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Let the Giant Turn You On – Halt & Catch Fire Season 1 Review

There are many shows now, shows like The Big Bang Theory or newcomer Silicon Valley, that use the rise of nerd/geek culture to a social norm, to do what sometimes feels a little too much like cashing in. This is not to say that those shows are bad, by most accounts, they’re not bad at all, but they do sometimes feel as though they are boiling geeks down to the lowest common denominator. This is where AMC’s newest drama — Halt and Catch Fire — establishes itself as something noticeably different, and refreshing, right from episode one. It assumes, or maybe even knows, that its viewers aren’t completely out of touch and can watch two fascinating characters build a PC without making jokes about how the like superheroes or aren’t very smooth with the ladies. Any other show looking to appeal to the growing number of comic book-reading, PC building nerds of today, should wake up, and take note.

Cameron hard at work, making genius happen.

Cameron hard at work, making genius happen.

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.

Donna Clark

Donna Clark

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.

here are many shows now, shows like The Big Bang Theory or newcomer Silicon Valley, that use the rise of nerd/geek culture to a social norm, to do what sometimes feels a little too much like cashing in. This is not to say that those shows are bad, by most accounts, they're not bad at all, but they do sometimes feel as though they are boiling geeks down to the lowest common denominator. This is where AMC's newest drama -- Halt and Catch Fire -- establishes itself as something noticeably different, and refreshing, right from episode one. It assumes, or maybe even knows,…

Review Overview

Halt and Catch Fire - Season 1 - 9.5

9.5

Exceptional

Summary : Halt and Catch Fire is the best thing that AMC has produced since Mad Men. It tells the ever-engaging story of the underdog, and assumes its viewers are smart enough to not have their hand held. It is truly the first series about geeks that doesn't treat them as though they're a stereotype, ripe for the picking.

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About Trey Elliott

Trey Elliott
Trey is a video game enthusiast, movie junkie, and cultivator of one fantastic beard. He loves to write original Gregorian chants, play the spoon harp, and speak of whatever comes to mind on the Free For All podcast.