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Startup Tensions Swirl in AMC’s ‘Halt and Catch Fire’

Mackenzie Davis as Cameron Howe - Halt and Catch Fire _ Season 3, Episode 4  - Photo Credit: Tina Rowden/AMCMackenzie Davis as Cameron Howe - Halt and Catch Fire _ Season 3, Episode 4  - Photo Credit: Tina Rowden/AMC
Mackenzie Davis as Cameron Howe in "Halt and Catch Fire."Tina Rowden — AMC

Mutiny, the young fictional startup at the center of AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire television series, is growing up. It has acquired a smaller competitor, Swap Meet, and is now tasked with blending the two startups’ services and teams into one cohesive online marketplace.

Of course, it’s not going smoothly—at all. Cameron, Mutiny’s wild CEO, refuses to alter the existing code to make it easier to integrate it with Swap Meet’s, further frustrating its co-founders, Doug and Craig. And the two startups’ engineers aren’t getting along much better. As Gordon, Mutiny co-founder Donna’s husband, tries to work with them, a brawl erupts at the office. Gordon later takes them to the arcade for some team bonding, which seems to smooth things over, at least for the time being.

Meanwhile, Cameron finally sets aside her annoyance long enough to share a drink with Craig late evening at the office, concluding he’s not as terrible as Doug. But that’s also not meant to last very long: the next day, he tells her he wants to leave and start his own project. Here are some notable moments in this latest episode:

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Gordon’s health is thrown in the spotlight. As the episode opens, Gordon is seen secretly tracking his health symptoms in a journal. So far, they’re mostly confined to headaches, nausea, tremors, and occasional loss of appetite. They don’t seem to affect Gordon’s day-to-day functioning and work too much, but his health could eventually become a problem.

In the series’ previous season, Gordon learned that he has developed toxic encephalopathy, a neurological disorder, due to long-term exposure to lead solder. It seems his condition is coming back to haunt him and cause problems, and it’s only a matter of time before he can no longer ignore his health and hide it from others. One evening, as he plays video games with Cameron, she notices his hand shaking.

For Fortune’s recap of the previous episode, read: AMC’s ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ Exposes the Challenges of Building a Startup

Joe continues his Steve Jobs-like transformation. The facial hair, the glasses, the mesmerizing presentations about company visions, the unconventional employee requests—Joe MacMillan’s not-so-subtle Steve Jobs-like traits have been piling up this season. In this episode, they only become more pronounced.

During a meeting with a major customer of his security company’s vice president—whose son had been caught sneaking into Joe’s party, doing cocaine, and crashing a car—Joe tells off the exec after he makes homophobic comments. Regardless of the business consequence, Joe makes it clear he won’t compromise his beliefs in the name of money.

Later, as he and Ryan Ray—the talented, passionate (and maybe a bit naive) engineer he hired away from Mutiny—brainstorm new ideas to generate more revenue for the company, he tells Ryan he still has access to that client’s network. In true defiance of whatever rules may exist, Joe tells Ryan to use his credentials to access the network and find out what security challenges they could design a service for.

“It looks like you’re in a performance of your own, a one man-show,” John “Bos” Bosworth, Mutiny’s business guy and an old colleague, tells Joe during a fancy Silicon Valley soiree. The reference to Jobs’ well-developed personality cult is not lost here.

Cameron’s losing her grip. Like any good investor, Diane Gould, Mutiny’s main backer, stands by the entrepreneurs her firm funds and their decisions. During a dinner, she tells Donna that her relationship with co-founder Cameron is most important, so they’ll do whatever Cameron wants.

But that unconditional support might be coming to an end. For one, she doesn’t approve of Cameron’s wish to fire the Swap Meet founders.

Later, Donna tells Cameron, who’s been bunking with Donna and Gordon’s family since they all moved to California from Texas, that she doesn’t have to rush to find a home of her own. The odd change in tune from Donna—it’d been clear for a while that living all together wasn’t helping the work dynamic—makes Cameron suspicious.

“When did you know you were losing Cardiff?” Cameron asks Gordon when she returns to the living room, referring to his previous startup, Cardiff Electric. He’d started it with Joe, but it quickly disintegrated.

Diane and “John.” Diane invites John (she’s the only one who calls him him that instead of his nickname, Bos) as her date to a charity party, under the pretext that it’d be helpful for him to schmooze with Silicon Valley’s elite. However, she later confesses to him that she invited him simply to avoid going alone, followed by what seems like a hint that her marriage has ended or she’s been cheated on.

It’s not yet clear if Diane’s interest in him, whatever its nature, will continue, but given Silicon Valley’s challenges when it comes to keeping things professional, it may create some interesting situations later.