What I’ve watched: Halt & Catch Fire S3

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Halt & Catch Fire season three on AMC, via Netflix.

Brief Summary:

For those who haven’t watched this show before, it is all about the early days of computers and tech in the 80s. Season 1 is about reverse engineering an IBM by a small company. Season 2 is about the growth of a new online/software community and the start of one character’s huge business. Let’s meet the players: Joe is a smarmy, devilish, charming, lying, manipulating salesman that is the essence of cool. Cameron is the punk-rock, issues with authority, scatterbrained genius coder. Gordon is the nerdy, goofy, intelligent, odd engineer. Donna is the smart, business-oriented, leader, peace-maker. Donna and Gordon are married, yet they have marital issues. Joe and Cameron hooked up in season 1, now they hate each other.

Season three is all about Cameron and Donna’s company Mutiny moving from Texas to Silicon Valley in the mid 80s. The two of them struggle to make it work because of each other’s values and tendencies. Both need each other, but both are combustible. Donna wants to go public with the company and Cameron doesn’t want to loose her baby (business). Joe used a code created by Gordon in season 2 to start a virus protection service. Joe wanted Gordon to work with him, but Gordon turned him down and is now suing Joe. Joe is doing this whole zen thing and wants Gordon to get his due, but Gordon is stubborn. After all is said and done, the season ends four years later with the team getting back together to discuss the birth of the World Wide Web.

What works:

The drama!!! This show is oozing with drama. Each of these characters are really terrible people when you think about it. They lie to one another all day every day. Donna and Gordon argue as couples do, but they hide things from another. Donna and Cameron are like oil and water. And Joe, everyone hates Joe, but in reality he is trying to do the right thing in this season after some major f-ups in the previous seasons.

The power of women in this show is a breath of fresh air. This show is all about the women trying to be a business leader in the 80s where women were not. The show passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors. Donna and Cameron’s relationship is so complex and fractured.

I am not very knowledgeable about computers and all the ins and outs of tech, but this show doesn’t make me feel like an idiot. It does have tech speak throughout, but it isn’t so overwhelming that others like me can’t understand it. The tech is the McGuffin, not the whole point of the show. The characters are.

John Bosworth! Need I say more? The good ole boy from Texas is such an amazing character. He is funny, witty and just a blast whenever he is on screen.

I love Joe’s character too. He just bleeds cool. But he also has a heart of gold. And Gordon is such a doofus sometimes that he is a fun train-wreck to watch.

One thing that this show does do well is things going on in the time period. Joe is one of those characters that is the epitome of the 80s, at least in the first season. But one of his backstories is that he is into men and women. So when side characters make jokes about AIDS, Joe gets angry and scuttles deals. He also confronted the possibility of himself having it. I think this type of story-telling really strengthens this show. Same thing goes with Donna and Cameron’s business. Women in business was a new developing thing in that time and their struggle is amazing to watch and see grow.

What doesn’t work:

Cameron is such a frustrating character for me to like. My wife enjoys her, but I can’t, I just can’t. I get the whole genius thing, I do, but seriously her decision-making is such a hindrance. She just frustrates me, and I see that is the point of her character, but I don’t like it. I also don’t like the way the actress bulges her eyes out when Cameron is not happy with something. The eye thing doesn’t sell me.

Though I love the drama (stated 1st above) I just find it highly unlikely that nobody can tell the truth about things, especially husband and wife in Gordon and Donna. I get why they do it, but there are a few times I was like “what the hell???” One of them being when Joe admits to stealing from Gordon and he doesn’t tell Donna.

Ryan Ray. Oh man, what an annoying and pointless character. His constant whining and angry typing faces was awful. And then what he did to Joe and Gordon, then bounced out the way he did. Didn’t hit the heartstrings like I’m sure he was supposed to.

Rating:

4.5 out of 5

I love this show. It took me a few years to actually watch it (thanks wife!) and I am glad I have. I don’t usually enjoy total tech stuff, but this stuff grabs my attention. I love Joe and Gordon, even Donna, especially Bosworth. The vibe of the time is there and the show doesn’t skip any beats. Also, I’m glad they are ending it after this upcoming season because I like when shows know there is a story to tell and don’t keep it going for the sake of money. Can’t wait until season 4.

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