Collateral attractions: HACF 4.1 and 4.2

Lee Pace has really strange feet in Halt and Catch Fire, 4.1.

Lee Pace was back on our screens tonight for the fourth and final season of Halt and Catch Fire. And even with that depressing 90s grunge haircut, he still looks incredibly charming.

It’s funny to think back to blogging the beginnings of this show and how much time I spent writing about the computers. I think that was its selling point at the time: Mad Men about computers, and the first season seemed to move in that direction. I missed the second season entirely, and then blogged intermittently about the third season and now here we are, almost at the end, and the show hardly seems to be about computers. That is: I realize this show was about the end of the browser competition, with the NCSA’s Mosaic apparently beating out both Joe’s Lodestar and Donna’s Millennium. (IRL Mosaic was the progenitor of both Netscape and IE). But over time, the tech has become incidental to the story lines and now the computers now seem entirely secondary to the personalities. Of the seasons I’d seen, I still think the first was the best, but these two episodes were quite strong and suggest that they may finish the series on a high note.

Picking up from where they left off, Gordon (Scoot McNairy) has a successful ISP company, Joe (Lee Pace) is working (with Cameron — Mackenzie Davis) on a browser, Cameron is avoiding working on the browser, working on an adventure video game, and ending her marriage to Tom, with whom she went to Japan, and Donna (Kerry Bishé) is a high-powered venture capitalist. Gordon and Donna seem to have joint custody of their daughters, one of whom (Haley — Susannah Skaggs) is a closet HTML coder. Boz (Toby Huss) is retired and scrambling. The season plot looks like it’s going to revolve around the competition between the four to develop something like Yahoo or Google, and if past seasons are any indication, they will all fail.

It’s really impossible for me to care about Joe and Cameron (will they get back together?) as season three wore out my interest in the Cameron character and I’ve never thought Mackenzie Davis could act. I still go back and forth about who I like better, Donna or Gordon, but in these episodes I really admired Donna even if I felt the portrayal was a bit campy and I would have liked Gordon not to have been so much living in his own world as he was. The mystery of Joe at the middle of all of this — the big visionary who can’t really code himself — is still appealing to me on some level. Or maybe it’s just that I think Lee Pace is really magnetic.  The daughter could be interesting. I have never cared about Boz.

In the end, what I liked most about these episodes is what I have liked best about the show since the beginning — the way it recreates the atmosphere of the past. I loved the device of the day long phone call (I remember doing that; I would never do it today; I hate phone calls now, maybe because I spent so many hours on the phone in the early 1990s). The way all of that was shot, with the limitations of being stuck in an apartment in range of a cordless phone, or tethered with a conventional phone to a limited range. The sound track was fantastic. And Blue Man Group! The Fresh Prince of Bel Air! and the last six weeks of the period when people still admired John Updike!

Go, Donna. I am putting my money on you to end up on top.

~ by Servetus on August 20, 2017.

10 Responses to “Collateral attractions: HACF 4.1 and 4.2”

  1. I loved it when Joe read to Cam….has Pace done any audiobooks? I’ll have to check that out now!!!


    • I like the reading. Updike is such a dick choice, though, although appropriate to the early 90s, when intellectual America still worshiped at that altar. Pace has a gorgeous voice, for sure.


  2. I am just finishing the season finale from last year. It aired when I was in London last fall. I never bought into the Cameron/Joe relationship. Maybe because I was never a fan of Cameron.

    Funny about the phone comment. Where I work we have a push button phone connected to a spiral cord. One of my 20ish co-workers picked it up to make a call and didn’t know how to operate it. Yes, this 50 year old had to show her something


    • I thought she was an interesting character at the beginning of the first season, but Mackenzie Davis is not much of an actor.

      Wow — seriously, someone who did not know how to use a push button phone? I mean, even cell phones have a push button display. That’s wild. I remember the moment at which long distance calling suddenly became cheap and for a while that was all I did, caught up with friends who were far away.


      • Seriously, she did not know how to make an outgoing call on the phone. I told her how it was when we were younger and you had to take the phone with you with the long cord attached. Told her, you could only go as far as the cord…lol. A rotary phone would have really thrown her.

        I remember thirty years ago when I would be on the phone for hours with my now husband. He lived in the next city and since I did not have a car at that time we spent a lot of time on the phone. I usually had to pay my parents $30-$40 a month for my phone bill. Ah, young love.


  3. […] (although somehow I never saw season 2, and now I suppose I won’t). So it seems appropriate, after my reflections a few months ago, to write about it one last […]


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