Halt and Catch Fire burns throughout with stellar performances from Pace, McNairy, Huss and Mackenzie Davis, who plays the 22-year-old female coding prodigy Cameron Howe; plus Kerry Bishe as Gordon’s wife Donna, who is also a computer engineer. Their work in particular gives hope that if the Halt and Catch Fire writing can stay strong, AMC might have something special on its hands. In just under an hour, those five actors give a concrete sense of who their characters are, which is impressive.
A lot of credit goes to director Juan Jose Campanella whose work in framing, composition and lighting make the pilot look like a full-blown movie. And he manages to capture Pace’s nuanced magnetism in close-ups that reveal the character is not as confident as he might project.
Cantwell and Rogers imbue Halt and Catch Fire with that thrill-of-the-new-discovery which permeates the tech industry. By setting it in a time where everybody thought IBM had successfully beaten back all of its rivals and thus the gold rush was over, it gives the writers a lot to play with. Obviously, massive change in the personal computer world was just beginning, not ending. And the flashy ‘80s make it just retro enough to add the right ambience to outlandish dreams of success. It’s a premise with possibilities and could be AMC’s best offering of the post-classics (Breaking Bad, Mad Men) era.
But ultimately that means nothing until we see the next episode. And the one after that. And the one after that. So take this early praise with that caveat.
Yes, I want to see the 2nd episode now. And the third, and the fourth and…