Halt and Catch Fire: ‘The Way In’ Recap & Review


WARNING: This review contains spoilers

Gordon’s back in the saddle! Reinvigorated by his self-assigned project of mapping Mutiny’s subscriber network, Gordon is only interrupted by a visit from Donna, to whom he boasts that the code of his program, dubbed “Sonaris,” will not only map the network’s subscribers, but the hackers and “freeloaders” as well. After Donna’s departure, he attempts to quench his thirst with a Jolt cola, but finds himself unable to open the can with his finger. 

Bosworth retrieves his vehicle, a 1960s Mustang, from Barry Shields (former legal counsel for Cardiff), who kept the car safe while John was behind bars. Meanwhile, at work, Joe presents an idea to make the department’s document error-checking more efficient, and is immediately shut down by supervisor Eugene Bowdich, who waxes poetically on his pastime of collecting “vintage percussion” as a means of escape from the monotony of the work. Unimpressed, Joe takes a breather in the mainframe room. 

At Mutiny, the programmers pitch new game ideas to their colleagues, including a concept involving Jell-O. When Cameron asks Tom about his ideas, he mentions his development of “sprite scaling, for immersive environments,” which is met with a cold reception by Cameron for not having a story. Cameron then passes out the 22nd chapter of Parallax to play and debug before its online release.

Bosworth hits the road in his ride, windows down and radio blaring Johnny Cash, and winds up at the El Royale motel, meeting a scantily clad woman in one of the ground floor rooms. After a roll between the sheets, the woman is revealed to be his ex-wife Ginny, who informs John that “the world didn’t stop when you went to prison.” As Ginny dresses, she tries to persuade Bosworth not to go to Galveston for a familial event, saying, “I just don’t think the time’s right.”

Sara, surrounded by a smattering of partially unpacked boxes, receives a call from Joe. With both on the fence about whether the job and relocation to Dallas was “a mistake,” Joe proposes a dinner party. After reluctantly agreeing to invite his “friends from Dallas,” Joe is forced to hang up the phone by the monitoring Bowdich. In response, Joe calls up Jacob Wheeler’s office and schedules an appointment with him later that day…all within earshot of Bowdich. Back at Mutiny, Donna fawns over the boom of interaction over Mutiny’s community chat module, while Cameron tracks the impressive numbers of online users within each game. 

In Wheeler’s office, Joe pitches an idea intertwined into the first one Bowdich shot down — more efficient data processing formed by the merging of the collection and analytics departments. Jacob OK’s the idea before Joe finishes his pitch, ordering the elimination of Bowdich with his department and the creation of a new one led by Joe. Taken aback by the quick approval, Joe asks for a short preparation time and departs.

Gordon and Donna pore over the dinner party invitation left by Joe on their answering machine and speculate about his fiancée. Donna encourages Gordon to go without her, but the night of the dinner, Gordon becomes the reluctant one. After Donna shoots down his excuses and leaves to get ready, Gordon inserts the floppy disk of his mapping program Sonaris and connects his machine to the network.

At Mutiny HQ, the programmers discuss the newest Parallax chapter, with general approval…except from Tom, who puts down the expansion as a “rehash” of previous chapters. Meanwhile, Donna and Gordon reunite with Joe at his and Sara’s apartment, where they awkwardly greet Sara and catch up on recent times. After joking about Sara’s friends being “total flakes,” Sara pulls him into the kitchen and calls him out on his behavior. Returning to the living room, Gordon broaches the topic of Joe’s financial share from Cardiff, and Joe tells him and Donna the truth.

In Galveston, John spectates from his Mustang a flurry of people entering the Colonnade Restaurant; among them is Ginny, who spots John in the distance and enters the restaurant. On the sign outside reads “Bosworth-Garvey Rehearsal Dinner.” Later, his son James leaves the restaurant and visits John in his car, where John reads him a speech he had written for James’ wedding. Taking his speech, James invites him to the wedding the following day, but John bows out and James heads back inside. At the end of the dinner, when James and his bride greet the valet curbside, they find that John has given James the Mustang, while John travels on a bus en route to Dallas. 

