tv review – AMC’s Halt And Catch Fire, season 1

When Halt And Catch Fire debuted, this new AMC television show immediately showed promise. Its first episode introduced viewers to the ’80s setting, to the Texas’ Silicon Prairie locale and to the computing boom that would prove to be an interesting and unique hook to the show. However, over the course of the first season it became quite clear that what the series was most concerned with, was its four lead characters and their journeys, and that’s also exactly why Halt And Catch Fire managed to really stand out. Joe MacMillan, Cameron Howe, and Gordon and Donna Clark all proved to be fascinating people, each with their own sets of qualities, shortcomings, goals and struggles, and the way Halt And Catch Fire weaved their personal stories into a compelling narrative is definitely its big strength and one of the show’s crowning achievements.
Halt And Catch Fire episode 1.1 - headerHalt And Catch Fire refers to a computer command that, as the show explains, “sent the machine into a race condition, forcing all instructions to compete for superiority at once,” which caused the computer to stop functioning. While it at first seems as a bit of a mouthful, the show’s title is quite elegant: it’s a name that immediately signifies the fact that Halt And Catch Fire is a show about computers and the business that surrounds it, but it also shows you that, thematically, the series is all about people’s individual fights to get to the top, a struggle that could prove to be dangerous for everyone involved. What made Joe’s, Cameron’s, Gordon’s and Donna’s struggles so compelling to watch was that Halt And Catch Fire presented us with men and women whose characters were intricately detailed and thoughtfully developed. Each person on the show had a distinct personality, a personal history that influenced the paths they were on at the beginning of the show and the options they would choose over the first season’s run. While the business side of things was always captivating to watch, it functioned mainly as a context and motivator for these characters to develop themselves, a backdrop to tell a very character-driven story that kept viewers coming back for more.

While the writing can’t be praised enough for the depth, nuance and intelligence present in both the show’s characters and its wonderfully realized setting, the performances also proved to be instrumental in making Halt And Catch Fire’s episodes as compelling as they were. It all started on the page of a screenplay, but the execution by the series’ talented cast was truly excellent as well. Lee Pace, Mackenzie Davis, Scoot McNairy and Kerry Bishé really brought the show’s four main characters to life with multi-layered and versatile acting that perfectly conveyed what made these people tick and what they were going through throughout the show’s first run. While these men and women weren’t always sympathetic and they made many mistakes on both a private and professional level, the humanity and warmth of the performances made sure you never stopped rooting for Halt And Catch Fire’s heroes in an underdog story that was all about bringing about the creation of a new computer and, through that, personal success and the realization of long-kept dreams. Despite the presence of all the technology, Halt And Catch Fire proved to be a show about emotions and what we want and expect from life, love and family; a show about the most human of things.

Halt And Catch Fire episode 1.4 - headerAided by stellar cinematography, a fitting and effective score, and an authenticity that was present in all that the show did, Halt And Catch Fire offered quality week in and out, and because of it left quite an impression. During its first season this new AMC show proved that it could tell a well-paced and intelligent story about complicated characters, and that it could tell it well. Halt And Catch Fire was at times tense, exciting, emotional and uplifting, and the result is that the show is, without a doubt, one of the year’s best new series. While its first run could easily be viewed as a standalone story and the first season’s conclusion does indeed leave viewers moved and satisfied, it’s safe to say that another season of this great show would be the preferable option. Season 1’s finale did of course leave the door open for that to happen, but because the show didn’t quite ace it ratings-wise, jury’s unfortunately still out on Halt And Catch Fire’ renewal.

Halt And Catch Fire‘s first season was a riveting, intelligent and emotional ride, thanks to phenomenal writing, acting and direction. It’s undoubtedly one of 2014’s best new television dramas and one that should be renewed when you consider its quality. 9/10

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2 thoughts on “tv review – AMC’s Halt And Catch Fire, season 1

  1. I wanted to “like” your review, but it required me to log on. The only way I saw to log on, was to create a blog. I just want to “like” something. How does that work?

    • Thanks, Lizzie! I appreciate it! Unfortunately it’s not possible to “like” a post when you don’t have your own Gravatar (which is a “Globally Recognized avatar”). While it’s easy to create one (here: https://en.gravatar.com/), I understand you just want to click the “like” button and be done with it.

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