A review of tonight's Halt and Catch Fire coming up just as soon as I show you the keys to the ladies room and men's bathroom…
“The Threshold” opens with a very literal idea of the concept, as Tom attempts – and then fails – to carry Cameron across the threshold of the house where they'll now be living as husband and wife. Of course, Cam points out that it's an outdated and sexist tradition, particularly since she owns the house and will be paying all the bills until he can get a job of his own. And there's also the matter of this being a clearly doomed marriage, as Joe astutely pointed out last week (Joe is often wrong in how he treats people, but virtually never wrong in how he assesses them), so it seems fitting that Tom can't even complete this one familiar newlywed ritual.
And though there's later a question of whether Bos will cross the threshold into Diane's house, the bulk of the episode – the best yet of this superb third season – is concerned with the show's two key work marriages, as one is torn asunder while the other is improbably joined again.
How sensational was that Mutiny partners meeting that ended with Cameron resigning from her own company? What makes it so powerful is that the prior scenes have built to it gradually, and continually emphasized that Cameron and Donna agree far more than they disagree – the issue is timing, not organizational philosophy. This is where the meeting itself begins, with the two of them having a respectful debate as Gordon and Bos and Diane look on quietly, hoping the two can find a way to get over the threshold and stay together. It's painful because they almost get there, only for it to turn ugly, to the point where each is belittling the other's marriage. That slow ramping-up, coupled with some of the best work this show's actors have done – I was particularly struck by Toby Huss's anguish as Bos has to vote against his surrogate daughter, and by the way all the air seems to leave Mackenzie Davis's body as Cameron realizes she has just lost Mutiny – made it extraordinary.
In contrast, Gordon and Joe's reconciliation felt more rushed, even though individual scenes, like Gordon admiring the decor of Joe's home, lingered. It felt like Gordon moved much too quickly from sore winner, to man looking to steal Joe's plan out from under him, to a man eagerly getting back into bed with someone he has every reason in the world to mistrust. Joe's vision again appears to be right here, based on what we know of where the internet would go, but vision has never been the issue with Joe, and once Gordon has access to the idea, does he still need the visionary who's always a danger to self-destruct at the worst possible moment?
We have yet to see what kind of fallout there will be on this new venture from Ryan going rogue and releasing the anti-virus source code to the public, but I wish Ryan had come a bit more alive as a character, given the big role he's playing at this point. The writing keeps telling us he's an obsessive, and the kind who would – in the midst of an information vacuum from Joe – make a very poor and reckless decision about what he thinks his mentor would want. But Manish Dayal's performance has always been a little too relaxed to fit the design of the role and the function he's been asked to fill.
Still, all the material involving the Cameron/Donna civil war – including side issues like Gordon's minority investment in Mutiny (and need to vote with his wife even when he disagrees) and Bos's pain at discovering that Cameron got married without telling him – was dynamite, and things are in a fascinating place as we head into the home stretch of the season (and not, I hope, the series).
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com