Aug 27, 2015

[TV] Halt and Catch Fire: Season 2

The first season of Halt and Catch Fire was a pretty intense experience. They had a great story that felt close enough to reality to be believed and we had quite a compelling set of characters who came together in a very interesting way. And with such a strong time setting like the 80's, it was hard not to appreciate the show for its merits.

This second season of Halt and Catch Fire nicely demonstrated that there's still a lot of story for these characters and the writers seem pretty determined to tell those stories in turn. And that's really what this show is about - the characters, and not just the big plot to create an IBM clone.

And that's the thing, I suppose - this season neatly threw out everything that seemed to matter so much in the first season in terms of their big computer effort, the Giant. Instead we had everyone in completely different situations as things had changed quite significantly and now it's all about seeing how they'll deal with the new challenges in their path.

Synopsis: Halt and Catch Fire is a American drama series created by Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers. The show airs on AMC and the second season completed last August 2, 2015.

The second season starts with quite a number of changes in everyone's lives. Cameron (Mackenzie Davis) and Donna (Kerry Bishé) have formed an online gaming company called Mutiny, although the group is pretty chaotic and Donna seems to be the only one really trying to run the business side of things. Cardiff Electric has been liquidated after Nathan Cardiff sold the company and now Gordon (Scoot McNairy) is due to receive a sizeable dividend payment as the outgoing President. And Joe McMillan (Lee Pace) is now involved with Sara Wheeler (Aleksa Palladino) and has left Dallas entirely.

The season has us following the growth of Mutiny as Cameron and Donna try to figure out how to remain true to the desire to celebrate freedom and disregarding the established order, but also still make some business sense and provide good service to its customers. Gordon finds himself stuck at home with the kids and with way too much free time on his hands, and thus he ends up with strange projects. And Joe seems all set to marry into a rather rich family, however his own ambition still needs to feel some sense of satisfaction and some cushy desk job will never be enough.

The show definitely ended up feeling like it had a much wider scope given the how the core ensemble had pretty much scattered. Instead of dealing with most of them at Cardiff Electric, we now have episodes jumping around between Mutiny, Gordon's garage and Joe. It certainly made for an interesting change of pace, but the characters helped to make things continue to feel pretty consistent in terms of tone and overall feel.

I think the most striking change was how so much of the focus of the show was on Cameron and Donna. And I don't say this from some solely feminist view or something like that. You have to admit that they were some of the most interesting characters from the first season and to see them working together has definitely made for some great on-screen moments. The characters had limited interactive during the first season and now we have them needing to face one another day in and day out. Seriously, this season is built almost entirely on Mutiny and the stories they had to tell there.

Gordon's character went through a rather disappointing character arc that focused more on the chance of him literally having brain damage due to past exposure. This becomes a weird explanation for his more irrational behavior, thus reminding all of us about that season 1 episode where he dug up the yard. It's a valid character angle of course, but it's just a little sad to see him reduced to this. Plus a lot of the things he ends up doing during the season feel more because of plot demands than any true mental problems.

Joe's character arc was a weird one that had him trying to make a name for himself again but inevitably finding himself once again in contact with Cameron and thus Mutiny. In this regard, it feels like the writers only know how to write Joe as a dick character and he really ends up screwing over a lot of people in order to advance his own interests. But what else is new for Joe, right?

I really liked how the show explored the early developments in the gaming industry in a manner that fairly depicts some of the struggles and innovations of early game developers. It took a heck of a lot of work for the gaming industry to actually become a legitimate industry to begin with and I liked how the touched on different aspects of things. Sure, it's a true documentary-style feature to any degree, but it still has interesting moments that continue to include the time period as a virtual member of the cast.

The second season of Halt and Catch Fire did a lot of heighten the drama and really push character development in interesting directions. Once again things end on a striking note that leaves you wondering what might happen should a third season be confirmed. The season gets 4 early gaming moments of craziness out of a possible 5.

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