Halt and Catch Fire (TV series)
|Halt and Catch Fire|
|Created by||Christopher Cantwell
Christopher C. Rogers
|Theme music composer||Trentemøller|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||10 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||42 minutes|
|Production company(s)||AMC Studios|
|Original run||June 1, 2014– present|
Halt and Catch Fire is an American period drama television series created by Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers, that premiered on AMC on June 1, 2014. The series is set in the Silicon Prairie of Texas in 1983 and depicts a fictionalized insider's view of the personal computer revolution. The show's title refers to computer machine code instruction HCF, whose execution would cause the computer's central processing unit to stop working (but not really catch fire).
- Lee Pace as Joe MacMillan
- Scoot McNairy as Gordon Clark
- Mackenzie Davis as Cameron Howe
- Kerry Bishé as Donna Clark
- Toby Huss as John Bosworth
- Aleksa Palladino as Sara Wheeler (season 2)
Production and development
AMC ordered the pilot for Halt and Catch Fire in November 2012, and production began on the pilot in April 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. AMC announced in July 2013 that it had ordered Halt and Catch Fire to a series of ten episodes. The series was created by Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers, and Jonathan Lisco serves as the showrunner. In August 2014, AMC renewed the show for a second season of ten episodes, to premiere on May 31, 2015.
|Season premiere||Season finale|
|1||10||June 1, 2014||August 3, 2014|
|2||10||May 31, 2015||August 2, 2015|
Season 1 (2014)
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||U.S. viewers
|1||"I/O"||Juan José Campanella||Christopher Cantwell & Christopher C. Rogers||June 1, 2014||1.19|
|It's 1983 in Dallas, Texas, and Joe MacMillan, a key player in the debut of the IBM Personal Computer, is questioning college students about their knowledge of several computing categories. One of the students, Cameron Howe, challenges him. At Cardiff Electric, a system software company, John Bosworth hires Joe, under the assumption they are not directly competing with IBM. Gordon Clark, a former system builder turned sales engineer, accompanies Joe on a sales call, and Joe blames Gordon when the sale falls through. Joe later refers to Gordon's article about untapped computer potential in Byte magazine when asking him to help reverse engineer an IBM PC. Gordon is at first reluctant to do the project, telling Joe that he has a wife and two young daughters to think about. Also, Gordon was publicly humiliated after the Symphonic, a computer he and his wife Donna built, failed to boot at COMDEX two years ago. However, Gordon comes around to Joe's proposal and over a long weekend, is able to isolate the BIOS chip and recreate the assembly language code. Dale Butler, SVP of Sales at IBM, tells Bosworth that Joe left IBM under mysterious circumstances a year ago, adding that IBM knows about Joe's and Gordon's reverse-engineering project, and the two companies now have a serious problem. Joe and Gordon are confronted by Bosworth and Nathan Cardiff, the owner of Cardiff Electric; the two inform Joe and Gordon that the company is being sued by IBM for several million dollars for copyright infringement of IBM's proprietary source code. After Joe reveals that he deliberately told IBM about the project, Cardiff and Bosworth are left with no choice but to enter the PC business. Needing a programmer with no prior connections to Cardiff Electric or IBM, Joe and Gordon recruit Cameron for the project.|
|2||"FUD"||Juan José Campanella||Christopher Cantwell & Christopher C. Rogers||June 8, 2014||0.97|
|IBM's legal counsel interview each compromised Cardiff Electric employee separately. After IBM's legal team leaves, Joe reveals his plans for the new Cardiff PC: building it with twice the speed at half the cost of the IBM PC. Joe is then introduced as "Senior Product Manager" of Cardiff Electric's new PC division. To keep Cameron separated from Gordon, Joe sets up a "clean room" office so she can write the BIOS code for the Cardiff PC; however, she relocates to a basement storeroom. Gordon is promoted to lead hardware engineer of the PC project and is given his own office; however, he shows concern about Cameron writing the BIOS code, and Joe tells him that they will fire her once the BIOS code is complete and successfully tested. To put pressure on Cardiff Electric, IBM attempts to lure Cameron away by offering her triple the salary Cardiff is paying her and raiding Cardiff's mainframe business, taking several accounts and more than two-thirds of Cardiff's revenue. When Joe finds Cameron and a binder containing the IBM PC BIOS source code missing, he suspects that she took the binder to IBM. Joe, Gordon, and Cameron confront each other in the Cardiff parking lot and have a three-way argument with Joe and Gordon getting into a physical altercation. Despite the tension among the three, Gordon and Cameron support Joe's vision.|
