Halt and Catch Fire (TV series)

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Halt and Catch Fire
Halt and Catch Fire Intertitle.jpg
Genre Period drama
Created by Christopher Cantwell
Christopher C. Rogers
Theme music composer Trentemøller
Composer(s) Paul Haslinger
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 40 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)
  • Christopher Cantwell
  • Christopher C. Rogers
  • Jonathan Lisco
  • Mark Johnson
  • Melissa Bernstein
Location(s) Atlanta, Georgia
Running time 42–53 minutes
Production company(s) AMC Studios
Lockjaw Productions
Gran Via Productions
Original network AMC
Original release June 1, 2014 (2014-06-01) – October 14, 2017 (2017-10-14)
External links
Official website

Halt and Catch Fire is an American period drama television series created by Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers that aired on AMC from June 1, 2014, to October 14, 2017.[1][2] Taking place over a period of ten years, the series depicts a fictionalized insider's view of the personal computer revolution of the 1980s and later the growth of the World Wide Web in the early 1990s.[3] The show's title refers to computer machine code instruction HCF, the execution of which would cause the computer's central processing unit to stop working ("catch fire" was a humorous exaggeration).[4]

In season one, entrepreneur Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace) joins the company Cardiff Electric and leads them into the personal computing industry with computer engineer Gordon Clark (Scoot McNairy) and prodigy programmer Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis). Seasons two and three shift focus to an online gaming startup company, Mutiny, that is headed by Cameron and Gordon's wife Donna (Kerry Bishé), while Joe attempts to strike out on his own. The fourth and final season focuses on competing web search engines involving all the principal characters. Filmed in Atlanta, Georgia, the series is set in the Silicon Prairie of Dallas–Fort Worth for its first two seasons, and Silicon Valley for its latter two.[5][6]

Though it experienced low viewership ratings throughout its run, Halt and Catch Fire debuted to generally favorable reviews and grew in acclaim in each subsequent season.


Main cast[edit]

  • Lee Pace as Joe MacMillan: A technology entrepreneur and former IBM sales executive. He joins Cardiff Electric where he provides the impetus for the IBM clone. Later in the series, he initiates projects involving time-sharing, NSFNET, antivirus software, a web browser and a search engine. He has limited technical expertise and has a difficult relationship with other characters, including a complicated romantic relationship with Cameron Howe, and he is estranged from his parents.[7]
  • Scoot McNairy as Gordon Clark: A computer engineer who is selected by Joe MacMillan to build the IBM clone in the first season after Joe reads an article Clark has written on open architecture. Motivated about the failure of Symphonic, a computer he created with his wife Donna,[8] Gordon works with Joe to build the hardware for the new computer. He suffers from a degenerative brain disorder caused by toxic encephalopathy throughout the later seasons and the breakdown of his marriage.[9]
  • Mackenzie Davis as Cameron Howe (born Catherine Howe): A technology prodigy who is recruited from university by Joe MacMillian to write the BIOS for the IBM clone. She later forms her own gaming company Mutiny with Donna Clark and creates Space Bike, a successful video game series for Atari.[10] Her father died in the Vietnam War and she has a difficult relationship with her mother.[7]
  • Kerry Bishé as Donna Clark (née Emerson): A computer engineer and wife of Gordon. She originally works for Texas Instruments, before joining Mutiny to support Cameron.[11] After Mutiny, she becomes a partner in a top Silicon Valley venture capital firm. Donna is shown to put her own ambition above her relationships, particularly the one she has with Cameron.[12]
  • Toby Huss as John Bosworth: The senior VP of Cardiff Electric who hired Joe at Cardiff. At the end of the first season, he is incarcerated for illegally funding the PC project. He is shown to be a good salesman and in season 2 he works for Mutiny. He sees himself as a father figure to Cameron Howe.[13]
  • Aleksa Palladino as Sara Wheeler (season 2): A freelance journalist and Joe's girlfriend during season 2.

