Halt and Catch Fire Season 4

The final season has begun!

Season 4 moves the timeline out of the 80’s into the early 90’s (my best estimation based on the pop culture references is 1993). When we left our quartet they were plotting to start their next venture into a new and unproven market: the internet. The idea was a strong enough one for them to patch up old wounds and come together again. Now we find out that it didn’t last long.

Gordon and Joe stuck together to create their own ISP. Cameron agreed to work with them (Joe specifically) to create their own web browser. When she went back to Japan with her husband, the relationship fell apart. Cameron disappeared again while she worked on her own game (Pilgrim) leaving Joe floundering.

Donna, divorced from Gordon spread her wings elsewhere with Diane. She’s been extremely successful in a power position, leading her own teams as a rival to Gordon and Joe’s company (her web browser is doing way better). Diane is still together with John.

With the passage of time, the girls, Haley and Joanie, have grown up too. Joanie is a rebelliousĀ teenager and Haley is an introverted pre-teen.

While Gordon has been building the company, Joe more or less stayed in the company basement spinning his wheels trying to make the web portal of his dreams. Cameron left him in the lurch which gave the competition time to make advances on their head start. While Gordon has been spinning gold with what he’s been given, there are attacks on all sides in the increasingly growing space of ISPs. AOL is getting very aggressive which puts the squeeze on Gordon. During all this, Cameron has been in Japan and ends a 5 month disappearing act by coming to town. This sends Joe into a spiral as his muse comes back into his orbit.

The two episode premiere is a deep dive into the group. The brilliant team that keeps coming together and splintering apart. Gordon and Donna are still friendly even if their parenting skills could use work. Joe is more or less an emotional wreck and Cameron’s life has been secretly unraveling. Her next big game isn’t testing well (the video game space is changing dramatically at this time) and Cameron is stubbornly sticking to her guns that her vision is the end all be all for true gamers. Atari thinks otherwise.

Cameron’s return in crisis is more or less music to Joe’s ears. While he’s MIA with her, Gordon is doing all he can to keep the company running during a major crisis (due to competition). Donna also gets threatened at work despite making smart moves. No matter how successful she is, there is always someone hovering around ready to undermine her. While having dinner with Gordon she gets wind of a new idea Joe has about “indexing the entire web.” You see, not only are the amount of ISP’s growing, but the number of web pages is as well. Exponentially. Joe’s idea is the seed of a search engine. While there is some debate to this, I’m calling Donna’s move with her “Rover” team as a blatant steal. She knowingly nudges her team to brainstorm the idea in front of her so she can legally claim, if need be later on, that it was kismet. It’s something the industry was moving to and they got there on their own. She’s still got a rival at work to deal with so she hires John as a consultant to fend him off for now. Unbeknownst to her, John desperately needs the job.

Watching Joe and Cameron reconnect over the phone was some brilliant writing. I don’t think the fourth time will be the charm as they (and everyone else in this mess) seem to be cursed. But for now, it looks like they are naturally coming together and if they work together, what they did with Mutiny could be a spec of dust compared to what they are likely to accomplish. They will absolutely collide with Donna who struggles to tolerate the both of them. It’s going to get ugly and Gordon will be right in the beginning. It’ll be interesting to see where they take Haley’s newly discovered coding talents.

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