[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from the Season 1 finale of AMC's Halt and Catch Fire. Read at your own risk.]
Things literally caught fire on Sunday's Season 1 finale of AMC's Halt and Catch Fire.
Despite the roller coaster ride that was Comdex in the penultimate episode, Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace) & Co. were able to sell enough units of the Cardiff Electric Giant to earn Joe and Gordon (Scoot McNairy) an 8 percent stake in the company. But Joe, who was still smarting from seeing Apple's talking Macintosh and his breakup with Cameron (Mackenzie Davis), just couldn't leave well enough alone.
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No longer satisfied to just hawk a "faster, cheaper IBM clone," Joe tried to convince Gordon to delay shipping so the software could build a killer application to ship with the machine. But when the software team failed to come up with something creative, Joe sought help from Cameron, who not only is busy creating her own company (with most of Cardiff's programmers) but dresses down Joe for stealing all her ideas and calling himself a visionary.
Defeated, Joe tells Gordon to ship the computers. But after the party celebrating the Giant's release, Joe drives the truck filled with the first shipment of computers out into the middle of nowhere and sets the truck ablaze. The episode's closing shot shows a much less sharply dressed Joe embarking on a hike to Colorado's Fiske Observatory in search of a woman (his mother?) and perhaps his own enlightenment.
Is Joe simply starting over again as he did at Cardiff? And more importantly, will there even be a second season to explore Joe's next steps? TVGuide.com chatted with creators Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers about the status of Season 2, where all the characters' heads are and who might not be back for a potential second season.
I think the tone for the finale was really set in the last scene of Episode 9, when Joe sees the Macintosh. How did that play into the actions Joe takes in the finale?
Chris Rogers: I think seeing that Macintosh is the moment where Joe realizes he was wrong. He just betrayed himself and failed Cameron along the way. The Joe of the finale knows he missed it, and for a little while, he tries some of the old medicine to see if he can set that ship right, to see if he can plug in an app or something to fill the hole. Ultimately, I think he realizes it's over when he sees that commercial that somebody did what he wanted to do. Someone built this computer that is literally a hammer thrown in the face of IBM, that was innovative and interesting and the future. As a result, he does what he does, and burns it down and goes to start again.
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But at one point Joe gave in and told Gordon to ship the machine as is. What makes him actually set the truck full of Giants on fire?
Chris Cantwell: When he tells Gordon to ship the machine, he's absolutely defeated because he's just coming off of what could possibly be, in his mind, his last encounter with Cameron. She has lowered such a crushing boom on him, in terms of what she says about him personally, that everything about him is an echo. Joe is just throwing up his hands. I think he's trying to live with that for a little bit, but he can't and that's why he drives that first shipment out to the middle of nowhere and burns them down. He's done. He's going to walk away. He needs to reinvent himself, because he can't live with the truth of what Cameron told him, which is he's not the visionary — he's a parasite.
Rogers: He takes his tuxedo jacket and throws that into the fire as well. And I think in a lot of ways, that's symbolic of Joe realizing that the failure of this machine was also the failure of the person he was. I think he realizes that to do better next time, to do something more satisfying, more real and more important, he too is going to have to become something new.
But can he? We know he flooded an IBM data center and ran away in the past. Is this just his M.O. to shut down and reboot when things get too tough?
Cantwell: That's the ambiguity we want to leave people with. I think in our hearts we want to believe Joe has changed. But I think we also, in our heads, are going to be questioning him. Is this the cycle just rinsing and repeating? Is what we've seen one full cycle of reinvention, creation, and then destruction? Or has this guy really evolved? What we want to do moving forward is maybe even believe Joe is questioning himself in that moment. "Is this who I am? Is this what I always do, or is this a new me?" We want to be with him as he does that soul-searching.
Gordon seems to be doing some soul-searching of his own at the end, wondering what's next now that the Giant has been released. Does he feel incapable of taking the next step without Joe?
Cantwell: As hard as it would be for them to admit it, they got the best work out of each other. The Gordon that we see at the end of Episode 10 is wearing the crown of his new sole dominion over Cardiff Electric very heavily. He's realizing that some of what irritated him about Joe also drew him forward and yanked him out of some of his bad habits. That question of, "What do we do next?" which is the ultimate question of people in this industry, is one that Gordon will wrestle with. If he can answer that without Joe is kind of an open question.