|3||"High Plains Hardware"||Karyn Kusama||Jason Cahill||June 15, 2014||0.77|
|Due to IBM's raid, Gordon is forced to lay off 46 employees, causing him stress at both work and home. Joe tells the remaining engineers the company will have a portable computer, weighing less than 15 pounds with two disk drives, an integrated display, and keyboard, by the end of the year. Joe attempts to secure venture capital from contacts in New York; however, Cardiff tells Joe that Bosworth will handle all the company's financials going forward. Cardiff also reveals an arranged meeting with Louise "LouLu" Lutherford (Jean Smart), an heiress and potential investor. However, LouLu offers to buy an 80 percent stake of the PC project for $10 million. Joe's frustration with the low figure forces Bosworth to accept it, but Joe later seduces LouLu's boyfriend into kissing him and reveals it to her, and she pulls out of the deal. At home, Gordon asks his wife Donna about motherboard ideas. She folds a sketch, suggesting stacked boards, thus doubling the power for the same amount of space. However, Brian Braswell, one of Gordon's engineers, kills the idea, claiming that no manufacturer will be willing to mass produce the custom design for Cardiff. While carpooling home with Gordon, Brian runs a stop sign and gets involved in a fender bender; when Brian fails to admit his mistake, Gordon fires him on the spot, realizing that Brian's pessimism was detrimental to the project. Bosworth spots Cameron at the office and tells her she can work as late as needed, but she cannot live there, even though he apparently is temporarily doing exactly that. After getting a sizeable check, she stays at a hotel and parties with a group of punks she encountered earlier. Still struggling with the code, she goes to Joe's apartment and walks to the bedroom, while taking off her clothes.|
|4||"Close to the Metal"||Johan Renck||Jonathan Lisco||June 22, 2014||0.84|
|Just as Cameron nears completion of the BIOS code for the new PC, disaster strikes, and she loses all her data due to a power surge and Cameron (seemingly) laying her backup disks on a speaker, degaussing them. Further complicating the situation, Joe has brought in a reporter from a major business periodical, and he witnesses the chaos with delight. Bosworth is summoned to a meeting by Cardiff, who seems to think he might be losing control of the project (to Joe). Gordon turns to Donna for help with recovering the lost BIOS code; however, Joe is reluctant to have her there, as she is an employee of Texas Instruments. She proposes an ingenious technical solution for recovering the data, which eventually proves successful, recovering more than 90 percent of Cameron's work. While babysitting Donna and Gordon's daughters to distract herself from her (perceived) failure, Cameron learns that Donna and Gordon have been insulting her behind her back. Cameron takes Donna's wallet and car keys and drives to the Clark household, with the intent of vandalizing it; however, when she is confronted by Gordon's ex-co-worker Brian, who insults the Clarks and the PC project, she realizes that she cares about the project and leaves the house. Later, a suspicious Donna confronts Joe in his office and accuses him of deliberately sabotaging Cameron's work in an effort to generate some publicity for the project. Joe reaches into a desk drawer and produces the real backup disks, proving her correct. While driving home, Joe is pulled over by the police and savagely beaten for no apparent reason. When Bosworth later arrives at the police station to pick him up, it becomes clear that the beating was a pointed message sent by Bosworth to remind Joe who's really in charge at Cardiff Electric.|
|5||"Adventure"||Ed Bianchi||Dahvi Waller||June 29, 2014||0.58|
