Warning: Spoiler Alert
Welcome back to the “Silicon Prairie” in the mid-eighties, as the second season of the AMC Original Series “Halt And Catch Fire,” kicked off on Sunday night. The first season revolved around a fast talking salesman with a vision, who had no problems betraying all those around him, to get what he wanted. That salesman Joe MacMillan, walked into a moderately successful company called Cardiff Electric and turned it on its ear, convincing the owner and his Vice President of Sales, to begin manufacturing portable personal-computers.
As the season concluded, Cardiff Electric started shipping its new PC called the Giant, however the creative team that put the machine together had split up, mainly due to MacMillan’s demons. He left the company with an act of destruction, stealing the truck that contained the first shipment of the computers, then set the truck on fire in the desert.
When we last saw the characters, the chief engineer on the project Gordon Clark, was the only one of the creative team still with the company, pondering what would Cardiff’s next move would be. His wife Donna, had gone into business with former Cardiff engineer Cameron Howe, building a gaming network using phone lines to connect users to the game and each other. MacMillan decided to go on a quest to the Fisk Observatory, to further his knowledge of astronomy and to leave society behind.
The episode begins with a flashback to the first season, as we watch Joe getting dressed for work, as we hear a radio report talking about the damage that Hurricane Alicia did to Houston and Galveston. The reporter states that 1983 has become the costliest year in state history, for hurricane damage. Joe walks out of the bedroom and we see Cameron sitting on the couch playing videogames and she asks Joe to play with her.
MacMillan plays one quick game, which he wins by cheating then gets up to head to work. Cameron chastises him for not being able to take five minutes to play with her, he laughs and leaves the house. A graphic appears on the screen that it’s now 20-months later, as we’ve arrived in March, 1985. The house is now the headquarters for the Mutiny Network, the company that Cameron, Donna and the worker-drones have built during those 20-months.
Donna walks into the house, which looks far more like a frat-house, than a center of business. There are multiple violations of the electric code, as multi-socketed extension-cords, are plugged into every outlet. Donna realizes that they’re about to have a circuit overload and finds Cameron talking on the phone to a subscriber. Two of the programmers, Yo-Yo and Lev get into a wrestling match, as Lev says that the other programmer’s Backgammon app’s causing the network to shut down. Seconds later the power goes down, they took down an entire city block.
Coming back from a commercial break, we see an advertisement for the Giant and Cardiff Electric’s newest computer the Giant Pro. When the spot ends, we see that Gordon Clark, now President of Cardiff is a guest on a local financial program, DFW Moneyline. The host starts talking about the turnaround of Cardiff in the last two-years, as they started focusing on building computers. Then he asks about the upcoming sale of Cardiff Electric and Clark responds a foreign corporation’s bought the company and the office will close and he’s leaving the company.
A graphic tells us we’re now in Austin, Texas and we see Joe finishing a ten-mile run on a path in the woods, as he enters his home panting and sweating. The phone rings and he answers it, then he says that’s good news and thanks the caller, before hanging up. We see a woman’s arm’s hug him from behind, our introduction to Joe’s new girlfriend Sara Wheeler. She asks who called, he says the sale went through and he’s getting his share, but he has to go there the following day to pick the check up.
Sara tells him he earned and deserves the money, but MacMillan says he dreads going back there and seeing those people. She asks him if he wants her to cancel their guests for that night and he says no, that the distraction will be good for him.
Gordon clears out his desk as movers take out all the furniture. He’s got four boxes of stuff that he’ll take with him. Other than the check that he’ll receive the following day, that’s what he’s walking away from Cardiff with, along with the knowledge and the memories, that they helped change the world.
That evening Sara and Joe entertain a few couples, who are her friends and it appears it’s their first time meeting MacMillan. She explains that they met at the planetarium in the Fisk Observatory, she had gone there to write a piece on the Observatory’s SETI Program (the search for extraterrestrial intelligence) and instead of meeting creatures from outer-space she met Joe. MacMillan basically says he’s trying to find himself, but Sara says he’s just being modest.
She tells her friends that MacMillan turned a regional company into a national rival of IBM’s and he’ll soon receive compensation for what he did. Someone asks him what he wants to do next and he says he wants to start his own company in Silicon Valley. Sara says nothing’s set in stone, but they’re really excited about the future.
Power finally returns to Mutiny headquarters, Lev tells Donna that Cameron ran extension-cords from the next door neighbors to keep things from blowing again. Donna goes to find Cameron and she tells her she can’t do that and Howe says, so they’ll send a bill and we’ll pay it. Then the Power Company calls and Donna takes the call, while all the programmers start to leave to go party.
