Catching up with a collateral attraction: Halt and Catch Fire, season 3 (first three episodes)
I don’t have time at the moment to devote the individual attention to this show that I could to season 1, and I admit that despite my best intentions season 2 passed me by, but I am watching season 3 (this time, sans dad, who’s in bed by the time it’s on) and enjoying it a great deal in a general way.
Despite great storytelling and favorable reviews, Halt and Catch Fire still doesn’t really feel like appointment television. I think the plots are too slow paced, and I think they are slow because of the subject matter — season 1 had way too much technical stuff in it for the average person, and season 3 has mostly backed off that level of explanation (in a way that is unsatisfying to me — there must be some middle ground between saying everything and saying nothing). So the show has turned to reliance on a focus on the relationships between characters to drive the plot, which are less suspenseful than the question of who will be the first to get an affordable personal computer on the market, or whether or not malware will tank an entire software / gaming platform. The tense heterosexual pairings (Gordon and Donna, Joe and Cameron) have enough backstory by now that we are unlikely to be surprised or held on the edge of our seats because of anything that might happen between them.
Still, I’m enjoying the feel of the show and I like the plot around Ryan Ray (Manish Dayal), an aspiring coder who is a pawn between Mutiny and Joe MacMillan — as every character tells him something, he serves as a mirror for all of them, and I’m interested to see how his relationship with Joe will develop. I think my favorite relationship is the manifestation of the one between Joe and Gordon (Scoot McNairy) that shows up in the deposition for their lawsuit in episode 2. When Joe offers Gordon an increasing portion of his company in exchange for a renewed collaboration, the pain on Gordon’s face and in his posture (he looks like he has just been kicked) is so palpable it made me cry out in sympathy.
I never would have guessed, from the beginning of this story, that Gordon would end up being my favorite character overall. McNairy is just excellent in portraying the vibe of a man who’s often the smartest in the room, though not smarter than his wife, often the most human in a room, and therefore the most vulnerable to his own fallibility, and who has had a number of excellent unrecognized ideas and projects.
Joe MacMillan is not my favorite character, but it’s impossible not to like Lee Pace in this role at this point. Joe’s moved on from the extreme volatility of season 1 into some kind of “Zen” attitude that rechannels his arrogance into the cool, minimalist exterior of the visionary. But he still knows what he’s missing, and the scene in episode 3 where he is clearly planning to take a coding class until he learns that Cameron will teach it humanizes him tremendously.
In the end, I just love the energy that Pace projects as MacMillan; his magnetism is impossible to ignore. What often felt like desperation in season 1 is now a relatively thick veneer of authority. He’s just so compelling, my eyes won’t say “no.”
And of course — how could it be any different — Lee Pace is still the master of talking with his hands.
Looking forward to more.