“Halt and Catch Fire” was back in action Sunday night with the Season 2 premiere of the AMC computer drama. “SETI” started the season off with a bang as Donna (Kerry Bishé) and Cameron (Mackenzie Davis) struggled to keep Mutiny afloat, Gordon (Scoot McNairy) wrestled with the sale of Cardiff, and Joe (Lee Pace) delivered the episode’s most surprising scene – his proposal to Sara (Aleksa Palladino). Showrunner and executive producer Jonathan Lisco spoke to the International Business Times to break down all of the premiere’s big moments:
International Business Times: The most shocking moment of the premiere had to be Joe’s big proposal. Why does he ask Sara to marry him? Is she the next victim in his wake or is this for real?
Jonathan Lisco: Well, from Season 1 our viewers may think that Joe is Machiavellian reptile because with [everything he does] the ends justify the means. We’ve known him to be calculating. We’ve known him to be strategic. So, one of the big themes of Season 2 is this question of atonement and also the possibility for redemption. So, for Joe, we are really asking if redemption is really possible. Can a person really reform themselves and find a better version of themselves? [Sara] represents someone who knew him back in the day before all this craziness started. They went to college together. You can see them staying up all night discussing philosophy on bean bag chairs and wondering whether or not they should sleep together. Back then, it was pure. She saw him before he started wearing all of these faces and working at IBM. So, he sought her out at the end of Season 1 because he wanted to find someone who saw the real Joe and believed in the real Joe.
Now, not to be cagey, but the question of why he proposed – that’s very much an engine for the season. Will she be another victim of his wake? That’s something viewers are going to have to wait to find out. In other words, is Joe being strategic here or has he actually found someone that makes him a better man? Don’t forget, [in the premiere] he gets shut out of the financial upside of Cardiff and immediately after that he asks for her hand in marriage. So, I think a lot of viewers will go, “Ok, he didn’t get the money so he wants to marry her to support himself,” or they will say, “He didn’t get the money and now he realizes what is important in life.” It’s certainly a double-edged sword and we intended it that way.
IBTimes: Joe anonymously connects with Cameron at the end of the episode, signing on to Mutiny. Does he still have feelings for her?
Lisco: The first scene of the episode shows that he was too busy and focused on the Giant when Cameron wanted to stop and really connect over something that she loved – this idea of gaming. So, cut to 20 months later and that same house has become a hotbed of creativity with this proto-internet gaming service and Joe could have been a part of that and, not only that, but a part of her bliss and her passion. So Joe reaches out at the end of the episode because he’s genuinely interested in what she is doing. The audience has to interpret if that means he can’t get her out from under his skin and he’s absolutely obsessed with her or whether he just wishes her well, knows she’s a genius, and wants to see what she’s up to right now. Now, the juxtaposition of Sara lying in bed and him out in the other room connecting online with someone he’s pretty sure is Cameron is certainly a complication.
IBTimes: Speaking of Mutiny, it sure seems like they could use Joe as a manager, but what they get instead is Bosworth, who Cameron picks up from prison at the end of the premiere. What will his return bring to the show?
Lisco: Well, Bosworth is portrayed by Toby Huss and when we were doing episode 8 [of Season 1] Toby called me up and said, “So, I get arrested and I go to prison, does that mean I’m out of the show?” I told him, “Listen, we love you, we thing your character is one of the most dynamic in the ensemble. We don’t know if we are going to get picked up for Season 2, but you are part of this show.”
[In that episode] Bosworth takes a fall for someone he truly loves, and I mean that platonically, with Cameron. So, his return is very emotional for her. Their relationship is the closest thing to a father/daughter relationship as either one of them has ever had. As for his possible role in Mutiny, he is still Bosworth and is going to have a different take on things, but he was also a manager for 22 years and they could use a guy like him. In episode 2, Donna and Cameron are going to have an argument about just that – is he a square peg in a round hole and would Cameron just be hiring him solely based on her guilt.
IBTimes: Well, the current resident adult at Mutiny is Donna, who has gone from compensating for Gordon at home to spending this episode begging Cameron to be more responsible on the managerial side of the business. Why can’t Donna ever escape the role of babysitter?
Lisco: As Season 2 develops, she will certainly escape that dynamic. We are going to take her on an interesting ride. Donna and Cameron are going to have to find a way to split the managerial duties and we really want to dramatize this true working friendship between two formidable female engineers, which I don’t think we’ve ever seen on television.
Watch a scene from the premiere featuring Donna and Cameron below:
IBTimes: Can Mutiny survive in that house with all the power issues and wiring chaos?
Lisco: Well, one thing we wanted to focus on this season was to look at startup culture. Right now, if you are directly out of college or maybe a dropout and you say, “I’m going to go work at a startup,” people are going to know what that means and, perhaps, even be encouraging because who wouldn’t want to be Mark Zuckerberg? But back in the eighties, the Steve Jobs in the garage story aside, you had to be a little “off” to not go into IBM or Texas Instruments. We wanted to create this place that was fermenting ideas and creativity that literally spilled out onto your shirt. Whether or not they can survive in that house is a good question, but they are going to try and do it because moving to a corporate office park would take the rebellious nature out of Mutiny.
IBTimes: Another element of 80s culture that emerges in the episode is Gordon’s cocaine use. Can you talk about that?
Lisco: We never wanted to approach the 80s like, “Look, everybody is doing coke,” so what we did is we filtered it through in an almost offhand way when Gordon is at the bar talking to Stan. The truth of the matter is people did cocaine at that time and did not necessarily become addicts. So, that Gordon is using cocaine now is not necessarily because he’s addicted to it, but because he needs something to stimulate him. He’s like Sherlock Holmes. What we’re hoping for is he will find some great idea that will supplant his drug addiction.
IBTimes: Will that new addiction be another Gordon and Joe team up?
Lisco: Yes, we will see Gordon and Joe team up again, but it will not necessarily be something that is deliberate. In some ways they will be forced into teaming up together because it is in both of their best interests, at which time they will actually form a real relationship going forward that will cross paths with Mutiny in unexpected ways.
What did you think of the premiere? Tweet your thoughts to @Ja9GarofaloTV.