Programmer Yo-Yo calls Cameron into the den, where the crew are trying to stop rogue software from infiltrating and wiping out Mutiny’s and its subscribers’ systems with little success. Cameron races to contact Donna and is given the number to Joe’s apartment. Upon hearing his voice, Cameron freezes and Joe hangs up on the dead air. Cameron then orders the network to be shut down.

On the small balcony of Joe’s apartment, Gordon and Joe enjoy swigs of wine and elaborate on Joe’s share from Cardiff. Speaking about his and Sara’s small apartment and the job “in a basement” he now holds, Joe says, “If you offered me this version of my life or your payout…I’d choose this. I’d choose her.” Donna then asks for her and Gordon’s leave after hearing of some issue at Mutiny.

Tom details to Cameron the extent of the damage the rogue software has caused, the work required to get the network back up, and the likely massive drop in subscriber numbers. The two  meet Gordon and Donna in the front yard with the Mutiny programmers and elaborate on the damage from the rogue software, “something called ‘Sonaris.’” At the realization that Gordon was the unintentional perpetrator, Cameron gets into an argument with Gordon, who reveals that Donna had been financially helping support Mutiny without Cameron’s knowledge. Donna asks Gordon to go home and walks inside with Cameron and the team. In the garage at home, Gordon aims to pull the plug on his machine, but finds himself unable to detach a cord from the computer’s modem; in frustration, he shoves the entire machine off the table. 

When Donna reports to Cameron on the progress of the network’s recovery, Cameron asks why she was left in the dark about her and Gordon’s dinner with Joe. “I was pretty sure you would hold it against me,” Donna replies; Cameron confirms her assumption, then orders her to go home after threatening her termination “if you ever put another dime of your own money into Mutiny again behind my back”. Donna exits the house, but, not ready to face Gordon, quickly returns and asks programmer Malcolm how she can help with the network’s rebuild. The next morning, Donna heads home in a taxi as Cameron checks Mutiny’s online subscriber numbers. When she sees there are no subscribers online, she is thrown into a panic attack, of which Tom quickly helps take control by distracting her with strategy trivia from Parallax. At the Clark household, Donna climbs into bed with a dozing Gordon, who apologizes, blaming his excitement over the program. 

Clocking into work in that morning, Joe orders Eugene to join him in the mainframe room. While waiting, Joe witnesses the mainframes turning on at 9:00am sharp, synchronized with the employee shifts. He finds a manual on a nearby bookshelf and discovers the mainframe computers are Cardiff Electric machines. “Millions of dollars of hardware, sitting unused for 16 hours a day,” Joe notes to a confused Eugene, whom he dismisses as his mind is too preoccupied with this newly discovered “way in.” 


Now we’re getting back to the Halt we know! The first two episodes set up the new season and everyone’s separated paths, but now we are starting to see everyone and everything we know from the first season come back into play. Joe is finally peeling away a few layers to reveal his true character, though he is still treading lightly as more of a silent, under-the-radar type.

Could Gordon’s weakness, emphasized in two moments in this episode, be indicative of his withdrawal (assuming he has not continued his cocaine usage after exhausting Bosworth’s small stash), or a symptom of something else? I also noticed the use of several Superman references in Gordon’s dialogue to contrast this sudden weakness (The program’s name Sonaris could be derivative of the Superman villain Solaris, which would fit well with the plot, with the program essentially becoming his enemy, but I can’t confirm this).

Bosworth still seems to be a detached link — I’m thinking, after a period of soul-searching, he’ll return to the fold, but they may be waiting on getting Joe situated or re-intertwined with the Cardiff crew to bring him back in.

With Donna’s hush-hush financing of Mutiny now on the table, it’s interesting to see her and Cameron switching positions of power because Donna did the very thing she threatened Cameron not to do. Though what Donna did has essentially kept Mutiny afloat this long, it still falls under the same umbrella of selective disclosure with each other.

And though he was a bit of a jerk with his assessment of the new Parallax chapter, I can’t help but like Tom in this episode, because the dude knows how to handle panic attacks like a pro. (Personal experience.) Nothing so far has convinced me there won’t be a Cameron/Tom romance arc in the future (especially with Cameron now aware that Joe’s back on the grid), but how this will weave into Mutiny and its increasingly unlikely future remains to be seen.

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