Halted and Caught Fire

I’ve been filling some gaps in my TV viewing with Halt and Catch Fire, a show where I’ve enjoyed season one but I kept reading commentary that suggested that the show really got good once we got to season two. As I type this 1 I’m four episodes into season two and having to fight the temptation to binge watch the remainder of the season rather than work from home today like I’m supposed to.

They weren’t kidding: the characters I enjoyed so much are so much more fun in their new situation: watching Cameron start down the path towards learning how not to rely on her being the visionary/genius programmer who will save the day but rather a proper manager promises to be great fun. I have very deliberately not looked ahead to find out how the plot develops in the remaining seasons – I’ll get there soon enough, and I’m enjoying the ride enough not to want to be derailed by spoilers if I can help it – but I can’t help but wonder whether by the close of season four Cameron will realise that she also had a hell of a lot to learn from her partner in Mutiny, Donna. 2

To quote MeFi user prismatic7:

Everything I love about this show is encapsulated by the sequence in which Cameron and Donna talk tech at a dive bar and confront the bad guy while Gordon glams up and takes the kids for ice cream. Every TV – and computer industry – cliche subverted in one swoop, and without the showboating any other property on TV today would go for.

It’s a real shame that this show wasn’t a much bigger deal than it ended up being, but them’s the breaks when your show’s visibility is so dependent upon which distribution outlet handles your show. 3 When Halt and Catch Fire was new I missed it because a) I don’t think it made it to terrestrial TV or any of the digital services I had access to at the time, and b) in any case the portion of my brain that liked fictional TV shows about technology had already been captured by Silicon Valley, so who knows whether my mind could have coped with two such different pictures of how the tech business worked at the same time? Imagine if the time streams had merged and inserted Donna or Cameron in the room where a team brainstorming session by the guys from Pied Piper led to the calculation of the the Mean Jerk Time and the D2F Ratio AND the formulation of the Middle-Out method of data compression that formed the basis of several seasons of triumph and disaster for everyone in that room. Obviously Cameron would have been tempted to use her baseball bat on everyone in the room, but who knows, perhaps the two shows would have ended with a crossover where – after wacky adventures as Richard ended up having to help Cameron to bury Erlich Bachman’s body 4 – Cameron and Richard ended up as a couple and omigod now I really wish someone had made this happen!

Anyway, time for me to catch some sleep. Short message: Halt and Catch Fire started well and then got better. If you’re anything like me, you might like it. (Ignore this if this is old news to you.)

I wonder where Cameron stands on Tabs-versus-Spaces?

[Via MetaFilter Fanfare]


  1. In the early hours of Thursday morning, because I took a long nap through much of late Wednesday evening after watching Halt and Catch Fire season 2 episode 4 and don’t feel sleepy again yet. 
  2. Even in season one it seemed to me that Kerry Bishé was the MVP of the show’s core cast and so far season two is piling on further evidence of that exalted status with every passing episode. Look at Cameron screwing up when she didn’t realise that a disparaging offhand remark she’d made about Donna on their nascent social network had gone to all users, cueing up the scene when Donna came into the office and everyone but her was waiting for the catfight that didn’t come because Donna is an adult. She dealt with it without use of a baseball bat or a loud tantrum in front of their coworkers, because she’s the adult in the room. Five minutes later the two of them were working together in the new team photo, having let off steam and reduced the tension. 
  3. A lesson I suspect we’ll all get to learn again in the forthcoming era of every-damn-studio-insisting-on-viewers-paying-a-monthly-subscription-to-their-streaming-service. Twenty years from now when someone finally declares themselves the winners of that battle and starts in on trying to get the rights to all sorts of shows that were scattered among the assets of how many different bundles of intellectual property rights, how many masterpieces will be waiting to be rediscovered by (or, very possibly, remade for) the mass audience they missed out on when they were new? 
  4. No way can they both survive in the same timestream, so I’m afraid he has to go. 

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