Halt and Catch Fire (2014–2017)
3 user 2 critic

Ten of Swords 

In light of what happened with Netscape, Joe makes a decision about Comet's future. He turns to an unexpected source for guidance about what to do in light of Comet and in light of what ... See full summary »


Karyn Kusama


Christopher Cantwell (created by), Christopher C. Rogers (created by) | 2 more credits »




Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Lee Pace ... Joe MacMillan
Scoot McNairy ... Gordon Clark (voice)
Mackenzie Davis ... Cameron Howe
Kerry Bishé ... Donna Emerson
Toby Huss ... John Bosworth
David Wilson Barnes ... Dale Butler
Molly Ephraim ... Alexa Vonn
Kathryn Newton ... Joanie Clark
Susanna Skaggs ... Haley Clark
Charlie Bodin ... Trip Kisker III
Frank Hoyt Taylor ... Gilson
Carol Kane ... Denise
Annabeth Gish ... Diane Gould
David Mackey ... Elias Amador
Richard Jin ... Reggie


In light of what happened with Netscape, Joe makes a decision about Comet's future. He turns to an unexpected source for guidance about what to do in light of Comet and in light of what happened between him and Cameron. Donna is basking in what has been a revitalized and renamed company largely on her doing. She gets an even more promising sign about her life when she receives a telephone call from Joanie, who needs to relate an experience on her travels through Thailand. Haley takes a turn in her life, that action which may say more to her mother than any other action of late. And in light of what happens in her relationships with Joe and Alexa, Cameron needs to make the rounds to all her friends before moving onto the next imminent phase of her life. That last stop is at Donna's, which coincides with Donna preparing to host a lavish women in technology social gathering at her house. What happens with Haley and a speech by Donna may influence what both Cameron and Donna decide to do ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis





Did You Know?


Modern vehicles are visible during Cameron's and Alexa's car ride to the airport. See more »


[last lines]
Joe MacMillan: Let me start by asking a question.
See more »


Features The Joy of Painting (1983) See more »


New Madrid
Written by Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar
Performed by Uncle Tupelo
[The song is playing in the background when Joe and Dale are having drinks together in the restaurant]
See more »

User Reviews

It was about Joe all along. Profound conclusion to a transcendental experience 10*++
28 December 2018 | by CarsonTrentSee all my reviews

At first glance this series seems to be about the world of tech. It takes place during an exciting time in the evolution of this field and it gives us a glimpse into the background of that era, even if it is a fictitious one. But this is in fact the story and evolution of Joe McMillan. The force of nature which stirs the lives of everyone he touches. His immense will power is going to move all the main characters from their trajectory and into his orbit. (He also has a secret which he initially doesn't know himself, and none of the others really understand either. He's a man who grows by every step and doesn't go back but only forward).

We meet Joe as a man with a controversial and mysterious past who chases after the future. At the beginning of the series he is the embodiment of the American "can do" attitude. He first gives Gordon the motivation to outdo himself. He hijacks a whole company to face IBM head on. Then he recruits the aimless whizz kid Cameron. All with the goal to create the greatest portable computer ever built. Bosworth and Donna are collateral damage, but end up orbiting Joe nonetheless.

After the completion of the Giant computer Joe takes off unsatisfied leaving Gordon behind. Joe feels he had compromised too much for a mediocre result and also cannot entertain the thought of sharing leadership of the company. In addition due to his actions he can't profit financially from this experience. His fiancee also leaves him around this time. Joe needs to pause and reflect. He still feels the hunger. After Cameron's virus sabotage of his server endeavor, he builds a rotten empire on the stolen anti-virus idea from Gordon and becomes famous. The embodiment of the American dream. He is however trapped in a golden cage of servitude and guilt. He understands this and frees himself by giving it all to Gordon. By that he redeems himself. Then he goes on to build a server hosting company with Gordon, moving him once more from his trajectory. The ones close to Joe still don't fully trust him, but he is changing. The company goes well but he has a bigger dream. He wants to create. Cameron had always called him a parasite (Joe also listens and learns). So he goes and creates a browser with the help of Haley. They name it (Haley's) Comet. Donna on the other hand steals his idea this time and goes on to achieve her rotten fortune and fame by copying the browser idea.

