So much left unsaid. Even in one of the least “tech”-centric episodes of Halt and Catch Fire, there was plenty unspoken between characters in the fifth episode of the season, “Extract and Defend.” The first half of the season appeared to enjoy keeping its main characters at arm’s length, but this episode finally brought back the former season 1 couple Cameron and Joe, and gave both Donna and Gordon news neither are fully ready to respond to.
The show might attempt to split equal attention among Cameron, Donna, Gordon and Joe, but the main stars of the season remain its two female leads. The tension between Cameron and Donna is sparked again, once it’s revealed that Joe and Gordon are supplying the network for Mutiny, which upset Cameron to know her company was being helped by Joe. After so much distance put between herself and him after all that happened at Cardiff in season one, this episode saw all of those walls crumble. She held up a professional face when meeting with Joe’s boss to legitimize this business transaction, but once alone she broke down in physical violence and tears. Joe sought closure from their brief face-to-face meeting, but Cameron wasn’t interested in that and Sara, his new partner, decided to give their a relationship a break by moving to Austin to let Joe figure out his life.
Whereas coming together quickly undid all progress in Cameron and Joe’s lives, the show’s other couple Donna and Gordon are drifting alone in attempting to cope with their medical issues. Donna is pregnant and still hasn’t told her husband, while Gordon discovered he’s sustained irreversible brain damage after years of metalwork. Donna does quietly tells her pregnancy to Bosworth, but beyond that she doesn’t appear ready to let this be public information. Gordon similarly isn’t making any public proclamations about his condition, but with him paying off debts to Donna’s parents and actively seeking time out with his daughters, mentally the prognosis appears to be settling in with him.
The promise that started at the beginning of the season appears fading away with each scene. The money situation at Mutiny remains dire. Joe’s idea could work or could be a big flop, which for as much as people want to believe the nicely dressed man in a suit, his actual track record with ideas on the show is pretty thin. Donna and Gordon both obviously are holding very big secrets from each other, and each scene plays out as a perverse game of chicken to see who’ll speak first. Bosworth is still figuring out his footing and Sara leaving Joe feels like she might have seen through the manipulative scheme that Cameron spat back at Joe’s face after their meeting with Sara’s father. The promise and dreams that felt so powerful at the top of the season couldn’t appear further from where the characters are now.