“Halt and Catch Fire” has undergone a major course correction throughout its second season. Though the show is inarguably better now than it was in Season 1, its characters have not faced such a black and white road in their own quests to improve. Cameron (Mackenzie Davis) saved Mutiny in episode 9, “Kali,” but it came at a high cost for her and the show’s other flagship characters as Cameron, Joe (Lee Pace), Gordon (Scoot McNairy) and Donna (Kerry Bishé) found themselves more alone than ever.
Cameron’s sale of “Extract and Defend” to Funtime was a professional high for the still struggling-to-keep-control boss. She devised a plan and executed it, allowing her to keep her company and pay her employees, making good on the responsibilities inherent in her declaration that Mutiny “is my company” in episode 7.
However, the company has supplanted the work in Cameron’s priorities and that does not sit well with Tom (Mark O’Brien). After previously disagreeing over Cameron’s decision not to sell Mutiny, the sale of the game the pair devised at the height of their romance was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The programmer breaks up with Cameron while accusing her of selfishly pursuing her own goals at the expense of those around her…just like Joe.
Bosworth’s (Toby Huss) decision to resign – after bailing Cameron out at Funtime in the salesman’s finest moment – and Donna’s realization that Gordon will require more care left Cameron even more isolated and, in her isolation, she ironically turned to Joe. “What if instead we had just held on to each other,” she asked him as it became clear just how much the two still felt for each other. However, Joe was still holding on to the idea that Sara (Aleksa Palladino) was his key to redemption and he pulled away when Cameron kissed him, leaving her with no choice, but to leave him with the Sonaris-laced mock-up of Mutiny’s new interface.
Cameron and Joe’s relationship has often been defined by the duo’s propensity for self-destruction. Their coincidental joint-take down of Westnet was a symphony of self-righteous self-destruction. Joe’s speech to undercut the ruse that West Group had invented Community on their own torpedoed his future career prospects and his marriage, while Cameron’s hack escalated a war with a company that has more than enough resources and power to destroy her fledgling Mutiny.
The ramifications of Joe's West Group betrayal were a blow to his continued campaign to prove he is a changed, authentic person. “I’m getting tired of being second guessed and manipulated and distrusted when I have done absolutely nothing wrong," he told Sara, but her declaration that he "was an accident," was the nail in the coffin for his attempt to redeem himself through their marriage. It turns out Joe was not be able to find a better version of himself by fleeing into the future with Sara. He had to confront his past with Cameron to prove he was the man he promised he could be. His Westnet speech did that, but it left him alone as well.
Meanwhile, Gordon, who spent the episode in a parking lot limbo to emphasize his deteriorating mental health, and Donna have been frustratingly placed on the back burner in service of the Cameron and Joe show. That’s a problem indicative of those that hamstringed the show in Season 1, but “Halt and Catch Fire” has done enough right this time around to earn some forgiveness and benefit of the doubt.
Much like Season 1, the main quartet of characters enter this season’s last episode compromised and left with very little satisfaction to show for a season’s worth of pursuing success and innovation. The blank slate-feel to the end of episode 9 allows for almost infinite possibilities for the finale. Will Cameron and Joe – whose relationship kicked off this season, albeit in a flashback – reunite and head to California together? Will Gordon’s health force Donna to leave Community behind?
The last episode has a lot of questions to answer, but the real achievement of “Halt and Catch Fire” Season 2 is that, whether this is the end of the series or just the season, what happens in the finale feels like it matters.
What did you think of "Kali?" Tweet your thoughts to @Ja9GarofaloTV.