Halt and Catch Fire 2×06 ’10Broad36′: Swallowed whole

Halt and Catch Fire 2x06 Cover

What does it take to change the world?  When we think of changing the world, we think of servicing the public, educating youth or innovating technology or making new laws, something that pushes for a future different than the one we live in.  But does educating the youth really operate outside of the institutions we exist within?  Does innovating technology really change the world, or is it just making it look smoother, shinier?  Does making laws really change society or does it just hamstring it?  How do we even know if we’re changing anything?

Halt and Catch Fire 2x06-1

Source: AMC

Take a look at Mutiny and the amazing, innovative things they’re doing.  They’re at the front end of online gaming.  They’re using broadband connection in their trick instead of dial-up.  They have vision, integrity, resilience.  But then look at what Joe says at the end of the episode: “I think we should acquire them.”  Small, innovative companies are swallowed by massive corporations all the time, and while some of those innovations may survive, most if not all of them are eviscerated by the status-quo oriented visions of those larger corporations.  Instead of making waves, it’s easier and more profitable to shake the status quo enough to make people excited and happy.

Halt and Catch Fire 2x06-2

Source: AMC

“10Broad36” re-introduces us to the Joe MacMillan that we knew from the first season.  He’s smooth, slimy, and controlling, everything that we remember him as in the first season.  Only now his emptiness is a little more pronounced.  Where, in the first season, we saw that this persona was just a charade, this season has the charade coming from a more emotional place.  Sara is still nowhere to be seen, as she left Joe in the previous episode and hasn’t talked to him sense.  And it’s important that this is addressed at the beginning of the episode.  Joe doesn’t simply want to help Mutiny; he wants to both feel like he’s innovating the world and controlling his path.  He wants to prove to himself that he has what it takes to be the tough guy he wants to be.  But when he points out to Jacob that they should acquire Mutiny, he doesn’t realize what that will inevitably do to the company, that he’ll be destroying innovation instead of fostering it.  His obsession clouds his judgment.

Halt and Catch Fire 2x06-3

Source: AMC

In this way, we see Cameron mirroring Joe, as her obsession continues to cloud her judgment as well.  She berates Donna in front of the staff and doesn’t stop to think about the validity of Joe’s demands before creating her own scheme to trick him.  Bosworth spends the entire episode as her foil, attempting to introduce a different perspective only to be shut down.  When he entertains the idea that Joe’s demands could be worthwhile, she looks at him like he’s speaking a different language.  Cameron can’t even begin to see beyond her vision to consider what would secure the longevity of the company.  And this constantly damages Mutiny in that her vision isn’t allowed to meld with others; Cameron makes Mutiny something that is built for her instead of something that is meant to be a real business.  So when she spends all of this effort trying to trick Joe in order to preserve her vision, Halt and Catch Fire wisely reminds us that all of this effort isn’t necessarily a good thing.  She shouldn’t be going with the flow of things, but she should at least be considering compromise.

Halt and Catch Fire 2x06-4

Source: AMC

Gordon and Donna are both dealing with their personal crises, with Donna’s crisis far more enthralling than Gordon’s.  He’s still dealing with the diagnosis that he has brain damage and will likely deteriorate as time passes on, and his visit to his brother reminds him of the damage husbands can do when they begin to lose control of themselves.  He sees himself as unworthy, as somebody who had talent and original vision, but is still a cog in a machine, some part that is meant to preserve the status quo.  He’s a man smart enough to believe that he could be something great, but isn’t measuring up to it, or even measuring close.  And that’s what keeps Gordon’s tragedy grounded; even though he has a disease, even though he cheats on his wife, even though he has an alcoholic brother, it makes sense that he’s so desperate and sad.  Donna, on the other hand, is still trying to make a compromise between her career and her family, and ends up getting an abortion without Gordon’s knowledge, taking the decision into her own hands.  She knows that having a child will destroy any chance she has of moving forward with her visions, and she knows that forsaking her family will leave her as alone as Cameron.  But when she tries to think of a middle ground, she ends up with no direction, nowhere to go.

“10Broad36” is a great episode of television, and it raises the stakes for the final act of the season.  While it is still hamstrung by a couple dramatic plot twists that still cover certain storylines in the show, the majority of the second act has done a great job setting up all of these high stakes to come crashing down later.  Out of all of the episodes so far this season, “10Broad36” may not be the best, but it’s the one that makes me believe that Season 2 really is quality television.  The question now is, with four episodes left until the series potentially ends, does Halt and Catch Fire have enough to say about all of these different themes to make a poignant statement?  Judging from this episode, the show has more than a fighting chance.

So what did you all think of “10Broad36”?  Do you think Gordon is going to die at the end of the season?  Do you think Mutiny will survive?  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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