At the same time Gordon needs to slow down. Facing his mortality makes him wiser. He doesn't need to chase after the future but only to enjoy the moment. But this is end of life wisdom. Not attained wisdom. He feels alone watching all the others around him chasing after some personal goal. Chasing illusions.

Joe on the other hand also starts building his personal life. His way of presenting himself has evolved. He is kind and helpful in speech and action. He builds a relationship with Cameron. With Gordon's girls, especially Haley. And with Gordon who becomes a close friend. He then wishes to have a family of his own. Cameron opposes him, as is her volatile nature and he realizes having kids with her isn't in the cards.

After Gordon's death and the end of the Comet he has a momentary crisis of faith and goes to see a fortune-teller to see what the future holds for him, but he eventually achieves transcendent insight. There is a scene at the end in his office showing his material achievements and the pictures of all his friends. They are dear reminders of his path. But between them lies a hint. A Buddha statuette. Joe finally understands that there is no thing to be had by way of a thing. The whole THING is to live in the NOW. To stop chasing after the future. After the next great thing. Also to resist inertia in life and career which will drag you along without even realizing it, sometimes (important distinction: we are NOT our careers and they should ideally be significant in the process of our personal growth). It turns out that it was Joe who was halting and catching fire all along. So he quits the rat race, returns to his home town and becomes a humanities teacher (self-less action). What could be a nobler occupation? And further from the hectic world of capitalistic tech. He had gone into the World and played the social game. He had traveled many roads. Imposed his will upon the World (aggressive self-centered action). Cheated (bad action). He had won and lost and won again (samsara = going round towards obtaining, perpetuated by desire), and in the process he had obtained the one thing impossible to teach: wisdom (nirvana = liberation from cravings, dukkha). Hence he could move forward. Forward not in the career sense, but in the personal journey sense. This shows the very deep transformation of Joe which is only fully graspable by the viewer at the very end of the series in that last scene.

While Joe achieves all this and goes thru such a profound positive transformation, he also leaves the two girls behind. Aimless. They subsequently decide to go back instead of forward. Cameron hesitates and lacks direction as she always did (the fall in Donna's pool is a manifestation of her unconscious act of submission and recognition of Donna's Alpha status in their relationship. Donna is fully aware of this. This is a masterful depiction of primal non-verbal communication). Donna on the other hand is trying to redeem and recapture what she has lost by her own hubris. Without Joe she also loses true North on her compass, as she had been entangled with him in the competition with the Comet browser for a long time. So the two girls give into a lukewarm complacent revival of the past and start working together once more. They remain trapped in the illusion. Maya. (there is a scene where Donna is also given a glimpse into Buddhist view by her daughter Joanie which is traveling in Thailand, but alas she is not ready to follow the signs). Bosworth is a good friend for the most part, but for the complete duration of the stir is out of his element and gets his peace only after retiring.

The world of tech only serves as a pretext, here. It could be replaced with any other social background or time period (although computers and technology in general are great examples of things we think might take us somewhere. But do they, fundamentally?). The essence of the story is about the view going into life and what one can get out of it according to each of our level of understanding. Joe changes his view of the meaning of life. He transcends his Ego. That's why at the end he is asking the class the same question he was asking his colleagues at the beginning of his journey. "So, let me ask you a question? Where do you want to go ?" That question has a much deeper meaning than it seems. It took Joe more than a decade to answer it.

This is a very powerful ending to the series and to the character arc of what has become one of my favorite characters ever portrayed and an impressive study of positive personal change: the path on the Middle Way of Joe McMillan. Also a reminder that some people are just temporary travel companions, and must be left behind as they don't share the same trajectory or capacity to attain other levels of understanding.

"Should a seeker not find a companion who is better or equal, let them resolutely pursue a solitary course." The Buddha

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Release Date:

14 October 2017 (USA) See more »

Filming Locations:

Georgia, USA

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