Today I want to talk about ‘Halt and Catch Fire,’ which I’ve been bingeing on Netflix over the last two months. It’s been awesome! It’s been a long time since I’ve looked forward to a show so much that I would shudder giddily before each new episode. Even now, just hearing the theme song kick in is enough to trigger Pavolvian glee.
Over four seasons and forty epsiodes, the show follows four brilliant characters (4.5 if you count Toby Huss’s character!) through the personal-computing and networking boom of the 80s and early 90s. Each character brings different skill-sets and philosophies to several different startup ventures, and although the characters are fictional, we see them have a hand in several real-world advancements.
Season 1 is all about the four characters trying to create the first laptop. (Eventually, Macintosh eats their lunch.) Season 2 is about creating a fledgling online community. Season 3… well, I don’t want to give away the plots for all four seasons. But I will say that part of the wonder of the show is seeing one character come up with the germ of an idea and then see another character building on it, (or screwing it up in a way that gives birth to something completely new). Eventually the idea takes shape and you recognize it as something we all know (anti-virus software, a version of Craigslist, etc.)
I’m going to recap all four characters, but I’ll use the actor names, because the cast is absolutely awesome and they deserve as much name-recognition as possible.
Lee Pace plays the entrepreneur of the group, he’s the iconoclast who brings people together and pushes them to disrupt their normal ways of doing things, although he’s criticized for never actually coming up with any ideas on his own.
Mackenzie Davis is the genius programmer and game developer. Her weaknesses are that she can be ridiculously stubborn and idealistic.
Scoot McNairy plays the engineer (the hardware guy) who is a married father of two. I think I related the most to him. His character flaw is that he can be manic (at home and at work).
Finally, there’s Kerry BIshé, who plays the sleeper-hit best character on the show. She has a mix of I.T. and business skills, and she’s the voice of reason and backbone of several of the team’s endeavors. She’s can also be a lethal, c-suite cutthroat (to friends and foes) when she thinks that’s what’s required.
The four main characters clash a lot—end up in out-and-out conflict, fall in love, fall out of love, reunite, separate—over the four seasons of the show, The character arcs and realistic conflicts in Halt and Catch Fire really make each season crackle with energy, even if there are no hitmen or gangsters anywhere in sight.
Not to make this post any more geeky, but again and again I kept thinking that Marvel/Disney should hire the show’s creators, Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers to reboot the Fantastic Four with the same sort of team and family conflicts that they bring to HACF. Hell, they could even use the same cast with some of the same character traits in place. Lee Pace is Mr. Fantastic. Mackenzie Davis could be an excellent gender-flipped version of the hot-headed Human Torch. Scoot McNairy is Ben Grimm and Kerry BIshé is the Invisible Woman.
I looked it up, and it seems that the producers and writer of HACF knew that their fourth season would be their last, before they started it. Because of that, the creators had an entire ten episodes to build to a proper conclusion for the series. That gift of time and consideration really shows.
If you working in the technology sector, or if you’re a fan of Mad Men or Silicon Valley, I’d say you should give Halt and Catch Fire a try!