There’s a lot of satisfaction to be had in this episode. If you’ve been following Halt and Catch Fire since the beginning, or even since the start of the second season, “The Way In” is like the roar of the engine when Boz starts up the Mustang that had been sitting idle under a tarp.
It’s nice to see the gang back together—Joe and Sara throw a dinner party and invite Gordon and Donna, and even Cameron makes an appearance at the get-together via a phone call, though she’s too shocked to speak. But it’s not just the reward of having the main characters in the same scene and the same room, it’s the gratification of Gordon and Donna meeting the new Joe and discussing whether or not he’s real.
Donna argues that Joe has Sara “completely snowed,” and that he’s just interested in her father Jacob Wheeler’s power. Sara herself gets a whiff of the old Joe and asks him, “Who are you right now?”
Gordon feels more successful than Joe 2.0, so he’s pleased. And he also approves of Sara, a “trade up” from Cameron, he says. Gordon is convinced by Joe’s heartfelt declaration that relationships “make it all worth it,” and finds it plausible that Joe has changed. This debate is going on for the viewer as well, “Is this a softer side of Joe we’re seeing, or is it an act?” And having the main characters discuss it onscreen—and they’re not sure either—is satisfying.
The primary reason Donna and Gordon go to the dinner party is out of curiosity about Joe, even though Donna claims her “interest in tall dark mannequins with delusions of grandeur has dwindled.” The scene where they replay Joe’s answering machine message again and again (on that great clunky ’80s hunk of junk, remember those?) is a highlight of the entire series. Gordon and Donna react to his engagement the same way we did a couple of episodes ago, with a resounding “HUH?” They don’t believe their ears, and then, in a debate that sounds straight out of the writers’ room, they figure out what kind of woman he must be marrying.
Donna is convinced Joe’s new gal is an Upper East Side type or perfume model, “Dior, no … Halston,” tall, blonde, with Daryl Hannah cheekbones and shoulder pads. Gordon suspects a Joan Baez look-alike that’s not challenging to him—the opposite of Cameron. He’s spot on, and it makes us wonder if he knows Joe better than we do. But then again, Gordon seems to be wrong about everything else. The program he’s been writing is the thing that creates discord in an episode full of harmonies.
Gordon has been slamming Jolt cola and tending to a superiority complex, or maybe, better said, a Superman complex. At first, he felt paralyzed by his success, and now he thinks he can leap tall buildings in a single bound. He loads his program, Sonaris, without properly testing it (after quoting Superman, “They only lack the program to show them the way!”) and it promptly destroys Mutiny’s network.
After accusing Gordon of tearing down Mutiny because of jealousy and impotence, Cameron lashes out at Donna and has a panic attack. But Tom is there for her, and he expertly instructs her through the anxiety, diverting her thoughts to a chapter in Parallax where the player has to crack a dragon’s egg on the fourth wizard’s chest to make him human again. That fourth wizard would be Joe, after Gordon, Donna, and Cameron herself—but despite the Joe metaphor, it’s Tom who gets closer to Cameron. He finally admits his love of the game she created, where “every trap had a reward, every exit was an entrance,” and he seems poised to win her heart.
NEXT: How cool is Boz?