Halt and Catch Fire 2×04 ‘Play With Friends’: Your wildest expectations

Halt and Catch Fire 2x04 Cover

It’s fascinating that the second season of Halt and Catch Fire is as interested in skyrocketing forward as it is.  “Play With Friends” is another very, very good episode of the show, as it continues to push forward the narrative at the breakneck pace that the previous episode, “The Way In”, moved at.  And what’s even more interesting is the way that every character seems to be circling the drain more and more, from Joe, who is illegally leasing out Westgroup Energy’s mainframes, to Cameron, who has only a vague sense of how to move forward with a company that isn’t going to grow to her expectations.  In fact, everybody has expectations that are inevitably going to be dashed, some sooner than others.  And when people finally realize the reality of their respective situations, they tend to experience a kind of an explosion.

Halt and Catch Fire 2x04-1

Source: AMC

“Play With Friends” operates using two larger storylines, the Mutiny storyline and the Westgroup Energy mainframes storyline.  The latter one isn’t quite as interesting, as we see Joe beginning to revert to his old tricks in order to feel important, even though what he’s doing isn’t necessarily important, condoned, or even legal.  When he doesn’t get the go-ahead from one of the executives underneath Sara’s father, he does it anyway, lying to Gordon about the endeavor.  Joe’s character right now feels far more confident about himself now that he has some sort of plan that makes him feel like he’s in control, but it’s a plan that’s destined to fail in some way.  Sure, he’s making more money and, sure, he’s maximizing the usage of the mainframes, but it isn’t anything revolutionary, not like his drive to make the Cardiff Giant last season.  Right now, he’s just trying to feel like he’s worth something, like he’s in control.  And this is where Gordon is as well.  After the disaster that he caused at Mutiny, Joe’s offer makes him feel like he has some semblance of power in his life.  Only his sense of power is fading as he feels that he has some sort of medical issue, as no matter how healthy he tries to become, he keeps falling down and hurting himself.

Halt and Catch Fire 2x04-2

Source: AMC

On the other hand, Donna is having trouble finding a balance between her work life and her home life.  Her expectations of working at Mutiny amount to her being able to do some meaningful work, but she didn’t expect that getting that work done means shedding facets of her home life.  Cameron’s assertion that Gordon tricked her into having kids, that he locked her down, is certainly a blanket statement and a wrong one, but it doesn’t mean that it’s entirely false.  Donna feels trapped, unable to achieve her destiny, and part of that is because of the children.  But she certainly does feel love for them and wants to be a good mother to them.  When she is too exhausted to leave the bathroom, she laments that she is a bad mother because she, to some degree, believes that she is a bad mother.  And so she’s constantly torn between two extremes, mother and worker.  And neither seems ready to give in, even though Donna’s newfound pregnancy threatens to break that.

Halt and Catch Fire 2x04-3

Source: AMC

Cameron is also struggling with what to do next, as her company is beginning to lose subscribers and money, plateaung for now but soon to bottom out.  She has to withhold her worker’s salary and trade it for shares in the company, an offer that some jump at and others walk out on.  Cameron loses workers in the revelation, but it’s bound to happen when she doesn’t really know how to lead.  She’s also bound to lose players when she doesn’t have the next great idea ahead of her, as she’s asking around for ideas and can’t feel good about any of them.  She also doesn’t feel good about Donna’s “Community” game, where people can just talk to each other in chatrooms, but her feelings towards Donna’s idea amount simply to jealousy.  Cameron sees the potential in a “Community” forum, but acknowledging that Donna had a great idea means acknowledging that she doesn’t.  Because Cameron wants to believe that she’s the next Gates or Jobs, but she’s not.  She doesn’t have the talent to compete with that.  But spending time with Tom, jointly coming up with another idea, makes it a lot easier to understand how to relax and be happy by simply existing.  Because Tom takes her mind away from work that, while rewarding, is slowly robbing her of the capacity to really think.  Tom helps her forget what her expectations are, an expectation that she forms the next big great company, an expectation that probably won’t amount to anything.

Halt and Catch Fire really is moving ahead at a breakneck pace, and its focus this season has been outstanding so far.  Halt and Catch Fire is really a show about the tech movement and how forward movement can be disappointing when, in fact, your life doesn’t move in the one direction your want it to.  And everybody in the show is going to be disappointed sooner or later.  Mutiny, as well as Joe’s project, has an expiration date, whether it’ll be unplugged because it’s illegal or because it is absorbed by a larger company.  But someday, all of these characters are going to be disappointed, and they need to understand that in order to really grow into a person that doesn’t disappoint them.

So what did you think of the episode?  Excited for what is to come next?  Let me know in the comments!

Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

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