Five episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
There’s a kernel of exciting unpredictability at the center of a series that refuses to be just one thing to one group of people. Halt and Catch Fire, in its freshman season, was a familial drama with a mean streak looking to please its home network’s rudderless viewership that just wanted to watch another lousy schmuck break bad. Season 2 found the show in a thematically appropriate reboot mode: new plot, new characters, and a new upbeat, fizzy energy that gelled cozily with a female-centric, stick-it-to-the-man story arc.
The new season, debuting August 23rd on AMC, sees Halt and Catch Fire – along with co-creators Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers – in full-on middle finger mode. With the show’s heartbeat pumping away thanks to a gangbusters central duo (who should righteously place Halt and Catch Fire in the sights of the Emmys for more than just a nifty title sequence), and one or two character twists that only deepen its addictiveness, Halt and Catch Fire season 3 is, yet again, an all-around better installment in a series not enough people are watching. And that’s coming from someone who nearly gave season 2 a perfect score.
Season 3 opens in 1986, with essentially all of the main cast displaced to the sunny skies of Silicon Valley, as was the agreement Donna (Kerry Bishé) made with Gordon (Scoot McNairy) when she discovered his adulteress fling with a childhood sweetheart. As the Clarks hope that California fixes their marital woes, Cameron (Mackenzie Davis) is eager to take advantage of the disruptive energy of the Valley, as well as its technological advances that’ll help her and her new gaming-turned-chat client start-up, Mutiny, become the center of its own revolution.
As everyone puts their nose to the grind to make sure the lights stay on at Mutiny – for Bosworth (Toby Huss), that’s still a lot of dinner party schmoozing – new hire Ryan (Manish Dayal) threatens to topple Cameron’s carefully constructed rollout of the company’s upgraded chat system. He points out a potentially epic weakness in “Community,” Mutiny’s late-80’s Reddit progenitor, where users’ private chats aren’t actually so private.
Like in seasons past, Halt and Catch Fire manages to rebirth modern day soapbox issues with a pioneering, savage undercurrent. “This is more important than hats on a damn avatar!” Ryan bursts at one point, simultaneously tearing down the culture surrounding modern app monetization and our total ease of apathy when it comes to online privacy. It’s an obvious theme, but it feels particularly impactful in an age beset with privacy-focused court battles and lawsuits, especially that of Apple and the FBI just earlier this year.
It’s no surprise that Joe (Lee Pace) sees things Ryan’s way, and has built a company off of the counter-program given to him by Gordon (allegedly!) at the end of last year. Gordon is gearing up to sue MacMillan Utility for all it’s worth, believing he wrote the code to the software that Joe is selling to his billion dollar clients, and getting ready to graciously rain down as a free upgrade for consumers. It’s Joe – and Pace’s incredibly open performance – that is probably the most altered in season 3 of the show. After dusting himself off from last year’s WestNet debacle, and cutting ties with wife Sara, Joe takes on a Steve Jobs-slash-corporate shaman persona (or a “humble zen master,” according to Cameron) that is humorously perfect for Halt and Catch Fire‘s new setting.