|After sending Cameron off on a business trip, Joe takes advantage of her absence to hire a number of new programmers. Joe's father arrives in town unexpectedly and calls to arrange a meeting, but Joe has second thoughts, and fails to show up. Gordon realizes that a liquid-crystal display would be needed in order to meet the design goals for the new PC. The engineers and Joe argue that a LCD screen would be cost-prohibitive; however, Gordon reveals that his father-in-law, Gary Emerson, has connections with a Japanese electronics firm that manufactures the cutting-edge display and could get them at cost. After his father-in-law reluctantly agrees to broker the meeting for him, Gordon promptly proceeds to blow the deal by getting drunk at the meeting, and making disparaging comments about his father-in-law to the Japanese. In order to salvage the deal, Gordon goes to Gary in desperation and confesses his indiscretion, begging him to intervene and repair the damage. Cameron and Joe argue over Joe's decision to hire Steve, the new "Software Development Manager", along with several software programmers. Cameron argues that adding more programmers to the project will slow it down; however, Joe does not budge and a furious Cameron tells him that they're finished. When she later visits Joe's apartment to retrieve her things, she finds Joe's father there, waiting for him. While talking with Joe Sr., Cameron realizes just how much like his father Joe really is. Joe calls on the Japanese businessmen the following morning, unaware that Gary has already intervened. They appear satisfied, and agree to do business with Cardiff Electric. When Joe attempts to humiliate Gordon in front of his staff by relating the events of the previous evening, Gordon coolly informs him that he wasted his time, saying that the situation had already been resolved before Joe even showed up. Cameron engineers an office coup to get rid of Steve; she installs Colossal Cave Adventure on the company's mainframe, and all of the newly hired programmers get hooked on the game. She deduces that those who cheated in order to win are the ones who are the most valuable to the company, stating that in order to cheat, one has to be good at solving and breaking code. Impressed with her ingenuity, Joe fires Steve and the excess programmers. Finally, Joe shows up at the Cardiff company picnic, taking out his anger and frustration on a Japanese import car with a 5 lb. sledgehammer at $5.00 a blow, as Cameron watches with fascination from the sidelines.|
|6||"Landfall"||Larysa Kondracki||Zack Whedon||July 6, 2014||0.72|
|The prototype computer is finally finished, and boots up successfully to the cheers and applause of the assembled Cardiff employees. Cameron proposes changes to the operating system that would provide a more interactive type of experience for the user, but clashes with Gordon and Joe, who both feel that further changes would only result in unnecessary cost and complexity. After making a rash, drunken promise to Donna that he will find a wildly popular toy for their daughters ("Cabbage Patch Kids" dolls), Gordon soon discovers this will be no easy feat. After being cheated out of $80 in a parking lot transaction with a total stranger, he stalks the rain-soaked streets of Dallas on his self-imposed quest, with Hurricane Alicia approaching. He finally reaches a toy store which he called earlier, but it's closed, and in a rage he smashes the storefront window with a brick, snatching up the pair of dolls in the display. About to flee, he notes a big lightning strike around the corner, and goes to investigate. There he finds a dead woman lying in the street, apparently killed by a downed power line and transformer. Shaken and exhausted, he flees the scene. The programmers are becoming fed-up with receiving conflicting orders from Gordon and Cameron, and vent their frustration in an impromptu meeting in Cameron's office. Bosworth calls Cameron into his office for a drink and a talk. He cautions her to be careful, as there are those (at Cardiff) who would like to see her fail, as she "Represents the future." Having been invited to dinner earlier by Gordon, Joe shows up at his home, but the engineer is still out on his doll-hunting quest. Joe must then endure two boisterous children climbing all over him, as well as Donna's aggressive lobbying (on Gordon's behalf) for there to be no further changes to the new computer. While playing with the kids, Joe has a sudden revelation (and second thoughts) about the revised OS. He stops off to see Cameron on his way home, and asks to see her work. When she demonstrates the "friendly," interactive functionality she's designed in, Joe is impressed, and he tells her so. He also finally reveals the truth of how he came by the terrible scars he bears. They appear to reconcile.|
|7||"Giant"||Jon Amiel||Jamie Pachino||July 13, 2014||0.83|
