Halt and Catch Fire Bows Out With Grace


Photo Courtesy of Collider.

In 2015, Breaking Bad had ended and Mad Men was on its way out. That put a lot of pressure on Better Call Saul to lift AMC above tawdry zombie shows. But, when the summer came, Halt and Catch Fire, which is concluding on Saturday, surprised everyone when it returned with a stellar second season.

When it premiered, Halt and Catch Fire wasn’t a bad show, but it wasn’t riveting. There was nothing really drawing the audience back the next week. A show about the early days of the internet wasn’t exciting. The technology aspect was too central. The main character, Joe MacMillan, couldn’t be pinned down, with his motives changing every week.

But, when the second season came along, we had a better understanding of Joe, the technology aspect was usurped by character relationships, and the female characters were given a much bigger role. It wasn’t watched by many, but it was quickly loved by those who watched it.

The second season was about building relationships among the core group: Joe [Lee Pace], husband and wife Gordon and Donna Clark [Scoot McNairy, Kerry Bishé], Cameron Howe [Mackenzie Davis], and John Bosworth [Toby Huss]. Cameron and Donna became best friends and led a business that ended up being the best time of their career. They became the central characters. The third season was about tearing those relationships apart, and now, this season is about picking up the pieces.

Once Halt finally found its footing, the fans knew that it was a slow-burning show and that every story, no matter how mundane it seemed, was building towards something great. In the last few weeks, much of the loose threads had been sewn together. Cameron isn’t in the tech world anymore and she seems isolated from everyone else. Joe has to re-evaluate himself and become the team player he never was. Donna, now divorced from Gordon and the most successful in the group, cannot find the balance between being an effective boss and being ruthless. John is feeling restless in retirement. Gordon is the only one who is content and so something bad is inevitable. And while everything seems to be coming together, what the final two episodes will be like are really a mystery.

Halt was always anchored by great performances, particularly by McNairy and Davis, but Pace, Bishé, and Huss have blossomed now that their characters have been given better stories. Now, as the series is ending, the writers have been able to tap into emotion without becoming sentimental. This is the genuinely satisfying ending few shows are able to pull off. Most turn out something likeable, but not necessarily memorable. It’s hard to believe that the modest show that aired four years ago has turned into something so remarkable.