Cameron starts to leave as well, when Donna explodes. She says she came her to do work she has great interest in, not to be the mommy, a job she already handles at home. She says that Cameron’s made Mutiny a company without a boss, but all the stuff that falls through the cracks, Clark has to handle. Howe says just leave it alone and walks out of the house.
The next morning Gordon shows up at the Cardiff office to sign for his check, then mutters under his breath when Joe enters the waiting room. A lawyer comes in and says they will summons people starting with those who will receive the most compensation. He calls two men, leaving Joe and Gordon alone on the bench, they engage in a mostly polite conversation.
Clark’s called in to sign for his check and he sees Nathan Cardiff at the other end of the conference table, giving him the stink-eye. Why he’d have any reason to be upset with Clark eludes me, but Gordon signs for his check than a man slides an envelope over to him. It’s for $838,121 and Clark asks if he can take this to the bank immediately, the lawyer responds that’s what is usually done with checks. Nathan says thanks for the memories and Gordon leaves.
Joe’s summoned into the office and he signs for his check. The man’s about to push the envelope to him, when Cardiff bangs on the table for the man to give him the check. Nathan gets up and walks over to Joe and pulls the check out of the envelope. He shows it to Joe and says this is MacMillan’s share after taking out the cost of the truck and computers he destroyed. The check’s still over 600 thousand dollars, but Cardiff rips it into pieces, telling Joe to sue him if he likes, he’d love to tell a jury what MacMillan did at Cardiff.
He then says that Joe cost people their jobs and put Nathan’s former Vice President of Sales and longtime friend John Bosworth in prison. (Conveniently forgetting, that if Nathan hadn’t pressed charges for Bosworth transferring funds to the computer division, John would be a free man.) He says that MacMillan did all that for a doorstop of a computer, without a legacy. Joe wishes Cardiff good health and leaves the room.
That evening Cameron’s sitting in her van in a parking lot, waiting for a fence to sell her two stolen IBM computers when Donna shows up, shocking Cameron. She tells Howe she asked Yo-Yo where she was and so she thought she’d join her. The guy shows up with the computers, tries upping the price from the agreed upon 500 bucks to three thousand, Cameron laughs him off and he settles for the agreed upon price, then gives them the computers and drives away.
Donna’s brought a power converter with her and they plug the machines into it in the parking lot. Donna tells Cameron unless they have someone on staff that can code in Chinese, the sleaze-ball ripped them off. The pair head to the bar that Howe knows he hangs out at.
She calls Gordon and tells him she has to work late and can’t make their celebration dinner. However Gordon keeps his daughters happy, by suggesting they go to their favorite ice-cream shop and the girls can have ice-cream for dinner.
As Cameron and Donna sit and drink while they wait for the fence, Howe admits she was really intimidated when she met her. Clark tells Cameron that she’s very intimidating in her own right, that when they tried to get the network up and running for four days straight, Howe was the only one who believed it would work. Just then they see the sleaze-ball enter the bar and they go to confront him.
Cameron says they want their money back and the crook grabs her and pushes her up against a wall, then tells them to leave. What he didn’t realize was Howe stole his keys and they head to his truck to get back the money. However Donna sees two brand new IBM computers in their boxes and they take those instead. The crook comes out to the parking lot to see them leaving.
Donna heads home a little tipsy and Gordon asks if she’s drunk, she never really gives him an answer. She says she’s exhausted and heading for bed. He tells her he got her a piece of her favorite pecan pie, she thanks him and smiles and says she’ll have it the next day.
Joe heads back to his house and tells Sara, he’s not getting the money. She hugs him and says that’s fine they don’t need it. He tells her he loves her and asks her to marry him, she immediately says yes and they kiss.
The final scene takes place as Cameron’s driving in the middle of nowhere, trying to follow a map. Suddenly we see barbed wire and institutional buildings, it’s a correctional facility. We hear John Fogerty singing his classic, “The Old Man Down The Road.”
He take the thunder from the mountain, he take the lightning from the sky,
He bring the strong man to his begging knee, he make the young girl’s mama cry.
You got to hidey-hide, you got to jump and run;
You got to hidey-hidey-hide, the Old Man is down the road.
He got the voices speak in riddles, he got the eye as black as coal,
He got a suitcase covered with rattlesnake hide, and he stands right in the road.
You got to hidey-hide, you got to jump up run away;
You got to hidey-hidey-hide, the Old Man is down the road.
She pulls into the prison-yard just as John Bosworth’s getting released, he’s pleasantly surprised to see her. She runs over to him and hugs him, he hugs her back and he laughs loudly. Mutiny might finally have someone who can be the boss.
The Story Continues Next Sunday Night at 10:00 pm on AMC.