I know, I’m late to the party with everything that is Halt and Catch Fire but dang, do I have feelings about it. The first season isn’t as tight as a first season should be, and it does hit its stride rather late in the game but if you simply sit back and watch and appreciate everything it does in such a small frame of episodes, the show is brilliant. Well crafted, well acted, strong and brilliantly 80s, this show has so much to offer even though it was canceled last year.
First aired in 2014, Halt and Catch Fire tells the story about Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace) a former IBM employee who comes up with the idea of building a personal, portable, computer from scratch. He enlists the help of Gordon Clark (Scoot McNairy), a data analyst at Cardiff Electric. Gordon is a drunk with a wife, Donna (Kerry Bishe), who works at Texas Instruments and two young kids. The first season sees Joe, Gordon, Cardiff, and Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis), a coding whiz kid, experience the ups and downs of building a computer from scratch in a tiny company with the large, looming company of IBM breathing down their backs and necks.
I have so much to say about this show that I’m not sure I’ll be able to properly get all my words to work but we’ll try.
The linchpin holding this entire season together is Joe. Joe is an asshole. To be honest, that’s putting it lightly but he really is. Throughout the entire series, he’s constantly pulling shady and ethically immoral moves to make sure Cardiff makes it out on top and Pace is a dynamo. It doesn’t hurt that he’s the most handsome member of the cast and that he’s the most charming character. Pace oozes charm which makes his sales shtick as Joe all the more appealing to the audience. I tried to stop watching this show but found I couldn’t because of how quickly I had invested myself in Joe’s charm, his personality, and his relationships. Yes, I said he’s an asshole and he just gets worse as the series goes on but it’s a train wreck that you can’t take your eyes off of. I am surprised and saddened that Pace was never nominated for a Golden Globe for his work as Joe. Joe MacMillan is certainly a character that I’m going to watch for in the other seasons.
Another character I find myself interested in is Donna Clark. Cameron is an annoying, whiny twenty-two-year-old with no real motives but Donna is strong and capable and a beautifully stunning figure in the series. She is everything I want to be when I grow up. She’s poised and refined and brilliant and she really goes for what she wants as the series progresses. Bishe goes toe to toe with Pace a few times and each time I marvel at her intensity in the face of such a presence. She is an actress to watch out for.
Despite the season really grabbing me from the start, I didn’t feel the season hit its stride until the sixth episode. That’s really when things started to explode and the show started reaching its climax. Let me tell you, that climax is a doozy too. Everything Cardiff, Joe, Cameron, Donna, and Gordon set out to do is derailed until it isn’t and then, spoiler alert, Joe burns an entire shipment of brand new computers, solidifying his off the rails personality. This is a man who has a lot of demons in his closet and it’s lovely and super intriguing. To be honest, I don’t feel like there is a cast of characters quite like this cast on TV at this moment. (It makes the fact that this show was canceled even more heartbreaking.)
Overall, the first season of Halt and Catch Fire is a bit uneven. While it’s acted to perfection, the writing is a bit rough to slog through until about the sixth episode. If you can stick around until then, you will be immensely rewarded and not disappointed. I’ve started the second season and will have that review when I’m finished. So be on the lookout for that!
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