Halt and Catch Fire 2×07 ‘Working for the Clampdown’: Compromise is death

Halt and Catch Fire 2x07 Cover

How are we supposed to live by our beliefs and our dreams, when, at every turn, reality works to destroy them?  People are always compromised by systems that work off of money, capitalism having little room for creative freedom, instead wanting preservation of the status quo.  And what happens to those compromised people?  They learn to integrate themselves, destroying ideals and dreams in order to survive in a way that makes them content.  Or maybe they can’t get rid of those idealistic parts of themselves, instead fading into anger and resentment, both at themselves and at the systems they follow, unable to do much else.  But what happens if you aren’t compromised, if you choose to forge your own path?  Sometimes you make it, and you change the world and accomplish what you’ve always wanted to.  But most of the time you don’t, and you end up trying to break through a brick wall, colliding into it and hurting yourself every time.

Halt and Catch Fire 2x07-1

Source: AMC

This latest episode, “Working for the Clampdown”, was the best episode of this season thus far, and maybe the best episode of Halt and Catch Fire to date.  It brought together many of the disparate plot threads that have been hanging in the air for so long, and it brought the second act of the season crashing down with an amazing plotline featuring Joe and Cameron.  The show has never really known what to do with Joe.  He was this man of mystery that everybody assumed would be as interesting as Don Draper.  The problem was that he wasn’t.  So what does Season 2 do to remedy that?  It positions him as a man who isn’t as important as he thought he was, then promptly reminds us that he is.  It holds true to what the writers wanted us to think about him, but ends up taking a roundabout way to get us there.

Halt and Catch Fire 2x07-2

Source: AMC

When Joe pitches Westgroup’s offer to Cameron, he believes that he is doing something good for her.  He believes that he is creating, that he is fostering the growth in the world that he wanted to bring with the Cardiff Giant.  And even though Cameron reacts poorly, even though she yells and rants about the deal because it would be compromising her values, Joe doesn’t believe that it is a compromise.  That is, until he talks to Jacob and realizes that he wants to distort her vision, to turn it into a profit machine by extracting some of the facets of Mutiny that make it the innovative machine that it is.  And it makes Joe sick to hear that.  When Sara tells him that he’s regressing, it all makes sense.  He wants to create something new and beautiful, but the issue is that he’s doing so by proxy.  He’s commandeering another person’s creation and using it as his way to delude himself.  And it’s hearing Sara and Jacob’s words that snap him out of it.

Halt and Catch Fire 2x07-3

Source: AMC

So when he goes to the hospital to visit Lev, who was beaten up by a group of homophobes (in a horrific side effect of the anonymity of online chat), he sees Cameron and tells her not to take the deal.  When he talks about being harassed as a kid, he’s talking about not giving in, not letting those around him take away from who he is.  For Cameron to compromise is for her to die, for her beliefs and her morals to die as her company slowly dissolves into nothing.  And so Cameron doesn’t take the deal, asserting that Mutiny is her company and nobody can take that from her.  It’s a brilliant storyline in that it takes Joe and Cameron and makes them both crystal clear, erasing the issues that peppered their characters this season.  Cameron has bordered on frustrating when she repeats the same aggressive behavior and mental breakdowns, and “Working for the Clampdown” helps to remind us just how much Cameron loves Mutiny, as well as how much she loves the people she’s around.  The Cameron we see here is frustrated and vicious, but she’s also loving and passionate.  This episode fully embraces the complexity of both characters, and it benefits immensely from doing so.

Halt and Catch Fire 2x07-4

Source: AMC

Gordon and Donna’s plotline features a natural progression from the plot elements that stalled for the past few episodes; Gordon finally tells Donna about his condition, and she reacts by taking work off for a couple of days.  During those days, her mother forces her to deal with the reality of the situation, and she begins to fear immensely for what will happen to her family.  It’s not as if now Donna has decided to forsake work for her family, but she’s beginning to see how there needs to be a balance between the two.  And while Gordon is trying to create something new, he starts to have a mental episode after his new business venture completes its first sale.  It’s a horribly sad moment, and it reminds us how fate doesn’t give us an eternity to make our mark.  Gordon’s time is up, and it goes to show that Cameron needs to take her chance while she still has one.  Because who knows when that chance will be up, when fate will take your opportunities away from you until none are left?

Halt and Catch Fire is poised to enter the final act of the second season, and it is in a great position to do so.  Joe and Cameron’s characters are moving at full throttle, and Mutiny is preparing for war against the powers that are conspiring to take it down.  The question here is whether or not Mutiny is going to be able to withstand the beating of taking the idealistic route.  And realistically, its chances certainly aren’t that great.  But without taking that chance, without trying to really be something in a world that prefers the status quo, what’s the point of doing anything at all?  In a world full of bleak, miserable shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, having a message like the one that Halt and Catch Fire does is remarkably brave and incredibly uplifting.  For one of the first times since starting this show, I can honestly say that I’m excited to see what happens next.

So what did you think of “Working for the Clampdown”?  Are you excited to see if Mutiny makes it or not?  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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