|Cardiff's accountant, Alan, tells Bosworth that the PC division's deficit will take the rest of the company down by the end of next week. Bosworth tells him to keep the news to himself. At a QA meeting, the hardware engineers complain that Cameron's OS has negatively impacted the machine's weight, boot time, system response time, and IBM PC software compatibility. Joe tells Bosworth that he has hired a new designer to work on the casing; Simon Church and his designs are introduced. Joe is impressed with Simon's design; however, Gordon complains that the design would require a complete hardware overhaul. Joe then announces the name of the PC, the "Contrail", much to Gordon's dislike, who sarcastically suggests that the machine be called the "Cardiff Giant". Donna and Hunt present an analysis report to Texas Instruments executives. She suggests they drop the TI-99 from their product list. Hunt later congratulates her for suggesting the idea, adding that she should be bolder more often, which eventually causes her embarrassment when she tries to kiss him. Joe tells Cameron that he and Simon had a brief fling ten years ago. At a strip club, Joe and Bosworth try to woo back Kenny Burke, a local designer Bosworth had previously hired, while Cameron tracks down Simon at a photography exhibit to get him back. Simon warns her that Joe will get bored of her, as he did with Simon. Bosworth and Kenny reach an agreement on building the PC case, despite Kenny deliberately doubling his original quote; however, Bosworth punches him for insulting Joe for not noticing the strippers. They decide to use Simon, whom Joe finds with a drunken Cameron. Simon later tells Joe that he is sick, but agrees to design the case. They kiss, and Cameron misinterprets it, nearly riding off in the cab. Joe catches it and cannot answer her when asked if he will get bored of her. At home, Gordon tells his children the story of the Cardiff Giant, and his obsession causes him to dig a pit in his backyard.|
|8||"The 214s"||Daisy von Scherler Mayer||Davhi Waller & Zack Whedon||July 20, 2014||0.63|
|Joe makes preparations to go to COMDEX without Gordon, believing that the latter's presence could deter buyers who remember the Symphonic debacle from two years ago. The next morning, Bosworth finds Nathan Cardiff in his office, saying that he is considering cutting his losses on the PC project and closing the company. The FBI show up and arrest Bosworth for embezzlement and shuts down Cardiff Electric, declaring that all computer systems would be seized as evidence. To keep the FBI from seizing the Giant prototype, Gordon hastily disassembles the computer. He later breaks into the office at night to steal the Giant's component parts, reassembling it at his garage. Meanwhile, at TI, Donna learns that her boss Hunt had suddenly resigned. At Gordon's garage, tensions among Gordon, Joe and Cameron flare up when Cameron reveals that she was the one, at Bosworth's behest, who hacked the bank's mainframe and stole Cardiff's money, while Cameron learns that Joe deliberately sabotaged her work on the Giant BIOS as a publicity stunt after Gordon rants about how Joe seemingly benefits from Cardiff Electric's misfortunes. While trying to secure pre-orders for the Giant, Joe learns of a rumor that IBM would be developing their own portable PC. Joe flies to New York to confront his father, and he reveals that the rumors are indeed true; however, the project wasn't planned to spite Joe. Joe, Sr. then offers his son a chance to return to IBM; Joe accepts with the stipulation that he oversees the portable PC project. When Joe returns to Dallas, Cameron and Gordon go to his apartment about going to COMDEX; however, Joe reveals his prior actions. Gordon manages to persuade Joe into staying with Cardiff and seeing the Giant project through; however, Joe states that he doesn't have the money to make the trip. After Cameron convinces Joe to sell his Porsche, the three plus Donna drive to Las Vegas in Donna's station wagon.|
|9||"Up Helly Aa"||Terry McDonough||Jason Cahill||July 27, 2014||0.55|
|When Joe, Cameron, Gordon, and Donna arrive in Las Vegas, they learn their reservations have been cancelled due to Cardiff Electric's corporate assets being frozen. Undeterred, Gordon devises a plan to acquire booth space and a room. Gordon and Joe manage to secure a suite by forcing a smaller company out of the convention. Donna and Cameron persuade the convention floor manager into selling Cardiff Electric a vacant booth, and Cameron uses a guerrilla marketing stunt to draw attention to the Giant; however, Gordon and Donna discover that the computer is malfunctioning. When convention-goers come to Cardiff's suite for the demo, Joe distracts them with booth babes from a neighboring porn convention. Eventually, Donna and Gordon get the Giant repaired. The next day, on the COMDEX floor, the Cardiff team notices a large gathering at a particular booth; they realize that Donna's former boss Hunt and Gordon's ex-co-worker Brian was marketing an exact copy of the Giant called the Slingshot. At their hotel suite, Gordon accuses Donna with having an affair with Hunt, which led to the creation of the Slingshot; Joe then informs Gordon that the Slingshot is faster and less expensive than the Giant. Joe threatens to sue