Recurring cast[edit]

Production and development[edit]

AMC ordered the pilot for Halt and Catch Fire in November 2012,[18] and production began on the pilot in April 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.[19] AMC announced in July 2013 that it had ordered Halt and Catch Fire to a series of ten episodes.[20] The series was created by Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers,[18] with Jonathan Lisco as showrunner.[21] In August 2014, AMC renewed the show for a second season of ten episodes, which premiered on May 31, 2015 and concluded on August 2, 2015.[22][23] Lisco stepped down as showrunner after the second season, with Cantwell and Rogers taking over the role for the third season.[24]

Influences on the show's development and production included works such as Steve Jobs' biography and Tracy Kidder's The Soul of a New Machine.[25]

In August 2014, AMC renewed Halt and Catch Fire for a second season,[26] which premiered on May 31, 2015 and concluded on August 2, 2015.[22] In October 2015, AMC renewed the series for a 10-episode third season,[24] with the first episode airing on August 21, 2016,[27] ahead of the two-hour season premiere on August 23, 2016.[28] AMC renewed Halt and Catch Fire for a fourth and final season of 10 episodes on October 10, 2016.[29] The final season began with a two-hour premiere on August 19, 2017,[3] and concluded with a two-hour series finale on October 14, 2017.


Season Episodes Originally aired
First aired Last aired
1 10 June 1, 2014 (2014-06-01) August 3, 2014 (2014-08-03)
2 10 May 31, 2015 (2015-05-31) August 2, 2015 (2015-08-02)
3 10 August 21, 2016 (2016-08-21) October 11, 2016 (2016-10-11)
4 10 August 19, 2017 (2017-08-19) October 14, 2017 (2017-10-14)


The pilot was screened at the South by Southwest festival on March 8, 2014;[30] 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.[31]

Home media[edit]

The first season was released on DVD and Blu-ray in region 1 on May 5, 2015.[32] The second season was released on DVD in region 1 on August 9, 2016.[33]

Season 1 was released on Netflix and AMC.com for home streaming on April 8, 2015, for a limited time.[34] It is also available on Amazon Video in the UK and Germany.[35] As of December 2017, all four seasons are streaming on Netflix.[36]


The series premiered in Australia on June 23, 2015, on Showcase.[37] The series also appears on AMC's international channels in Asia, Europe and Latin America.[38]


Critical response[edit]

The first season received generally positive reviews from critics and has a Metacritic rating of 69 out of 100, based on 31 reviews.[39] Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the first season a 78% rating with an average score of 7.27 out of 10 based on 40 reviews, with the consensus: "A refreshingly well-acted period drama, Halt and Catch Fire convincingly portrays the not-too-distant past."[40] 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".[41]

The second season received generally positive reviews, with some critics noting the series had improved since the first season. On Metacritic, the season has a score of 73 out of 100 based on 8 reviews.[42] Rotten Tomatoes gave the second season a 94% rating with an average score of 8.32 out of 10, based on 18 reviews, with the critical consensus noting "Halt and Catch Fire version 2.0 has received some upgrades and improvements, including a welcome focus on its female leads."[43] Alan Sepinwall of HitFix gave it a very positive review, calling the performances "terrific" and wrote that "those who stayed patient with Halt season 1, or those who come to the show now that the quality has gone up significantly, will be rewarded."[44] Willa Paskin of Slate wrote that the series has "become a different, better show".[45] James Poniewozik of Time also gave it a positive review, writing that the series has improved in many ways.[46]

The third season received critical acclaim. On Metacritic, the season has a score of 83 out of 100 based on 12 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[47] Rotten Tomatoes gave the third season a 95% rating with an average score of 8.62 out of 10, based on 22 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads "Halt and Catch Fire finds its footing in an optimistic third season that builds on the fascinating relationship between a pair of emerging protagonists."[48]

The fourth season received the strongest reviews of any season of the series. On Metacritic, the season has a score of 92 out of 100 based on 8 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[49] On Rotten Tomatoes, it has a 100% approval rating with an average score 9.45 out of 10 based on 16 reviews.[50] Many publications ranked the fourth season among the best television series of 2017 on their end-of-year lists; The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Vox Media shortlisted it on their lists of best TV shows,[51][52][53] while two critics at Variety included it in their top five,[54] Uproxx ranked it third-best,[55] The A.V. Club and Forbes fifth-best,[56][57] Paste ninth-best,[58] Rolling Stone 13th-best,[59] and The Guardian 39th-best.[60]


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.[61] 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.[62] For the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards, the series was nominated for Outstanding Main Title Design.[63]


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External links[edit]