(EDITOR’S NOTE: *For those that haven’t seen the following episodes, SPOILERS may be present from here on out.*)
This past Sunday saw the finale of AMC’s latest hour long drama Halt and Catch Fire. It premiered back in June and has been running every Sunday night since. A total of 10 episodes make up this first season which has found strong critical acclaim as the series continued. However that has not helped the show with viewers as the finale only managed a third of what it premiered to. Let’s take a look back on the season that was for Halt and Catch Fire Season 1.
As the series began, we were introduced to a cast of characters at various points in their lives. Joe, a slick salesman for IBM (well not really), Cameron, a hot shot programmer that falls for Joe’s charms, Gordon, a visionary stuck in a dead end job and Donna, Gordon’s wife and former business partner who is arguably smarter than Gordon when it comes to computers. They are all going in various directions at the start but once Joe starts circling, it’s all over for each of them.
Joe first recruits Cameron (Mackenzie Davis) out of college where she is floundering due to her lack of challenge in school. She is ahead of the others she’s there with and a bit of rebel with a lot of attitude. Joe sees something special in her and drags her along for the ride. Little does she know that she is being used for her ideas and not because she is a valuable member of the team.
Gordon (Scoot McNairy) is next up as he is working for Cardiff Electric already when Joe talks his way into a job there. They start off very rocky but then Gordon learns that Joe is there for him. Several years earlier, Gordon and Donna went to Comdex (the biggest computer expo in the world) and presented what he thought was going to make them rich. Instead, the whole project blew up in their faces and he went into a tailspin that took him years to come out of. Joe is aware of this and wants to use Gordon for his brilliance and make a new kind of computer at Cardiff. Gordon of course falls prey to the charms of Joe’s idea.
Donna (Kerry Bishé), is the wife of one of the main characters which is usually a “throwaway” part on programs like this. That’s not the case here as she is presented as an equal to Gordon, if not stronger than him, who also happens to be a working mom with her career at Texas Instruments. She spends a large portion of her storyline trying to support Gordon and his goals. However, she becomes more integral to the plot as she is the one who saves the day at one point. From here she continues to be a major focus of the story. She also doesn’t trust Joe right from the first meeting.
Right, so let’s talk about Joe. Lee Pace gets to shine as the most narcissistic snake oil salesman we have to pleasure of meeting. He is all gloss and finish but of zero substance. He comes into every room with an agenda and is always working hard to control everything around him. He controls Cameron, Gordon and he thinks Cardiff Electric. He soon realizes that he doesn’t and his reactions to set backs and conflicts with his co-workers and bosses is quite revealing to his personality. The reality is that Joe has both mommy and daddy issues that stem from his childhood and his unrelenting quest to be original. While his issues are real, his originality is far from it.
From the first episode to the last, the show has this kinetic energy to it. Whether it’s Cameron and her punk rock aesthetic or Gordon’s drive to finally succeed, these are the motors of each and every scene. Joe and Donna are more like the gas on the fire here causing or starting issues along the way. With Joe, it’s always a bad thing that sometimes turns good. Where Donna is always trying to help but is hitting a wall of the creative overdrive of Gordon. This does not always work in either’s favour.
The music to the series is like a warm blanket of memories of an era I grew up in and still remember hearing the music as it first appeared. The soundtrack also has some original synthpop compositions throughout to evoke the music of the era as well, including the opening theme which is one of the best on television for a very evocative and fitting intro to the show.
The show itself needs to be seen to fully appreciate the experience of watching cowboys of the computer age. It also has a great David versus Goliath angle with Cardiff vs IBM and Joe vs everyone else. His battles are all of his own making but he is fighting them regardless.
I also need to take a moment to give credit to Toby Huss who plays Cardiff executive John Bosworth. At first, I hated him and thought he was a dick but slowly I came to like him and his passion for the Giant project. It was a great nuanced performance that is amazing to watch. To be fair, the whole cast is fantastic but Huss was a standout for me.
By the time we get to Comdex with the Cardiff Giant, things are moving full steam. It looks like nothing can go wrong until it does and the game changes again. This sets up nicely for the next season of the show, provided that happens. Joe is looking for answers, Gordon is thinking of the future, and Cameron and Donna start a new phase of their story which is really exciting. As it came to the end, all I wanted to do was watch more of this great show. A show about building computers. Yep I still can’t believe that it was this exciting.
I can’t recommend this show enough and it really shines as great television that I hope AMC brings back for another season. Keep an eye out for it on Netflix and DVD soon.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!