Hunt over the Slingshot; however, Hunt defiantly offers Joe $2 million for the rights to the Giant. As an attempt to beat the Slingshot, Gordon removes the daughterboard containing Cameron's operating system from the Giant and installs MS-DOS. Cameron is upset that Gordon stripped out what made the machine unique; however, Joe sides with Gordon, stating it was necessary in order for Cardiff to survive. Joe successfully pitches the Giant during the on-floor presentation, seemingly defeating the Slingshot and securing a large pre-order from a computer retailer. As Cardiff celebrates their hollow victory, Joe stumbles upon a gathering in another room where the Apple Macintosh is being demonstrated, and he believes that the Macintosh is the future of computing.|
|10||"1984"||Juan José Campanella||Christopher Cantwell & Christopher C. Rogers||August 3, 2014||0.57|
|Cardiff berates Joe and Gordon for taking the Giant to COMDEX without his permission; however, Joe responds to Cardiff's complaint by stating that the Giant made the company a substantial profit as he boldly predicted. He and Gordon manage to persuade Cardiff into ceding a percentage of the company and operational control to them. At Texas Instruments, Donna is fired from her job after she deliberately tanks her performance appraisal, likely as a way to appease Gordon for her indiscretions with Hunt. While QA testing the first production run of Giants, the engineers discover a defective test unit, and Joe, now fixated on the Macintosh, uses this as an opportunity to delay shipping and to ask the software programmers to create a killer application to bundle with the Giant. Gordon suspects that the defective test unit is another one of Joe's engineered crises, and Donna convinces him that Joe has to be ousted from Cardiff Electric in order for Gordon to be successful in his new post. Gordon plans to force Joe out of the company by threatening to turn Cameron in to the FBI for her role in embezzling Cardiff's money. After parting ways with Joe and Cardiff Electric, Cameron initially finds work as a phone company technician; however, she quits when her supervisor discovers that she was using the phone network to transmit data without authorization. Using her findings, Cameron creates a new startup company in her house called "Mutiny", hosting computer games over a wide area network via phone lines. Cameron recruits several of her fellow programmers from Cardiff Electric and also tries to bring on Donna as a hardware engineer. While Donna is impressed with Cameron's work and ambition, she (initially) declines the job offer, assuming that she was a "revenge hire". When Joe decides to drop his plans for a killer app, Gordon drops his plan to oust Joe. Gordon hosts a party at the office to celebrate the launch of the Giant. However, Gordon's triumph is short lived, as he and Donna are carjacked on their way home, and Gordon later learns that Joe had stolen and torched the first shipment of Giants. Gordon invites Donna to work as head engineer at Cardiff Electric; however, Donna declines, deciding to work with Cameron at Mutiny. Gordon is unsure of how to move forward after Joe abruptly leaves the company, going on a quest to find his mother.|
The pilot was screened at the South by Southwest festival on March 8, 2014; it was also made available online for streaming on AMC's Tumblr page beginning May 19, 2014 and is the first TV series to premiere on Tumblr.
The series has received generally positive reviews from critics and has a Metacritic rating of 69 out of 100, based on 30 reviews. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports a 78% "certified fresh" rating for the first season, based on 40 critics, with the consensus: "A refreshingly well-acted period drama, Halt and Catch Fire convincingly portrays the not-too-distant past." Matthew Gilbert of The Boston Globe expressed promise after the series premiere, writing "it's easy to see why the network chose it. Set in Dallas in 1983, it has a distinctive visual style—something AMC, with the cinematic Breaking Bad and the elegant Mad Men, wants to make part of its brand identity". Speaking of the show's dynamic characters, Gilbert added, "Gordon is the Steve Wozniak to Joe's Steve Jobs, in a way. Add to that dynamic immature 22-year-old coding expert Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis)...and you've got a chemical mixture on the verge of exploding".
Halt and Catch Fire was listed with six others for the Critics' Choice Television Award as one of the Most Exciting New Series of the year. For the 19th Satellite Awards, the series was nominated for Best Drama Series and Lee Pace was nominated for Best Actor in a Drama Series.
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