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Halt and Catch Fire Recap: Season 2 Finale, “Heaven is a Place”

Like Laverne and Shirley, let’s all go to California.


That’s it—season 2 is done, and overall, we had a really good season. But just like season one’s ending, they sure do like to make big changes in a relatively short period of time on this show. Oh, and Joe from season 1 is back and worse than ever. But the big change they made was to set up “a potential” season 3 set entirely in Silicon Valley. Considering how much everyone talked about California being the place to be for computers and Internet development, it shouldn’t have been a surprise. But it was still strange to have the show make such a big leap in one, final episode.

When the last episode starts, Cameron and Tom are no longer together, and he’s left Mutiny entirely and Sarah and Joe are already divorcing. In fact, Sarah signed the papers without even seeing Joe. And Sarah’s father is out at his company because of the virus “Cameron” set off. Joe still hasn’t told Mr. Wheeler Cameron set it off, and even though Wheeler took the fall, everyone seems to believe Joe created a virus to blow up his company the same way he ruined stuff when he left Cardiff Electric. Joe’s reputation is even worse than before. He goes to meet a potential hire and finds out they took the meeting out of morbid curiosity at the prospect of meeting “a legitimate psychopath.” Joe isn’t looking very good, and Gordon seems genuinely concerned for his “friend.”

Too bad Gordon isn’t really paying attention to Donna. He’s going to group meetings but won’t take the therapy seriously (claims his stress level is at .28). And Donna is trying to fill in for him with the girls at home. Everyone seems to be on Donna this episode. Cameron wants her own network after finding out that the more customers they have, the more they’ll have to pay for a network. Cameron is even looking to remodel some herself and spend all their profits, but Donna doesn’t think they can afford it. Gordon has completely checked out of the Mr. Mom thing we saw in the first two episodes and put all the responsibilities back onto Donna, and even her usually adorable kids are fighting and throwing waffles at each other and her.

One of them lets it slip that Gordon got thrown out of his brother’s house, and they had to sleep in a bad motel room during their trip. I know that was a conversation Gordon and his brother had, but I honestly didn’t realize that had actually happened, so I get why their kids are a little rattled about Daddy’s odd behavior. Donna finds out about it over breakfast, but they don’t hash it out until that night. Gordon finally tells her about the affair and then goes way too far with trying to justify his behavior. What the hell is he talking about her “not being there?” and “I don’t love you anymore.” I don’t know if Gordon is even a redeemable character after this episode. He’s just such a jerk.

The fight all started because of old Joe McMillian. Gordon, while playing with trains in the garage to relax, gets a visit from Joe, who is not looking good. Honestly, Joe did look disturbed this episode, and he pretty much could have done anything and not really surprised me. Gordon feels bad that Cameron screwed him over with the virus, but the night of Donna and Gordon’s fight, she lets it slip that she knew and helped Cameron do it. Gordon is furious, and that’s when they start fighting. And Gordon sides with Joe, giving him a disk with the antidote for the virus and anti-virus protection in the future.

Instead of Joe using it to make things right with Wheeler, he takes it to the guy who called him a psychopath and shows him who he really is. He infects his computer with the virus that ruined Wheeler’s company, talking about how he tried to be a good person and play fiar but no one else would, and then uses the anti-virus protection Gordon made to fix things. Million-dollar idea, right Gordon?

Yes and no. Donna goes to Mutiny early that morning, and in one of the nicest conversations between those two, Cameron suggests they move Mutiny to California. It seems like Cameron is suggesting Donna leave her family, but then Gordon comes by later that day to tell her their daughter went missing. Actually, she’s just in the backyard club house (good searching, dad). She heard them fighting the night before and thinks it’s her fault for telling Donna about the Motel, and Donna lays out to Gordon how they’ll fix things with an ultimatum that Gordon calls “extortion.” They’ll move to California with Cameron, use their money to buy a network for Mutiny, and rebuild it together as a couple. And Donna makes it very clear that it’s this or she’ll leave him. By the time Joe calls with the news, Gordon is moving to California to work for Mutiny, and Joe has no interest in sharing his new business with Gordon. After all, he has the disk and reputation necessary to go it alone now.

A month later, Cameron is stopping by Tom’s house with a ticket for that night to move to California with the rest of Mutiny. Everyone is on the same plane (I kind of feel bad for non-Mutiny flyers on that trip), except no-show Tom, but including Bos, who has left his big new job to work for the start-up. Gordon nails Donna with a comment about wanting to be happy again and maybe even having another baby, and while Cameron gets her heart broken over not seeing Tom on the plane, Gordon sees news that Joe’s new anti-virus company is worth $10M and looks like he’s about to have a meltdown. No wonder Joe’s leasing a fancy new office with a great view.

Stray Thoughts

  • I hope the show comes back for a third season…no news yet.
  • Nice touch with the Steve Job’s cover.
  • Anyone else find that scene of Joe closing his eyes and taking his hands off the wheel while driving to be one of the most unnerving moments on the show?
  • Loved Donna’s submarine analogy about training in the Navy vs buying a boat that will sink when explaining buying and shipping their own Network might not be the best idea.
  • I do write notes during these episodes and multiple times wrote “WTF Gordon.” I just hate him now.
  • I was so nervous the show was going to turn Donna into Diane Keaton in Godfather 2 with the abortion storyline this episode…glad they didn’t.
  • I love how super Texas Bos gets when around a bunch of businessmen. His accent just goes up to 11.
  • LOVED Joe’s speech about the virus having an antidote and comparing it to vaccinations. Lee Pace is born to make big speeches and he does them so well on this show.
  • It took all season, but we finally saw a sweet, vulnerable Cameron…and Tom didn’t take her offer. But seriously Cameron…you could have given the guy more than 8 hours to quit his job, leave his mother, and move across the country. You can only expect so big a grand gesture, even back when you could still run through an airport.

Quotes of the Week:

  • Donna’s “I don’t want to be the type of woman who leaves her husband when he’s sick, but that doesn’t mean I won’t.”
  • Gordon’s “we could be happy again. I really do believe that.”
  • “The real security is trusting no one” aka the moto for dealing with and being Joe McMillian.

Lesley Coffin is a New York transplant from the midwest. She is the New York-based writer/podcast editor for Filmoria and film contributor at The Interrobang. When not doing that, she’s writing books on classic Hollywood, including Lew Ayres: Hollywood’s Conscientious Objector and her new book Hitchcock’s Stars: Alfred Hitchcock and the Hollywood Studio System.

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