Halt and Catch Fire (S1)
Synopsis: The series is set in the Silicon Prairie of Texas in 1983 and depicts a fictionalized insider’s view of the personal computer revolution.
Rating: ★★★½☆ ☆
As far as season finales go, AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire did exactly what it’s name says it does. It caught fire, both literally and maybe even figuratively. For a season that started off quite shaky for me, it ended in a way that was able to wrap the whole story of season one quite nicely. Joe, who we first meet as a distant and calculated businessman who seems to border on American Psycho‘s Patrick Bateman is hyped up all up until he is broken down by Cameron in the finale and is looking for a new beginning of his own (again?).
Cameron, who is an unpolished genius held back by the partners she works with has realized her own brilliance and Joe’s bullshit and has gone her own way, stealing many of Cardiff’s employees along the way. Even Donna, who felt under appreciated, used, and second-best in her family life and work life has taken the steps to maintain control of her own life and sees a new future working with Cameron at her business.
Yes, it seems they all have moved forward except Gordon, who seems to be pleased with the present and, instead of turning his eyes brightly forward, is worrying about what might be on the horizon for this company which he now owns 8% of.
The show has always had quite an interesting dynamic between the leading three protagonists as well as Gordon with Donna. Joe’s eye on innovation forces them to look up, while Cameron’s unfettered imagination gives them wings to go higher, and Gordon’s (in)stability and the realities of hardware keep them firmly grounded.
And it’s not to say that Gordon has never seen the world through Joe and Cameron’s eyes, it’s that he has and he failed because of it. He spends a lot of the season wanting to be excited but is constantly reminded of his past failures. That is probably the reason why he is seemingly so content at the end of the season. He is satisfied with where he has landed given from where he’s fallen.
But let’s talk about that finale first. It was all over the place. As succinct as the path of the show has been, this was the most frenetic episode of the season. One moment we were looking at Cameron quitting her job, the next moment she had all of Cardiff working for her. One second Joe seems hopeful, the next he’s setting things on fire. In one scene Gordon and Donna are in their nice red porsche, ten minutes later they’re getting carjacked. Even less time passes and neither of them really seem to be changed by it.
Yet, the story feels complete by the end of the episode. The Cardiff Giant is out. All of the characters are on new paths, and it seems that no matter which way AMC decides to go with HACF that it will be good.
Everyone who talked to me during the first two episodes of the season knew that I was immensely skeptical about the show. Lee Pace, who I love, was giving me some doubts. His Joe MacMillan reminded me too much of Mad Men‘s Don Draper, and Cameron Howe’s styling felt too similar to John Hughes’ 1987 character Watts from Some Kind of Wonderful. Not only that, but AMC felt like they were bleeding the period drama genre dry.
But a few episodes in around episode four and five, I was very interested to see where Christophers Cantwell and Rogers were going to take this show. There is some sort of fun in watching a period show set in a very near past. We all know what is on the horizon for the personal computer technology field. We live in it today. We know what becomes popular, what doesn’t. And with a season riding all the way up to an episode named “1984”, a year which stands in Apple history as the beginning of an era not to mention in literary history with George Orwell’s novel, I was very excited to see the show wrapped up with an episode like this.
While they didn’t play it on screen, Apple essentially did what Joe could not. It reached higher and sought to bring down the techno tyrant that was IBM in 1984. It was already prevalent in the finale of “Up Helly Aa” that Apple would be what overshadowed Joe and Cardiff in the finale, and while it was not in your face, it definitely was there enough to remind Joe of his mistakes and for him to set restart whatever cycle he started when he left IBM and go off in search of someone in the final scene, with him dressed down from his usual suit and tie.
It’s hard to say whether or not AMC will be ordering another season of Halt and Catch Fire but with where they ended the show, I’ll be sure to tune into season 2 if they do. What did you guys like about season 1? What are you looking forward to in season 2?