Luckily for both AMC and fans of Halt and Catch Fire, the series’ ability to show some serious respect for its intended audience is not its only charm. Its incredible cast does just as much to elevate the show. We’ll start at the top, with the up and coming Lee Pace, who exudes so much charm as Joe MacMillan that I contemplated starting my own computer business three weeks into watching the show. He is the kind of actor I’m starting to believe can do just about anything, and with roles as Ronan in Guardians of the Galaxy and Thranduil in the Hobbit films, it seems I may be correct. His complete counter-part is Gordon Clark, played by Scoot McNairy. McNairy doesn’t carry the same weight on-screen as Pace, somewhat by design, but he adds an essential element that elevates both characters. Just as stunning as our two leads though, are supporting cast Mackenzie Davis, playing the genius and eccentric programmer Cameron, and Kerry Bishé, playing Gordon’s brilliant wife Donna. Davis manages to make if difficult to take your eyes off her in a scene, while being brash enough to make you want to cringe and turn away, all simultaneously; Bishé, with her soft-spoken confidence, runs with Pace in terms of pure presence on-screen, albeit in very different ways.
Halt and Catch Fire also manages to weave together a thrilling tale about a fictional PC company in the 1980’s who is trying to compete against the juggernaut that was IBM. If I hadn’t done my research on the show to discover it was fiction, I’m not sure I would have known. It gets the feel of the 80’s, in terms of set design and wardrobe, and it sprinkles in historical moments in technology and uses very common tech terms for the era. On the fictional side though, the show creates a great dynamic between the two protagonists, even if it is incredibly derivative of the Jobs/Wozniak dynamic, and especially as the season wraps up, manages to create some of the best dramatic tension I’ve watched in a long time. The episode “Up Helly Aa” may very well be one of my top ten episodes of television, ever.
Overall, AMC has what I believe is the best freshman show to air in the 2013-14 season (you can see all the Free For All staff’s freshman favorites right here!), and one I’m hoping AMC is smart enough to renew. The final moments of season one leave the series in an interesting place, and now that the story of the Giant has come and (mostly) gone, I am excited to see what Joe, Gordon, Cameron, and Donna can create next.