It’s not uncommon for characters on a television show to feel as though they’re trapped outside of their lives and looking for a way in, metaphorically or otherwise, and that’s the focus of this week’s Halt and Catch Fire, conveniently titled “The Way In.”
Chief among the individuals struggling to acclimate to the life they’re living is John Bosworth, who’s still trying to figure out where he now fits in the life he left behind while incarcerated. While it’s easy enough to slip back into the driver’s seat of his car, he finds it’s not so simple to do the same with his family. Though his ex-wife is happy to accept Bosworth back into her bed, she’s less enamored with the idea of letting him back into her life, even going so far as to request he doesn’t attend the rehearsal dinner and, to that end, wedding of their son. Bosworth complies, to a point, sitting outside the hall the rehearsal dinner is held in until his son comes out to speak with him. Their conversation makes it clear that his son is ready to move forward with their relationship, and he extends an invitation to his father for the wedding, but Bosworth declines, knowing that his presence will only undermine the true focus of the day. He leaves silently, but instead gives his son his prized car, deciding to catch the bus and maybe start fresh.
Gordon feels similarly locked out of anything larger than himself. With Donna busy with work and the girls busy with school, Gordon commits his free time to coding a program with the intent of mapping Mutiny’s network in order to determine its breadth and where its weaknesses are. Undeterred by his wife’s lack of interest or by the fact that, you know, it’s not his company to meddle with, Gordon sets his program, named Somaris, into action before heading out for the night.
Gordon’s actions, of course, end up largely locking the whole of Mutiny out of their service, to say nothing of their customer base, as Somaris systematically destroys Mutiny’s programming. Cameron is despondent and, to be honest, things hadn’t been going that well for her, anyway. New hire Tom has a bigger vision for Mutiny than most of the other underlings, and has no qualms about openly criticizing the way Cameron does business. For as bold and brash as Cameron has always been, she’s not used to being questioned, and more than that, she’s not used to being wrong. But Tom, while confrontational, isn’t a dick, and it’s he who tries to talk Cameron through her panic attack the morning after she’s forced to shut Mutiny down to recover.
Meanwhile, Joe is struggling to fit into his new smaller life. His natural propensity to always look at the big picture makes waves at his new data-entry job, which requires him to stay focused on the small picture and, if necessary, to distract himself with their duck-decoy-decorating contest. Joe instead decides to go have a chat with his fiancée Sara’s father, Jacob, and see what can be done about Joe’s big ideas. Jacob immediately tells Joe to do what he likes and fire everyone in the department if he sees fit. Joe hesitates. Jacob assures him is the correct thing to do, saying that if a seat opens up on an empty train, it’s okay to hesitate, because maybe you get off on the next stop, or maybe you’re a good Samaritan, or maybe, just maybe, you don’t deserve it.
It clearly weighs on Joe’s mind, particularly when Gordon and Donna join him and Sara for a dinner party and he finds it difficult to be his new self in front of his old friends. Sara rightly calls him out for speaking ill of their friends and his job and their life, and Joe later tells Gordon that he wouldn’t trade his new, small life for anything in the world. Yet the next day at work, he can’t help but think of the big picture, inspired anew by the realization that the mainframe is currently only running eight hours out of 24, which is clearly unacceptable to a man whose wheels are running 24/7.
It’s strange, especially in light of last week, where I talked about how nice it is to see Joe a little beaten down, to already be ready to see more of the old Joe come back. Yet more than anything, I think I’m ready to see the old team back together. As disruptive as Gordon has been to Mutiny at large, and as combative as Cameron and Donna have been over how to run their company, there’s something to be said about bringing all four of the protagonists (and Bosworth) back into one space, working on one project. Though it seems a ways off at this point, I can only hope that’s what we’re moving towards, as the show, by necessity, needs all that conflict and cooperation in one place eventually.