Throughout Season 2, “Halt and Catch Fire” has course corrected from many of its debut run’s worst habits. That trend continued in episode 7, “Working for the Clampdown,” as the AMC series redeemed a relationship that was central to many of Season 1’s problems – Joe (Lee Pace) and Cameron (Mackenzie Davis).
Though Donna’s blowup in episode 6 remains the series’ best scene to date, Sunday’s final encounter between Joe and Cameron – at the hospital after the attack on Lev (August Emerson) – gave it a run for its money. In addition to a call back to Joe’s Season 1 bisexuality for a touching character moment, Joe’s “removing himself from the equation speech” saw the salesman at his most genuine and, for the first time this season, Cameron seemed to believe it. By the end of the episode, Joe has made plans to marry Sara (Aleksa Palladino) and move to California, but it is hard to imagine Joe’s newfound authenticity not sparking some change on the Joe/Cameron front.
Though all season the show has been planting seeds of doubt, Joe has been a changed man all along. However, change is incremental and a person’s bad habits do not disappear overnight. Fans have been watching him fighting for Cameron’s creative freedom in his boardroom dealings with Jacob Wheeler (James Cromwell), but his shortcoming there led to him pursue control of Mutiny in order to protect its autonomy – a hypocrisy previously lost on him. This episode saw him return to his Machiavellian worst as he tried to manipulate both Tom (Mark O’Brien) and Bosworth (Toby Huss). But faced with Wheeler’s sinister plans for Mutiny, Joe finally realizes he needs to get out Cameron’s way and make his own. Will it stick?
However, there will likely be ramifications for Tom and Bosworth in their relationships with Cameron, after going behind her back to talk to Joe. For the first time, the people actually in Mutiny, not just stand-ins for “the man,” revealed themselves to be potential threats to Cameron’s vision, willing to put personal gain ahead of artistic integrity. In fact, by the end of the episode, though Tom and Bosworth are more than willing to support Cameron, only Joe truly agrees with her decision not to sell. There’s a measure of victory in Cameron’s declaration that Mutiny is “her company,” but also the promise of some isolation after shattering the illusion of democracy at the company for good.
Gordon (Scoot McNairy) and Donna (Kerry Bishé) took a backseat to the Joe and Cameron show in this episode, but that should change soon. Gordon’s Cardiff Giant rant tragically undercut the first true signs of a unique vision from Gordon with his custom computer company. The moment promises more brain damage drama ahead, on top of the fact that Gordon and Donna’s big secrets – a baby and an affair – remain in wait for an inevitable blowup. Plus, the fact that Community inadvertently caused what happened to Lev is sure to cause problems for Donna and tension between her and Cameron.
Calling the latest episode of “Halt and Catch Fire” the show’s best hour yet would risk becoming repetitive. Each successive episode of the computer drama’s second season has been raising the bar and it is much easier to recognize the past three or four episode arc as a collective high for the show than to single out a particular episode. The fate of “Halt and Catch Fire” remains unclear – AMC has not yet renewed the show for a third season – but with three episodes left in the season, the show is primed for a fantastic final stretch.