[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from the Season 2 finale of AMC's Halt and Catch Fire. Read at your own risk.]
Looks like Halt and Catch Fire is prepping for another major reboot.
After a season that jumped forward in time and reset many of its major characters, Sunday's finale seemed poised to do the same thing all over again in a still-uncertain Season 3. (The show, whose Season 2 renewal was drawn out, is still not a big ratings draw despite increased critical praise.) When Gordon (Scoot McNairy) confessed his one-night affair to Donna (Kerry Bishé), the duo appeared to be headed toward a split. However, after Cameron (Mackenzie Davis) chose to give Mutiny a fresh start in California, Donna decided to try to put her family back together on the West Coast as well. Meanwhile, Joe (Lee Pace), reeling from his own divorce, turned Gordon's "antidote" to the computer virus that destroyed Westgroup into a new billion-dollar idea.
But there was no happy ending. Joe was furious that Gordon wouldn't come work for him on his new project, and Gordon was equally peeved that Joe had taken his idea without permission. Cameron lured father figure Bosworth (Toby Huss) to California with her, but her season-long love interest Tom (Mark O'Brien) didn't get on the plane. And Donna, who earlier in the season had an abortion, finished the season weeping in the airplane bathroom after Gordon suggested a new child might help their fresh start.
So, will Donna and Gordon actually be able to repair their marriage? TVGuide.com chatted with Bishé about her tumultuous season, the changing Donna-Cameron dynamic and her hopes for Season 3.
How much of what happened to Donna this season did you know at the beginning of the year?
Kerry Bishé: Most of it was a surprise. The most analogous experience I have to seeing the show as an audience member is when we get the scripts delivered every week. You really just sit down and you're so excited to find out what's going to happen to them. But I talked to the writers before the season started, and they did talk a little bit about, "What are the limits of this woman, were she to find out that she were pregnant?" That story line we talked about in big-picture terms, like what are the issues, what are the things that I would want to make sure to incorporate into that decision. That was just the one very big picture idea we covered. Everything else was a real surprise.
I was actually surprised that Donna went through with the abortion, as it's not something you see on TV a lot. Was that story line difficult for you?
Bishé: I'm really proud of the writers for going that far, and I think I got cold feet about it. I was really concerned and really invested in keeping Donna a person who needed to be invested in her family as well as her career. I was cautious. It was a hard thing for me to wrap my head around. I really have come to relate to the character and I really enjoy her and respect her, and I was afraid that she'd become a symbol for if a woman has a career, this is the only choice she has. I was really nervous about putting that into this world. But I think the writers had a really good hard-edge insistence that she be really tough about it, that it not be like a decision that really wrecks her. I think we also got to explore some of the subtleties of what that does to you and what it does to have to keep that secret.
Do you think that secret doomed Gordon and Donna's marriage?
Bishé: Season 1, their marriage felt to me like the moment when you've realized something has to change. Donna really decided that the status quo wasn't going to cut it anymore and they really needed to change their marriage. And so, Season 2 was the attempt on their part to make it better. What they did was they really just swapped roles, and that didn't really work either. So along with all their secret-keeping and their best efforts to really make it work, to really help each other and try to figure out this new way of working, it just didn't work.
When Gordon confesses his affair in the finale, does Donna feel betrayed, or does she think it's another symptom of the larger problems in the marriage?
Bishé: I think it's probably both. When something like that happens, it is always a symptom of a larger problem. It isn't the problem itself. Donna is a smart woman, so I think she knows that. But that's hard to admit to yourself. And also, she doesn't come clean about her secrets either. So, I don't know. They're fallible people. They're trying their best and struggling and failing.
Yet Donna did tell Cameron about that abortion. How important was that to the relationship of those characters?
Bishé: It was really important to both me and Mackenzie that it be a seismic shift in the way these two people relate to each other. There's an intimacy and a trust there that they didn't necessarily have before. I'm sure they will continue to butt heads professionally speaking, but there is a real mutual respect for each other's intellect and ambitions, but I think there's something profound that happens when you go through an experience like that together. Hopefully that changes them for good, on all levels.
Is it because of that new bond that Donna accepts Cameron's idea to move to California, or is it just a last-dicth effort by Donna to save her marriage?
Bishé: It's both. If she hasn't grown close enough to this woman that she's working with, I don't know that she would trust it enough to pick up and move. And also Gordon gave her a really good reason to uproot the family, and they really need that new start personally as well as professionally. I think they were really chafing under the Silicon Prairie of it all, and now they get to head to California and kind of a bigger pond.See photos of the Halt and Catch Fire cast
But Donna could have gone to California on her own. Instead, she gives Gordon another chance.
Bishé: Donna is a very practical person. I don't think she is cold and calculating, and I think it's interesting that in the most emotional moment of their marriage, where it really feels it could all end, she starts using the language of business in a way that she doesn't usually in her personal relationships. She's learned a little bit more about the business savvy stuff, and she relies on that when things get really hard. She loves this man; she's got a lot invested in him, and really wants to make it work. Everything else fails her in this moment except for professional practicality. And so, that's how she attacked this problem, with a business deal, like a contractual agreement that they're going to have.
But does Donna truly believe the marriage can be saved?
Bishé: I think she's hopeful that it could work, but it's really very up in the air. The way we leave her on the plane, the last thing we see of Donna in this season is her alone in an airplane bathroom weeping. So, the future is very much in question for them.
Is she weeping out of regret because Gordon mentioned trying for another kid? Or is she just lamenting the whole situation?
Bishé: That moment can be anything for anybody. There's myriad reasons why a person might lose it and break down in that situation. The thing that I go to is she has to bear the weight alone, that she still doesn't have a partner that she can share equally with. She can't tell him about the baby, she can't come clean about that. For whatever reason, she still, in that moment, is alone, and I think that's the breaking point for her.
Despite all those cliff-hangers, we still don't know if there will a Season 3. Whatever should happen, are you happy with Donna's arc?
Bishé: I would love it if we got to tell a little bit more of the story with these people. But I'm so happy and satisfied that they really delivered on the promise that this character had from the get-go. The dramatic change in the part she played in the action from Season 1 to Season 2 was a really rare thing. Shows really rarely change that much between seasons, and [it offered] a broad range of challenges. So, that was a very fulfilling experience, for sure.
What did you think of the finale?