Last night the third episode of season 3 of AMC’s 80’s tech drama Halt and Catch Fire aired, following last weeks’ 2-episode premiere night, and three episodes in and the show is already giving you a good look into the journeys to be undertaken this season.
If you are familiar with the story and characters of Halt and Catch Fire you’re probably one ofthe few (no seriously, FEW) who watch this show. AMC, the network known most commonly for The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad, has never really advertised this show well. Even in their ads that show a montage of all of their other shows, Halt and Catch Fire is rarely included. In fact, this season is the first time I’ve seen commercials advertising it since its premier in 2014. Without giving a full recap of the series, I’ll just set up the season for you and say that the characters have come a long way from their humble season 1 beginnings in Texas’s Silicon Prairie.
At the start of season 3, Donna and Cameron and the Mutiny gang have gotten the ball rolling with their expanded work on Community with their (not so) shiny new mainframe in San Francisco. While looking for investors to expand and start a new branch of what Mutiny does, Donna and Cameron face their same old problems with sexism in the tech industry in the 1980s. With Gordon and Donna’s marriage still on the mend after his psychosis-related tumble with another woman, their daughter getting into fights at school, and sharing their house with Cameron ‘temporarily’, not to mention the coders being their usual selves, the folks at Mutiny have some real work to do. About the only positive note is that all the original coders from the Cardiff crew that went to join Cameron at Mutiny are back together again and working as well as ever.
This season’s new guy, Ryan Ray, started out as a coder at Mutiny but, within two episodes, he defected to work with Joe MacMillan. Ah yes, finally we see what Joe has been up to lately. After stealing Gordon’s idea for what is, effectively, anti-virus software, Joe has run with it and has built an entire company. After finding their competitors for their new product, Donna and Cameron bring the idea to investors to buy the competition rather than invest in their company to try and overtake in the market, and the ball gets rolling to bring forth their newest branch of Mutiny, Swap Meet.
Okay, that was your crash-course in ‘the world so far’ for Season 3, so now I can actually talk about last night’s episode!
After being hired by Joe, Ryan finds himself at one of Joe’s parties, and we get a look at the expected life of Joe MacMillan in San Francisco, but as soon as Ryan finds Joe out on the balcony, we’re all reminded that this Joe may not be the same Joe we’ve gotten used to. Joe MacMillan is by far one of the most interesting characters on TV today. Joe’s enigmatic desire to connect with people and be their friends clashes with his absolute inability to not screw people over. This time, instead of Gordon or maybe Cameron falling into his trap, it seems to be Ryan. Ryan, who is so out of place in this Joe MacMillan world, is probably, I suspect, going to end up being the person that Joe clings to this season. Clearly, Joe himself is out of place in the Joe MacMillan world.
A point that really brings attention to this fact is the way that Joe keeps bringing Ryan into things. In this episode, Joe brought Ryan in to a board meeting about when to start charging for the product Joe promised to be free to the individual users, seemingly just to test him (also, hi Mathew Lillard the Board Dude. Wow, you haven’t aged much at all!) and, later that night, Ryan found it in himself to actually confront Joe about the entire situation and express that he thought the product should remain free, Joe seemed to finally see the spark in Ryan that convinced him to hire him in the first place.
Another huge surprise this episode was finding out that, after years of selling tech products, Joe is learning how to code himself! When he goes to the college he has been secretly attending, he runs into Cameron and it was nice to see that, for once, Cameron didn’t seem that bothered. If anything, he seemed to be the one to come out of the conversation the most rattled. Their relationship is so oddly toxic but you can’t help eat up every moment both of them are on the screen together.
I have to say, I’m excited to see how Joe lets his own Joe MacMillan-ness get in the way of his own success this season. I can only assume this season, after he has asked Ryan to start working on a secret project with him at his house, Ryan is his new Gordon (granted, I’m still convinced Joe and Ryan are going to end up sleeping together, so maybe ‘his new Cameron’ is more accurate?) and I can’t wait to see how Joe will build up the dependency and then self-sabotage any friendship/relationship they build. At least this season, Gordon knows better than to get involved with Joe again after being burned twice.
I don’t know about you guys, but I cannot WAIT to see where the show goes from here. This season could very well be its last (which I say to myself after every season but it was renewed twice), so I’m going to cherish every moment I get to see Donna, Cameron, Gordon, and Joe on my screen.