Halt and Catch Fire

Season 1 Episode 1


Aired Sunday 10:00 PM Jun 01, 2014 on AMC
out of 10
User Rating
34 votes

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Episode Summary

The opener of a drama set during the 1980s computing boom and following the actions of unlikely trio: a visionary, an engineer and a prodigy, all based in Texas's Silicon Prairie.
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  • Little Chip on the Prairie

    AMC unveils a sexy and stylish new show that shows the not so distant future of 1983 and the rise of the personal computer. There's a lot that series has going for it in that it has a charming cast: Lee Pace (of Pushing Daisies, Wonderfalls, and the Fall) and an ensemble that resides in the fictional company of Cardiff Electric. What transpires in the pilot shows Pace's Don Draper-esque slick character Lee McMillan pitch his way into being a sales rep for the company (himself a former IBM employee who disappeared for almost a year). He recruits George, a Walter White (season 1 of Breaking Bad Walter White), a quiet man with marital issues to help him counter-engineer an IBM chip over the long weekend. What hooks George in is Lee's manipulation pointing out how a failed OS he had proposed over a year ago failed to get off the ground and was something George was quite passionate about. Amidst all this Lee and George spend the weekend in George's garage copying the chip and they are discovered by George's wife Donna (who no doubt is going to possibly turn out to be this series Skyler White if things aren't handled a little differently) who tells him to give up trying to develop this crazy dream and focus on their family together. George honestly says that he "doesn't know if that's good Lee plans to "force IBM's hand" and tells them that they illegally copied the chip which constitutes a visit from IBM's legal team and Cardiff by law has to legitimize the project and bring on an outside developer otherwise they will face a lawsuit. Lee proposes that he give it to a young woman he slept with and sexually humiliated after having given a speech at her college. Her character is by far the most fleshed out and she's only on screen for a sixth of the episode as the bored outsider who continually uses quarters to replay the same video game over and over and is bored with the lack of challenges that face her academically. Lee offers her the position and with Cardiff's CEO having to legitimate the project Lee and George are unfireable for the time being but the CEO promises retribution for Lee having "threatened" his livelihood which you didn't do in Texas. The ending shot of the three protagonists staring off as IBM's massive legal team walks into the office closes out a pilot that greatly shows us the characters we will be following as well as the interesting period setting of the Silicon Prairie (Silicon Valley but in Texas basically) and definitely warrants a watch if one enjoys period storytelling.

    AMC definitely put some of their "we've done this already so it has to work" bits into the show which can come off as too familiar for new audiences to a freshman show and might turn them off. The show is also very stylish and detached in its tone which could make it difficult for characters to cozy up to Lee in the way they would Don Draper who wears his pain as his mask. But there is a brilliant article that believe encompasses all of the faults of the show initially: 2014/06/01/halt-and-catch-fire-premiere/

    The archetypes are familiar from the hard-selling loner rich guy with something to prove, the troubled family man who wants to amount to more, and the devil-may-care underachieving genius but i have confidence that the show will take risks as we move along that will transcend those issues that we are faced with in the pilot and carry the series of other great period series like Mad Men and The Americans (the other 80's show right now). AMC is a great place to air this type of series and the rebellious tone are a good fit for the network that desperately needs a hit with their awards darlings going away so quickly. I haven't seen Turn but I'm not really interested in something that was hammered home a billion times in every history class I ever took than something I know very little about. If you enjoy style (the excellent 80's opening title sequence), a period setting (fully on display here as George and his family go to see Return of the Jedi in theaters), and a good series that has the potential to be a great one check out Halt and Catch Fire. I really hope this series doesn't join the overlooked ranks of the Americans (although that thankfully does keep getting renewed), and that AMC gives it a chance rather than axing it after its initial 10 episode run, I'm not sure what the long run game is here, or why you need to hit an armadillo with a car as your opening shot, but I think this show has the power to be a daring and entertaining bit of television that can become a great piece of storytelling in time.moreless

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