanders around aimlessly; as interesting as it could have been and as good as Scott McNair’s acting is, the scene feels like a way to stall: granted, it is used to show us how shocked and confused Gordon is, but it strikes mostly as weird and off place.

I also thought that Gordon’s visit to Donna’s mom took far more time than it needed to. Mostly I enjoyed listening to the Super Mario Bros theme while Gordon and his mother in law kept talking, until they finally cut to the chase: Donna’s mom wanted to be payed back and Gordon did so.
It’s nice that Gordon is starting visit family and try to set things straight with them, but this scene surely took more time than needed.

There are plenty of other scenes that continue to build up the work done at Mutiny, and while I appreciate the show’s commitment to show us a believable work environment, it is becoming a little repetitive and as such, it drags. The show’s commitment to explore the characters is one of the biggest strengths of this season, but they have to be careful not to go overboard with it and let some of it spread through the season instead of just the episodes.

That being said, when the episode doesn’t drag, it fires all cylinders. The characters dynamics are still great and everything that happens among them is incredible.
I love how Gordon tells Joe that he isn’t going to turn his back on Mutiny because he is a changed man, and Joe decides to honor that, it shows how much Joe has grown and it tells that Gordon can actually tell that he has changed, he has gone beyond the benefit of the doubt now.

Bos has become the eyes around Mutiny; he pays attention to everything and it seems he has the best advices for everything that’s going on. That’s a very interesting turn for the character; someone who has made as many mistakes as Bos is a good choice for keeping an eye on everyone. I love how he convinces Cameron that Joe is the right business man to help Mutiny afloat (his whole conversation with Cameron is pretty great). It’s also pretty great when they have a fallout over Bos kicking a subscriber out, one that hasn’t payed the bills (and that has been around since day 1). It’s the right move, but Cameron wants Mutiny to be a community, a place for inclusion not exclusion. Sadly for Cameron, she will have to make compromises down the line for Mutiny, and that’s something she won’t be able to do until she understands that Mutiny can’t only be hers, she has to share it and make some tough calls.

It’s also quite lovely the moment Bos has to share with Donna, as he tells her he knows that she is pregnant, finally letting her realize the situation she is in. It’s a small moment, but I’m sure it helped Donna, the fact that someone knows must have been a bit of a burden lifting.

Joe has to honor his word, he has to honor Gordon, and he goes to Jacob to pitch the idea of letting Mutiny rent time on their network; he likes that Joe is ambitious, but he doesn’t like being back stabbed, so he sets up a meeting with a Mutiny representative. Then Joe has to tell Sara what he has been doing behind her back and that would turn against him later on. Sara doesn’t like being kept on the dark.

Joe wants Donna to represent Mutiny during the meeting with Jacob, but she insists Cameron should do it. And honestly, Cameron rocks it, she manages to impress Jacob and get him to give Mutiny a try. So everything looks good until Jacob asks Cameron to vouch for Joe since he is marrying Sara. Cameron’s face goes white, shocked, but she says “he is a hell of a guy”.

Cameron tells Joe that Sara is the work he is pulling, which Joe quickly denies. I love how Cameron tells him “I’m not the same naïve girl anymore”, it shifts the whole balance of their past relationship, putting them on a more grounded equal place, which is great. Sadly, the conversation runs short once Sara spots them and run into them, meeting Cameron for the first time.

We reach the end of the episode, Joe signs the prenup Sara wrote, but Sara feels like she needs some room to figure things out. After all, everything has gone quite fast for them, so Sara goes back to Boston.
I feel it was too sudden, I honestly don’t understand why so suddenly she decided to slow down. And I feel bad for Joe, Sara has made him happy, and a better person, so it’s sad to see her go (though I’m sure she’ll be back eventually).

The episode ends with Cameron freaking out while trying to put a drawer back in place and Tom comes to the rescue. The whole meeting with Joe was a lot for Cameron to handle it, so it’s nice to see Tom by her side, calming her. It’s a really nice relationship they have and it makes me feel good to watch.

It was a good episode, but not a great episode; if Halt and Catch Fire manages to pick up the pace, every episode can be great, but so far this season there hasn’t been one bad episode, every single one so far turns pretty good. So it’s a good place to be.

Grade: B


Now this episode was better than “Extract and Defend”; while it has it flaws, it is faster paced and it has higher stakes as Joe, Donna and Cameron begin with the negotiations and the power plays, something that Joe has the clear advantage.
The past of these characters make working together all the more difficult; Donna and Cameron have to wary of Joe’s intention. As much as he may have changed he’s still very good at making things go his way.

This week Gordon keeps visiting family, trying to make sense of things after finding out he has brain damage. His stop this week is his brother’s house, where we can immediately feel the tension, one that could be cut through with a knife: it is clear that Gordon’s brother, Henry, has issues with him as soon as he says “you always were the prodigy” and as soon as he says that you just know there will be a big fallout later on.

Gordon sets out to visit his father, but rather than doing that, he ends up catching up with Henry’s ex-girlfriend Jules, connecting with her. They end up making out and having sex, and as they get dressed, Gordon tells Jules what’s going on with him, almost as manner of justifying that he just cheated on Donna. And Jules feels like Gordon was just using her to unburden himself and she leaves.

