The thing about AMC’s “Halt and Catch Fire” is that, like its characters, it has an insane ability to innovate. Through season 1, we had a show that may have tried a little hard to be the tech generation version of “Mad Men.” Season 2 brought a renewed focus, and wonderful things for Mackenzie Davis and Kerry Bishe as Cameron and Donna started up Mutiny, a gaming company that helped to bring about the early days of the internet and of person-to-person communication. It became more about the ensemble, and about finding ways to change the game from the underground.
For the season 3 premiere, we saw a show that was largely all about the question of safety within this wild frontier. How much should a machine know about you, and who is watching on the other side? These were all relevant questions at the time, and in moving to Silicon Valley, the writers brought us to a place where these were all at the forefront.
(Programming note: The season 3 premiere aired early on AMC following “Talking Dead” — the official premiere airs Tuesday night. We’re going to keep this review relatively spoiler-free for those who have yet to see it.)
What the first episode does wonderfully is that it never once feels pressure to pump on the gas, and get to things that it has no need to get to just yet. Not all of our series regulars meet up, and despite being the show’s most-notable name, Lee Pace’s presence is notably muted until the end. When you do finally see Joe MacMillan, you have to wonder if he is embracing the dark side more, ironically, than the people calling themselves Mutiny.
When the other characters are on the screen, they are noticeably still trying to figure things out. Even though Mutiny has had some success, Cameron and Donna desire more. Unfortunately, some problems surface both in terms of a key issue in the chat service’s privacy and also in Donna’s home life. Her marriage to Gordon remains far from perfect.
While we cannot sit here and say that the “Halt and Catch Fire” premiere delivered on a breathtaking level or above the pristine quality of season 2, it remained a quality hour of television that reminded us that even when the show is good, it’s great. It captures an era, and our attention, like very little else. Grade: A-.
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