So far this season, Halt and Catch Fire has hit the proverbial ground running with a series of eventful character arcs. Mutiny finally went online with its own servers; lost out on a series of investors; built a strong alliance with a powerful investor; bought a rival company; and created and implemented the code to allow for online banking transactions. Across town at MacMillan Utility, Joe MacMillan and his protégé Ryan have started shaping NSFNET into the internet that we know and use today. After staring down homophobia at the MacMillan offices, Joe got a call about a medical diagnosis; Gordon’s neurological problems resurfaced; the hairline cracks in Cameron and Donna’s rad became harder to ignore; and Cameron married her hometown sweetheart, Tom Rendon. With all of this unfolding in the first four episodes of the season, “And She Was” gives the major players an opportunity to collect their thoughts and look at how the decisions they’ve made have shaped their present.
After the bombshell Diane inadvertently dropped at the close of last episode, Cameron takes charge at Mutiny by fully integrating the Swap Meet code and firing the startup’s founders without Donna’s knowledge. In a later meeting with the investor, she reveals that Compuserve would like to buy stock in Mutiny—a development that leaves Donna reeling with the possibilities of growth for the company. The conflict and hurt feelings between Donna and Cameron come to a head when Cameron rolls her eyes at the deal, complaining that more outside investors would dilute her vision for the network. Recognizing the tension between the founders, Diane tells them to work out their differences at an informal retreat at her place in Sonoma.
Donna takes Diane up on this offer and allows herself a weekend off from Gordon and the kids. Her Calgon-in-Wine Country weekend is interrupted when Diane’s daughter Kimberly (Caitlin McGee, who eerily resembles young Annabeth Gish) crashes her mom’s pied-a-terre with her boyfriend and one of their buddies in tow. The scenes in Sonoma at first unfold like a John Hughes movie with a cool adult chaperone, both in their visual cues and the content. Kimberly’s wardrobe evokes the era without getting too kitschy, and her buddy Rob is a dead ringer for Emilio Estevez in The Breakfast Club. Donna’s memories of college ring true with her young audience, and a pharmaceutically-enhanced conversation with Cameron has a poignant kicker.
Cameron, meanwhile, has chosen to stay in the city, attempting to beat Super Mario Brothers with Gordon. Their plans are hampered when Gordon passes out and breaks their TV. When Gordon’s excuse for fainting doesn’t pass Cameron’s bullshit detector, he confesses his illness to her. Upset by this knowledge, Cameron visits Joe at home and orders him to give Gordon credit for the work he did on Joe’s software. I watched Mackenzie Davis and Lee Pace through the cracks in my fingers, worried about Cameron’s impulsivity and Joe’s iron will.
If Mutiny and the Clark marriage are at a crossroads, Joe is about to hit a low point. After putting in a deal for NSFNET, sleazy board member Ken (actual ‘80s throwback Matthew Lillard) kills the deal and threatens Joe’s future at the company with his name over the door. As the depositions in Gordon’s case against Joe continue, the embattled businessman makes a surprising decision at the episode’s fade to black.
Watching the characters deal with the consequences of their actions has been heartbreaking and cringe-inducing. How will Mutiny and MacMillan proceed as their leaders unravel? Director Karyn Kusama returns to the Bay Area fold with tonight’s episode, the ominously-titled “The Threshold”.