WARNING: This article contains spoilers!
As Gordon falls into deeper disarray, Mutiny tries to breathe once more, and Joe prepares to start over in California with Sara, true royalties are finally revealed in the ninth episode of season 2 of Halt and Catch Fire.
At a gun range, Cameron and Donna let out their frustrations on paper targets and contemplate Mutiny’s future. Cameron notes the one thing Westgroup didn’t steal was their games, and suggests using their latest one, “Extract and Defend,” to pitch to other companies to start over. At Mutiny, Tom finds the returned Cameron and asks about her sudden willingness to sell. When Tom tries to convince her not to “act too hastily,” Cameron replies, “Tom, I’m tired, okay?” then orders him to get everyone breakfast as she heads in for a bath.
Woken by the ringing phone, Joe answers to Gordon asking for a ride home from jail. After returning Gordon to his car, still sitting in front of Stan’s place, Gordon tells Joe, “Get on that damn plane, put all this behind you.” As Joe departs and Gordon gets settled in the driver’s seat, he digs through his belongings and once again finds the computer magazine ad for JGL Custom Computers. His vehicle settled in a spot in a parking garage, Gordon begins traversing the structure’s many levels and finds himself across the street, eventually finding what he’s looking for: the site of JGL Custom Computers…or what once was, anyway. “You’re late…they’re out of business. Cleared out on Friday,” says the guard who answers and subsequently offers him employment. Back in the garage, Gordon becomes confused after not finding his car parked where he remembered leaving it, so he begins ascending the garage’s levels in search.
Inside the Westgroup conference room being busily prepped for a meeting, Donna meets with Evans and highlights the damage Westgroup has done to Mutiny. After refuting Donna point for point on copyright violations, Donna says, “This idea belongs to its originators…This community doesn’t like copycats. We are prepared to every trade magazine in the country, every reporter on the tech beat..,” only to be stopped by Evans naming his own connections and sources in the media and their presence at the meeting that night. “You’re gonna sit there and tell me, what? I should’ve nobly stepped aside, watch you guys flop around for years, gasping for air, shopping your little regional product door-to-door like Thin Mints?” he says. As Donna departs, she comments, “Holding hands with Joe Macmillan never ends well. Trust me — I know,” only to be rebuked again by Evans, saying, “What makes you think Joe had anything to do with this?”
Continuing to pack up their household belongings, Sara discusses with Joe a book idea she has about his plight to see technology into the future. “You upset people, but so does anybody who rocks the boat. But you also gave birth to some pretty special things.” But their attempt to enjoy a little romantic time is interrupted by the arrival of Jacob, bidding adieu to the couple and wishing them luck out west in “the land of second chances.” Jacob requests a moment with Joe on his way out, during which Joe confronts him about Westgroup’s theft of Mutiny. When Jacob defends his actions, Joe admits advising Cameron against the deal and threatens to make the details of their actions public. “Do you have any idea how hard it going to be for you to start over?” replies Jacob. “Without Westgroup, your resume reads like a rap sheet…There’s no upside to grudges.” Jacob then invites him to the shareholders’ meeting taking place that afternoon to please Sara and “part friends.” Inside, Joe fields Sara’s opinion on attending the meeting. “Maybe you should go…Let them see that it started with you, your vision. Just try to pull something good out of this fiasco. Then we can just leave it all behind.”
Bosworth heads into Cameron’s office amidst an unsuccessful pitch call to a company. After she hangs up, Bosworth calls her out on her defeated tone on the phone. “You’re the boss bitch around here. Queen of the Nile, sitting on a gold mine. People be lucky you don’t charge admission, get me?” When Cameron points out his suited attire, Bosworth redirects the focus to the new interface mockup he finds on her desk, then brushes off Cameron when she asks about his presence there.
Reaching the bottom level of the garage and not finding his vehicle, Gordon receives some assistance from a maintenance worker in the area, who suggests the stairwell. After a brief detour to relieve himself, Gordon finds a door to the stairwell and, upon entrance, falls down the first flight of stairs, injuring his leg. Unable to stand, Gordon calls out for help.
In the unfinished offices of a “few weeks old” company called Funtime Games, Bosworth, Cameron and Donna discuss Westgroup and Evans’ steadfastness in their property hi-jacking. When Cameron inquires about Joe’s response to Donna’s settlement proposal, Donna notes, “He wasn’t there. I don’t think Joe knew about WestNet. I think maybe he was telling us the truth.” The trio are called into a small office offset from the large conference room they initially head for. Once there, the team demo and pitch “Extract and Defend” to Funtime’s Bryce and Amy, who are quickly revealed to not be the decision-makers of the company. Realizing this, Bosworth takes matters into his own hands and approaches the company execs, Allen Wilcox and Roberto Campinello, in the conference room, piquing their interest with experience-driven knowledge regarding their plans for distribution. “Hear us out,” Bosworth says, “You ain’t gonna regret it.”
Returning to Mutiny HQ, the team reveals a successful sale amounting to $50,000, “enough to hire a new network and we will make payroll.” As the programmers celebrate the victory, Cameron quietly retreats to her bedroom. After Tom enters and bids his congratulations, Cameron relates her relief at the transaction, remarking, “I feel lighter. I feel clearer than I’ve been in a while.” Noting Mutiny’s survival depends on absolute focus from all parties involved, Tom wonders if it means risking his and Cameron’s relationship. When Cameron takes full blame for getting “too complacent” and subjecting Mutiny to its struggles, Tom instead blames Joe, saying, “You used me…you made me believe in what we were doing here…You’re a lot more like him than you think.” Cameron dismisses Tom and continues working on the machine in her lap.