How does Gordon feel about Joe at the end of the finale? I'm sure he's angry at Joe's betrayal, but does he mourn the loss of that partnership?
Cantwell: You could certainly expect him to be pretty unhappy with Joe if the two were to cross paths again. But I always read in that moment a kind of "Shame on me; I should have known" quality. It's interesting in the finale we see Gordon very actively contemplating the act of getting rid of this guy that he's never going to be able to trust. And then ultimately, Joe comes in and says, "Ship it," and Gordon abandons that plan. So, I think that when Gordon receives that news, there's a sense of, "Of course he did." What Joe did is really a symbolic act. It's the first shipment of many; he couldn't actually derail the project in a meaningful way. But it's an act that says definitively that Joe takes his name off the project, and Gordon is bound to feel pretty bad about.
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What about Cameron? Her future looks brighter, but how does she feel about dissolution of her relationship with Joe?
Cantwell: She feels a tremendous amount of loss and pain from everything she's been through with Joe. We talked about how this season could be construed as Cameron's origin story. As angry as she is with Joe, and as much as she suffered through this season, she probably would not have gotten to where she is by the end of Episode 10 had she not gone through everything before. In a way, this has really been her journey to find something she can sink her teeth into. She's always been drawn to connectivity. She's always desired to have connection, and I think she had that with Joe and it really hurt her. But I think she's also channeled that into the work she's doing, first with her OS that she designed, and now on a bigger scale with her next project.
Donna [Kerry Bishe] obviously sees the value in what Cameron is doing. But will her going to work for Cameron make things harder on her marriage?
Rogers: We've endeavored over the course of the season to make it clear that Donna is a great programmer and technical mind in her own right. Despite the reservation that she doesn't want to be a pawn in whatever twisted game [Joe, Gordon and Cameron] are playing, she sees this opportunity for what it is: a brilliant next-generation concern. She has had to be supportive and kind of hold the string for the kite that is Gordon for most of this season. There may be a sense in her that, "It's my turn." Donna makes this choice for Donna, make no mistake about that.
We didn't see Bosworth in the last two episodes. Do you envision him being part of a potential Season 2?
Rogers: We haven't decided yet, but we remain huge fans of what Toby Huss did for that character and how he brought that character to life. We think there is so much richness in a continuing Bosworth story that we really hope to get to tell, because he will be a different man when we see him again because of the implication of what happened to him at the end of this season.
So, where is Joe actually headed at the end of the season?
Cantwell: Again, we're emotionally rooting for him to really go find himself and connect with his humanity and think on what he's done and maybe transform himself into something new. But I think we're also going to be wondering. There's enough little pieces there, and we know this guy's track record in terms of how calculated he is. Joe on a spirit quest might not feel exactly like the Joe MacMillian we know. Does he have a plan up his sleeve? Does he know where he's going, or is he really just heading out into the great unknown to look for himself? After everything he's been through, has he changed? And how much? That's something we want to explore if we get the opportunity to continue this story.
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How conscious were you about ending this season with some amount of closure in case AMC didn't renew the show? Do you have definitive plans for a second season?Rogers: Yeah, we have very definitive ideas about Season 2 that we're really excited about. We have shared some of those with AMC. But in terms of this season, you do want it to be a satisfactory story on its own. I think the best shows manage to bring you a sense of closure, but also return you to this feeling of, "This is just a chapter in a larger story." We certainly didn't see this as the end. There's a lot more to come from these characters, and we're hoping that we get to tell that story.
What have the conversations with AMC been like? Have they given you any sense which way they're leaning?
Cantwell: They like to play that stuff close to the vest. Creatively, we've all been really thrilled with the way that this show turned out, and I know that they're proud of the artistic work that everyone's done. We've had a tremendous partner in them with how supportive they've been of what we wanted to do with Season 1. So, it would be wonderful to continue that relationship into a second season. But we know that they have a lot of things to take into consideration in the meantime.
Rogers: And AMC has a great history of nurturing shows. Breaking Bad and Mad Men came out and were lesser known and they have had smaller viewerships. We're hoping the past is precedent. If there's a network that's capable of bringing this thing into further maturation, it's definitely AMC.
What did you think of the finale? Do you hope AMC renews the show for Season 2?