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.

Screen shot 2014-06-08 at 11.55.31 PM[old graphic, not on Sundays anymore, I think]

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.

Gordon Clark (Scott McNairy) as Joe leaves the room after having offered to settle the suit, in Halt and Catch Fire 3.2. Screencap.

Gordon Clark (Scott McNairy) as Joe leaves the room after having offered to settle the suit, in Halt and Catch Fire 3.2. Screencap.

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.”

Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace) wants Gordon to come back to work with him, in Halt and Catch Fire 3.2.

Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace) wants Gordon to come back to work with him, in Halt and Catch Fire 3.2.

Screen shot 2016-08-30 at 11.01.13 PM

Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace) reacts to Ryan’s objections to his decision to charge individual users for MacMillan utility in Halt & Catch Fire 3.3. Another great face.

Screen shot 2016-08-30 at 11.02.46 PM

Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace) tells Ryan that they’ll be working together on the next idea at his home in future, in Halt & Catch Fire 3.3. Screencap.

And of course — how could it be any different — Lee Pace is still the master of talking with his hands.

Screen shot 2016-08-30 at 11.01.39 PM

Looking forward to more.

~ by Servetus on August 31, 2016.

10 Responses to “Catching up with a collateral attraction: Halt and Catch Fire, season 3 (first three episodes)”

  1. When they announced the “show” would be moving to California I was wondering aesthetically how it would look. I know the show is filmed in Georgia so I was wondering if they would do exterior CA shots and then soundstage the rest in Georgia. I watched One Way or Another this morning and as a 30+ year resident of Northern, CA, specifically living 30 minutes north of SF, I loved the shot of the Golden Gate Bridge. Then it was OMG, Lee Pace was so close. Then reality set in and I thought the location, Fort Point, where he is holding onto the surfboard would not be a launching point to surf. I also wondered how long they waited to get that nice and sunny shot since fog is an issue. Later in the show when they were outdoors during the birthday party I realized that is a Georgia shot. You just don’t see those types of pine trees in the area and it looked more like my parent’s backyard in Georgia.

    So far I am enjoying the direction the show is heading this year. I loved the deposition scene in episode 2 between Joe and Gordon. I too love Gordon and want something positive to happen to his character. Joe’s arrogance over the past two seasons really bothered me and I am not sure if he is becoming the nicer Joe. I guess time will tell.


    • They spend so little time out of doors that I suppose one notices in particular when a scene is shot outside. I thought the Golden Gate bridge scene was pretty, too.

      I thought it was pretty key, this message that Cameron, Donna and Gordon are all giving to Ryan in different ways — Joe cannot be trusted.


  2. I manage my way through ist . but I still don’t like Cameron. But I love Joes double meaning – on one hand he is a successful buisness man but on the other he wants to prove he is also as smart as Gordon and Cameron. But the vibe between him and Gordon is wonderful – on one hand Joe always puts thinbgs in a mess but is also there for Gordon when he needs someone most to move on.


    • I think the actor who plays Cameron is the weakest in the ensemble, too.

      Totally agree about the vibe between Joe and Gordon.


  3. I’m behind on watching this season (I’ve only seen episode one), and will wait to read this post until I’m caught up. But I’m definitely interested. Surprisingly, I don’t think this show is especially well known among computing professionals.


    • My cousin’s husband does ed tech and he stopped watching it in the first season because of what he felt were errors. This season seems to be very lite on tech.

      I think arguably another point of interest for computing professionals could be the culture of coding, tech development, and so on and so forth. This season I feel there’s a strong contrast between Mutiny (dark interiors, mechanics of servers, discussions of privacy breeches) and MacMillan’s company (light interiors, no discussion of tech detail, discussion of profitability).


      • The first break with tech culture is a company run by Cameron and Donna! But I like that, so I’m not complaining. Gordon is probably more representative of the tech culture than Joe or the bro-grammer types that work at Mutiny. I do find technical flaws in the stories, and in the words they use, but the more ridiculous thing is how the characters are inventing in the 1980s things that became popular much later, and all at once. This season it appears they’ll invent Ebay, based on the one show I’ve seen.


  4. I’m finally caught up now that probably no one is reading this thread anymore. I’m finding this season a bit slow. The third episode didn’t have the right vibe because it doesn’t look at all like Silicon Valley — the trees and landscaping are not California, nor are the houses, and I don’t think Ryan would live in upscale Los Altos with a bunch of other guys (Sunnyvale, maybe?). The sea-of-cubicle offices was the only thing that felt right.

    I agree with your acting assessments. I have always felt this was an exceptionally strong cast, but Gordon and Joe’s roles have more depth than the other characters.


    • 30 years ago? I assume they pick Los Altos b/c that is where Jobs et al built their first computers. I know it’s unreachable now, was it back then, too?


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