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Halt and Catch Fire - SETI - Review: "Rebooting"

Initiating New Reviewer Process:

Hey everyone, I’m Pablo, and Chris asked me to take over the Halt and Catch Fire’s reviews since he won’t have much time to work on them. I pretty much liked the show during season 1 and I thought it had lots of potential, so I stepped in as reviewer as I foresaw a potentially great second season. So let’s dive in!

To be honest, Halt and Catch Fire caught my attention after it got renewed for season 2: I knew Lee Pace was on it and I knew its viewership was low to say the least, and the critic response was mixed. So I got curious and I jumped in to what it became one of the most addictive summer show experiences I have lived: I binged the whole season in a single day taken aback from its style and characters, which instantly set its apart from other shows. It’s not a Mad Men knock off as some people said during season 1.

I found the first season pretty entertaining: the acting was outstanding, the writing was solid, but the main issue was direction. Where did the writers want to get the show to? To some, having that question unanswered was frustrating and they felt the first couple of episodes were basically saying nothing as the show didn’t know what it was trying to tell. But for me the experience was completely different: not knowing where the show was going only kept my interest on what was going on as the pieces of the puzzle started to come together near the end of season 1.

With all this I mean to say that I understand the criticism towards the show and I understand why some people didn’t like it. It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t as bad as some people claimed.
The season finale was less than stellar, with an episode so scattered that it felt like it lost touch with the narrative and suddenly it felt like the show took a step back, but now, looking at the season premiere, I can tell that the finale only moved the pieces towards the new (and improved narrative) of season 2.

I think people should give the show a second chance: it’s second season starts way more coherent and it knows exactly what it wants to do. At least that’s the feeling I got from the premiere, which I found to be pretty strong.

Everyone’s off to their own thing now. Donna and Cameron are working to make Mutiny a thing, but are struggling since neither wants to be a full time boss, Gordon just sold the company and made lots of money from the sell. And Joe has a new, stable relationship.

All these storylines work as we find they are telling us something about each character. Donna and Cameron’s storyline in Mutiny is interesting because they are finding themselves in new positions in their workfield. Cameron has never been the head of a company and she can only find patches to the troubles they have instead of real solutions, and Donna doesn’t want to fall back to being the mom of all the employees who clearly lack a sense of direction.

I feel like Cameron and Donna crash, but in the best way possible, since Donna is the one that grounds Cameron, while she is the one willing to take the risks. After being ripped off by the guy who sold xts, it was pretty amazing to see them stealing the bastard’s good xts. It just felt right. And having Donna say “you still want my number?” was everything I needed; she has come a long way since the pilot.

So what’s Gordon up to? Well, first, he looks completely different from season 1, no beard and thinner, and now with money it seems like he is ready to take on the world, but he doesn’t exactly know how. Joe was the one who drove him to innovate with the Giant, and as much as he hates him for all the trouble he caused, deep down he knows that it was him that pushed him forward.

He keeps talking about starting up his own company on his garage, but it is obvious that he doesn’t know how to. He is completely lost, he doesn’t want to be but he is, and sooner or later he is going to realize that he is going to need help to get through the ground, and my bet is that somewhere down the line he is going to work on Mutiny.

It’s also nice to see the role reversal that takes place for both Donna and Gordon: Gordon is in charge of the household while Donna works late, he treats the girls for ice cream and he waits up late until his wife shows up. It shows how much the situation has shaken up and it puts Gordon’s role, both on the house and on work, in question. The big question for Gordon to answer this season is “who am I?” and that’s a juicy topic of which you can make a lot of lemonade.

And now Joe: he left last season going god knows where and my biggest question is how would the show set him back on track with the gang, since he was obviously going back.
The twist of him leaving felt so out of character and so obvious that it wasn’t going to stick that it left me with a bad taste once the season was over. But the premiere fixes that.

By giving Joe a new relationship with Sarah - and essentially a new life -, the dynamics in which he comes back will be largely different as he is in a completely new and different place, both physically and emotionally.

Joe looks changed, evolved, but when we see him in Cardiff Electric waiting to cash his check we can see the fire in his eyes, specifically when he says to Nathan that something bigger is coming and that they wouldn’t be a part of it, then we know that the old Joe, craving to be part of something big, important and innovative, is still there.

If Gordon’s big question this season is “who am I?”, then Joe’s big question is “how far will I go for what I want?”. Last season Joe manipulated his way through success and found out that something looked on it as he took the “heart” of the Giant to make it profitable. He lost Cameron on the way and he went away (destroying lots of Giant’s computers on the way) trying to find out what he stood for.

He wants something big, he wants something that is going to be successful, but it can’t just sell, it has to has meaning. Or at least that’s my takeaway from the finale, and judging by the premiere, while Joe has embraced this new life with Sarah (coming with a proposal and all) he still craves to be part of something great. And so he signs up for Mutiny, and he chats with Cameron without either of them knowing that they are chatting (or does Joe know? That’s up to question).

Halt and Catch Fire started off pretty strong this season. Last season’s kinks were all over the place and it was a pretty interesting, yet obviously flawed season. Now we get a sense of direction right from the start and the show takes interesting routes to tell the stories of these characters, which are clicking right away and find pretty compelling chemistry through the actors who portray them. The script is tight and the foundation is solid: Halt and Catch Fire seems to be on track to be the promising show that the pilot showed us.

Grade: B+

Stray Observations:

-So why a B+? Mostly, pacing issues and some lines didn’t land. Also, no big reveals, gripping moments or stuff that makes for an “A” grade. But we have to give the show props for how it managed to improve its narrative from season 1.

-The first 5 minutes with Donna navigating Mutiny was a too chaotic. Necessary, but chaotic.

-I have to say, I chuckled with the Giant’s commercial.

-The scene where Joe and Gordon met outside of Nathan’s office was pretty powerful. They only said a few words, but Lee Pace and Scoot McNairy pretty much nailed it with their expressions and body language. You could feel the tension and the awkwardness of looming above those two.

-I’m sooo glad Toby Huss is back for season 2! And it seems John will be working for Mutiny.

-So how long until the whole band is back together? My bet is episode 4 or 5.

About the Author - Pablo
I'm currently studying Psychology while also writing fantasy books (one already published in my home country, Chile, you can check it out on the facebook icon). I watch many different types of shows, including my favorites Revenge, Game of Thrones, Once Upon a Time and about 23 more. Currently writing reviews for Once Upon a Time, The 100 and Halt and Catch Fire
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