"You are a rattlesnake. And you are a bunny rabbit--but you're the brains behind this whole thing."
So the final episode of Halt and Catch Fire moves the plot forward in potentially interesting ways. (Assuming, you know, the show gets renewed; it hasn't, yet.) But writers crammed the season's most exciting moments into the next-to-last episode.
Back home in Dallas, the characters are a lot less energized than they were during their trip to COMDEX '83. Cameron left Cardiff, and isn't speaking to Joe. Donna and Gordon are in better shape. By which I mean: Donna tells Gordon he can't sleep on the couch anymore, and, poutingly but obediently, Gordon returns to their bedroom.
Everyone is in the office when the first Cardiff PCs arrive, in boxes so huge that office asisstant Debbie can barely hold them in her arms. It suddenly hits Gordon that this computer will actually ship. And maybe just a little prematurely he buys himself a shiny new red Porsche. Dude, do not spend money you probably don't have yet. There is still oh so much time for something to go wrong.
Cut to: a dazzling Macintosh commercial (which we unfortunately don't get to see) that makes Joe realize that Apple, not IBM, is the company to beat in the PC industry. Now there is one thing, Joe says, that can help Cardiff to get back in the running. An app. (Yes, he says "app." Internet, please factcheck that someone used that term in 1983.)
What kind of app? A killer app, of course. Don't bother Joe with specifics. All he knows is, this app is going to rock.
The PC is scheduled to ship in six weeks. Unfortunately for everyone but Joe, a bug with one of the PCs crops up, and ship date is pushed back 60 days. It's the perfect amount of time to develop a "top-notch program." Sound suspicious? Gordon is sure that Joe's behind the bug.
Joe appeals to his developers for ideas, and after fruitless brainstorming session, he's pretty pissed. "So Cameron was the only one of you with any real ideas?" he fires at them. "What are your ideas, man?" they shoot back. Touché.
So once again Joe shows up on Cameron's door telling her he can't do this without her. Oh boy. Huge mistake. Cameron is prepared to squash Joe like a bug--basically, you know, like he did to her last episode.
Saying the harshest thing she can possibly imagine, Cameron tells Joe that he's still the same person he was when his mom let him fall off of their roof. "You're just a sad little boy with a lot of wasted potential," she says.
Shot to the heart. It was the perfect thing for Cameron to say so Joe will leave her alone forever.
But Cameron's just beginning. To add insult to injury, we learn the next day that she's stolen Cardiff's entire developer team in order to staff her own startup called Mutiny. It's a company that moves data over phone lines at very fast rates so that users can enjoy their favorite guilty pleasure. Multi-player gaming, of course. (Data over phone lines? Jeez, that'll never work--oh wait.)
Who else does Cameron want on her team? Definitely Donna. Now that would be one bad-ass duo. Donna, newly unemployed after she igets herself fired from TI, is flattered. But she declines.
Meanwhile, without a team of developers, Joe's killer app isn't going to get developed. So he has two words for Gordon: Ship it.
Hurrah! Party time at Cardiff. This office celebration is much swankier than the one in Vegas. Everyone is looking elegant (Gordon even shaves) as they sip champagne and listen to jazz.
Joe is there, broodingly shuffling about, not speaking to anyone. Poor pup. Cameron really broke his heart. But no one seems to notice. And Gordon is ecstatic. Outside in the Cardiff parking lot, where there's a truck full of PCs waiting to be shipped, Gordon delivers a heartfelt toast thanking Joe for everything. Joe was right all along, Gordon admits.
It's time to pack it in, so Gordon and the trashed-but-still-classy, Donna head home in that new Porsche. On the way, someone love-taps their car at a red light, and Gordon gets out to have a word with the driver.
That's when he's assaulted by a man with a gun, who quickly jumps in the Porsche and speeds away with Donna still in the passenger's seat. Oh shit.
Thank goodness, though, the he doesn't go more than a block before tossing Donna out of the vehicle. She's safe, once you overlook her broken arm.
In a more remote part of town, Joe is standing next to the truck full of PCs. What?? Who allowed Joe to be left alone with the PCs? We know what's going to happen before it does. Joe pours gasoline over the boxes and lights the truck on fire. No dramatic explosion here. Joe just calmly walks away.
What's even more shocking is that this turns out not to be a big deal. Fast forward a bit, and Gordon continues to show up for work. Life at Cardiff goes on--just without Joe.
But both Clarks have hit stumbling blocks. Donna was really shaken by the assault, and it looks like she barely leaves the house. This is not Donna's style, so Gordon lovingly confronts her one morning and tells Donna it's time to think about getting a new job.
"You should work wherever it is that you want to work. Go where your heart takes you. I'm going to support you no matter what," Gordon tells her. Having heard that blessing Donna heads straight to Cameron's house.
Meanwhile at work, Gordon is at a loss. No one has any clue what Cardiff will work on next. Perhaps Joe really was the idea man after all. And what becomes of Joe anyway? The last we see of him he's headed off backpacking into the woods.
Where might things go from here? Cameron entertained the idea of moving to Silicon Valley more than once. But now she's planted her new company's roots in Dallas.
That sets the stage for Joe to challenge her once he comes back from the woods. Might he rope in Gordon to take on his wife? That would be a hell of a set-up for Season Two. We know Donna and Gordon are brilliant when they're working together. Maybe they could advance computing even further when they go head-to-head.