Jules’ running off was surprising, but it was something Gordon really needed to come back to Earth. Once he gets to Henry’s home, things fall apart. As Gordon tells him that he has been talking with Jules, Henry’s bullshit radar explodes and so does he; he calls Gordon a selfish prick, says that he smells like weed and that he banged his ex-girlfriend all in front of Gordon’s girls.

God, those girls have had it rough! No mom around, dad is a mess, and now his uncle completely lost it. Let’s say it: the Gordon family sucks, and the children are getting the worst part of it, either being completely neglected or exposed to family drama they shouldn’t be living. The only nice moment they have together is when Donna sings them over the phone, but that only emphasizes her absence. When the closest you have been to mom is over the phone, you know things are bad.

I like Gordon’s attempts to make sense of things, his life is on the balance and he doesn’t know what will happen tomorrow, but it’s hard to see how he’s handling it. I certainly felt his brief affair with Jules was understandable, but a bit of a cliché too: a man is fearing for his life and bangs someone from their past. And since it’s someone we didn’t know until know, it just felt out of the blue and it just piled on to Gordon’s troubles. I rather have visited Gordon’s dad for drama.

Now, back to Mutiny. This week is all about who gets the power, who is in control. Jacob sets the rent of their network at $5, $3.50 as the bottom line. But Joe doesn’t go for the bottom line, while negotiating he is hard on 5 or nothing, and Donna tries her best to get it down to 4. Then Joe says that if Mutiny can’t compete at the market rate it shouldn’t be on the game and Donna loses it. She is offended that Joe questions his commitment, she calls him for being on bed with a billionaire's daughter (ouch for Joe) and sets the price at 4. Joe leaves, but Donna thinks it’s just a matter of time before he accepts the deal.

So Joe does what he does best: he makes the power play and pulls the plug to show he isn’t bluffing. Which causes Cameron to freak and start dumping all her rage on Donna until Bos steps in and stop her. He knows how hard it has been for Donna, so it’s nice to see him stepping up to defend her. Donna, a bit shocked, sets out to fix it.

Bos gets to chat with Cameron for a bit to tell her that Donna is going through something, that there are things on the lives of those around Cameron that she just don’t know about. Donna has bailed out Cameron from disaster many times, this one time Donna makes the mistake and Cameron freaks. Once she understands what Bos said, her attitude towards Donna changes, dramatically.

Meanwhile Donna goes to Joe to try to fix things; Joe gets Donna to accept a deal: $5 dollars for now, but it can be lowered to $3.50 if Mutiny applies the benchmarks he sets.
Mutiny considers this change, but rather than doing so, they decide to cheat and make it seem like they would be working with the system Joe wants them to work. And for a moment it looks like they are going to trick Joe.

But tricking Joe is as hard as threading a needle; one mistake and it all falls apart. And Joe, being smart, plays the game chess a couple of times and he is able to tell that something is wrong, that he isn’t playing with human users online, but rather a programming device. Then he sees the table melting, which means a lack of fans on the pc, and he opens it up to see that he was tricked.

He leaves, pissed (or so it seems). Cameron ask him not to bail on her again, and Joe rightfully replies that she did it to herself, which is true.
The shocker (though maybe not so shocking) comes when Joe tells Jacob about Mutiny’s play and instead of coming of outraged, he is impressed, since the people there unknowingly replicated advance technology on one day, which leads him to suggest they should aquire Mutiny. Cut to black.

As a whole, the episode works because the dynamics of the characters carries a lot of tension and it pushes the story forward, but at the whole Gordon storyline could have used some tinkering.

Grade: B+

Stray Observations:

-Were prenups a thing on 1985? I thought they were more recent.

-Tom and Cameron’s relationship development take a break on 10Broad36, but I think that’s for the best, if every episode spent lots of time on it the show would derail from its goals.

-Bos’ reaction to finding out Lev is gay took more screen time than needed. Still, I laughed when he said “I have a cousin…”.

-I got so nostalgic when the people at Mutiny watched Terminator. I’d love to forget that movie and watch it again, not knowing what comes next.

-No Sara on 10Broad36; Joe has been calling her though, and the lack of answers make the whole “laying in bed with a billionaire’s daughter” all the more hurtful to Joe.

-Donna tells her mother about the miscarriage. It affected her, but it is obvious she is mostly relieved since it’ll allow her to work. Still, I think it hurts her deeply, she must feel horribly for not wanting the baby, and not that she lost it, she’s just on the edge. But hey, Gordon has it worse (I think).

-One word to define Joe and Tom's meeting: awkward.

-I like the show’s use of Bos, but I’d love if he had more screentime on 10Broad36.

-Can someone tell what the whole “Planned Parenthood” is about? Cameron told Donna that if she was doing it for the company it wasn’t necessary, but I just don’t see how it could be connected to Mutiny.

-While watching Halt and Catch Fire something interesting happens to me within every episode: the moments where there are pauses or silences, I think I can feel the presence of the crew. The cast is there portraying the characters, but once there are these little moments in which no character is talking, when there is music or they are just walking or wandering about, with no words involved, it’s like there’s someone else there, aside from the characters. It’s like the crew of the show is waving at me. It’s a really interesting thing.
Do anyone else has had that feeling on the show or is it just me?

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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