At Westgroup, Joe, preparing his presentation on stage, is interrupted by Evans, who informs him of a “reporter” wanting to speak to him. Looking up, he finds Cameron waiting at the entrance of the room. Diverting to the server room, the pair speak about Joe’s impending departure and contemplate what could’ve been. “Do you ever wonder? I mean, what if, instead of chasing what each of us wanted, separately and obsessively, we just held on to each other instead?” Cameron informs him that she knows the Mutiny theft wasn’t his fault, saying, “I didn’t want you to leave without hearing that…and, I must be totally mental, because part of me doesn’t want you to go away at all.” Cameron interrupts his response with a kiss, which he momentarily reciprocates before stopping her and himself. After apologizing, Cameron gives him a program disk of what Mutiny “could’ve been,” then leaves. As Evans enters to suggest a final rehearsal before the meeting, Joe boots up the disk on the machine before him. Admiring the stylized interface, Joe finds a note below the company logo: “For Joe. Always, – C”
As the meeting gets underway, Jacob takes the podium and introduces Joe. Kicking off his speech with a few remarks on Westgroup’s leap into human connection using this new technology, the sight of WestNet’s interface stops Joe midway through. He then diverts his speech in a different direction: “This all began with a very talented young programmer named Cameron Howe. She saw the future and she got there first. I didn’t built this. I don’t own it, and neither does anyone here. If we skate past that, we’re doing violence to the one thing, maybe the only sacred thing in our business: innovation. Cameron couldn’t be here today, but her genius is all around us, and will be, I suspect, for years to come.” He leaves the stage and rejoins Sara in the audience.
In the stairwell, an exhausted Gordon tries to raise attention when he hears a noise outside. Receiving no response, he opts to crawl up the flight of stairs, exiting the stairwell just in time to stop the nearby maintenance truck from departing. The maintenance man who initially assisted him comes to his aid, and Gordon finally receives medical attention he needs. On a stretcher en route to the ambulance, Gordon notices his car parked right where he had left it. Inside the ambulance, Gordon slowly breaks down into tears. At the hospital, Gordon recounts the incident to a concerned Donna, but the pair are interrupted by the doctor, who asks for a word outside with Donna. The doctor informs her that Gordon’s disease is under control, but other psychological issues are making themselves known. In breaking the news, Gordon very quickly admits, “I need help.”
Evans, in the middle of his speech at the podium, is interrupted by one of the shareholders behind him. Observing the computer, the businessmen and crowd notice an intermittent flicker and loss of control of the network. When the screen changes to an ongoing feed reporting online users, Joe slowly begins to realize what is happening: Cameron used the interface disk to input Gordon’s Sonaris code into WestNet, wiping out the network and everything they had stolen from Mutiny.
Bosworth finds Cameron in her bedroom and informs her of his resignation from Mutiny, stating, “I wish I could say I was looking forward to the next all-night, down-and-dirty scrap, but…I’m just too damn old to be eating three meals a day out of a toaster.” Calling Cameron by her given name, Catherine, Bosworth tells her to get some sleep before leaving.
At their house, Joe tries to convince Sara of his innocence, but is unsuccessful. “I thought that you were a victim of your genius, some side-tracked prophet and that I was your second chance. But you’re not, are you, Joe?” remarks Sara. “You’re something that happens to people who deserve better.” Sara quickly arrives at the heart of the issue: “I just wish…that you could see your face when you say her name.” With both of them in tears, Sara calls Joe “lost” and leaves.
Packing up the remaining essentials of the game to hand over to Funtime, Cameron talks with Amy about “Extract and Defend” and its future, leading to Amy revealing a friendship between her and Tom. “How do you think we found out about you?” As Tom is preparing to depart on his bike, Cameron tries to stop him and guarantee his return to Mutiny, but Tom leaves, saying “You did this all by yourself.”
Halt has really kept a slow burn on everything this season, which has worked really well. Gordon’s condition slowly developing to impose on his post-Cardiff independence, Bosworth’s lack of solid standing after his prison release, Joe’s indecision in dedicating himself fully to his change in love and life, or stepping back in time and considering feelings and opportunities once thought lost — all of it has only just come to a boil within the past few episodes. Though I imagine many viewers may have found this method of storytelling to be infuriatingly slow, the writers have done an amazing job in using each episode’s development to carefully craft the characters and the ways they relate to and affect each other, so that every little action and detail matters. It has been beautifully done, and I only hope the show gets the chance to continue its trek through technological history for another season.
Episodically specific, I wonder if they’re setting up Joe to take over for Bosworth at Mutiny. Donna won’t be able to continue much longer the way Gordon is — she’ll have to put her full focus on him unless they are parting ways (which may be what the writers plan to trigger using the Jules affair). Bosworth is leaving. Mutiny may be left without a business mind, and as much as Joe probably hates to admit it, his loyalty lies with Cameron. I’m thinking one of two things may happen: either Cameron and Joe will team up to bring Mutiny to its peak once again, or, with Westgroup, Wheeler, and possibly Sara, on the list of things he’ll want to leave behind, he’ll head to California to start over once again…and Cameron will leave what remains of Mutiny to Funtime (or relocate the company) and join him there (derived from her line “Going to California was my idea, remember?” in the server room). An ending with Joe and Cameron together could be the expected outcome, however, and thus it may deviate towards Joe going alone to Cali or perhaps teaming with Gordon once again. Either way, the industry and technology is in Joe’s blood…no matter how much he loves Cameron or Sara, the ideas he has for the technological future are his true love.