Halt and Catch Fire has literally been labeled one of the best series you probably haven’t watched and it’s true. This show is fantastic and it didn’t receive nearly the amount of attention and limelight it deserved. This show is aired on AMC and it has a fantastic cast made up of Lee Pace, Scott McNairy, Mackenzie Davis, and Toby Huss.
Three genius characters
Halt and Catch Fire follows the lives of three geniuses in the fast-paced unpredictable world of the eighties and eventually 90s tech industry. The show begins in 1983 in Dallas Texas with the cold mysterious sweet talker of salesmen Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace). He is a former IBM executive with plans to build and sell his own PC, except that his plan isn’t to build one from scratch, but rather get his hands in one of IBM’s PCs.
He wants to reverse engineer it and build a clone that’s twice as fast and for half the price. While the guy is great with words, and I mean impressively good, he’s like the Tony Robbins of selling tech. He’s really not a coder or an engineer, so he recruits Gordon Clark (Scott McNairy).
Gordon is super smart and super talented, but he’s also a washed-up computer engineer. After his own failed PC venture, he eventually gave up his dreams to work a dead-end job and live a life of misery, regret, and alcohol. His character is pretty much this deadbeat loser until Joe ignites his ambitions with his exciting and somewhat illegal entrepreneurial plans.
Then there’s Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis) a 22-year-old coding prodigy who Joe hires as their lead programmer. What’s interesting about Cameron is that she’s the picture of everything anti the 80s teach industry. She’s a rebel, she’s volatile and unprofessional. She blasts punk music in the office and has a blatant disregard for all kinds of authority.
This of course doesn’t leave out her boss for whom she has some pretty complicated feelings. But above all else, she holds the most progressive vision of what the tech industry could be. She basically represents what the new generation has brought into the world of tech and what we’ve come to love and take for granted.
The show’s strong points
Together the three work to disrupt the already ambitious landscape of the time. They are waging war against the status quo. This is a story of the underdogs or the little guys in the blooming world of 80s tech. the great thing about the show is that it eventually evolved from this madman-esque story of a difficult damaged man to a show about difficult damaged people and how each struggled with their own journeys towards success, fulfillment, self-discovery, and the inevitable failures in between.
Halt and Catch Fire is excellent in giving us a nostalgic showcase of 80s gadgets tech trends and clever nods to the inventions that we pretty much take for granted today. Some of my favorites moments of the show are when characters would bring up ideas that are already all too common in today’s world only to be laughed at by others who deem their visions unrealistic.
The show’s undeniably greatest strength lies not in its fascinating depiction of technology’s evolution, although that is one of its selling points. The show’s greatest strength is represented by its complex characters and their individual stories. The show crushes it in this department, with some of the best character writing and development I’ve seen on TV.