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– by Nick Doll

Welcome to Stop>Drop>Watch, a new LRM feature where we recommend recent or current TV shows (and movies) you may have missed, stopped watching, or simply want to try out. With DVRs, streaming services, and on-demand it’s easier than ever to discover new stuff, but the amount of content makes it hard to choose what to watch. We’re here to help!

AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire

Halt and Catch Fire —  First airing in 2014, the year after Breaking Bad had its final bow, Halt and Catch Fire continues the tradition of unbelievably fantastic and moving series that the AMC Network established with Mad Men. A blend of Mad Men and Silicon Valley, the show starts in the 1980s, dramatizing the personal computer boom through the eyes of our protagonists whose innovations challenge the corporate behemoths of the time. As the series progresses through the years, we watch them evolve with the times, challenged not only be evolving technologies like the internet, but also by each other as their relationships clash, friendships are destroyed, and new alliances are born.

You may have never heard of the show, or avoided it due to the confusing title. The very first episode of Halt and Catch Fire opens with the definition of this deep cut in tech history, but then never reminds you of it again:

With this deep dive into computer speak, do not fear if you are not a hacker or technologically proficient. I have limited to no knowledge about what makes computers work, or programming, or the internet, yet I fully enjoyed this show because though the computer technology “race” the characters are all involved in is fascinating none-the-less, though what really makes this show great is the characters and the growth they show over the course of the series.

The show’s cast is phenomenal. Lee Pace (my choice for the perfect Batman) plays Joe MacMillan, starting the series as a Don Draper level dick with pure ambition, seemingly uncaring about others as long as he can forward his own dream. As the show evolves, we learn more about MacMillan’s personal life, and he begins to soften a bit and be more of a team player, though at any moment, the characters’ are asking themselves, do I  dare trust MacMillian again?

Scoot McNairy and Kerry Bishe play Gordon and Donna Clark, who set out to support each other’s dreams when Gordon decides to first work with MacMillan on their first personal computer. As the show evolves, the power shifts when the project Kerry is working on takes off, and the bond of their marriage is tested.

Mackenzie Davis as Cameron Howe rounds out our main cast, a brilliant but young programmer whose stubbornness and emotions tend to cost her opportunities and relationships. And I would be remiss to leave off Toby Huss as John Bosworth, as former executive at Texas Instruments who joins this ragtag team of misfits in their adventures in computing!

Though only lasting four seasons, the show covers a much larger time period, taking us from the early days of computer programming to the birth of the internet and beyond, thanks to time jumps between seasons and even episodes. So, not only do we get to see the longer evolution of computing, but also our main characters’ personal lives and relationships.

Where You Should Start Watching:

Halt and Catch Fire is one of those shows you should start watching from the beginning. Like Breaking Bad, it is incredibly serialized, not episodic in the least. That being said, they show gets better and more complex by the season, to a point where some characters are unrecognizable from their original state.

So, if you dare, jump ahead to a future season if you want a jump in quality, but the show does start strong, so I still say start at Season 1, Episode 1. I would also recommend committing to two to three episodes to start, just in case the first doesn’t do it for you, as I expect most will fall in love with the characters, even if the premise doesn’t grab you immediately.

Why You Should Watch Halt and Catch Fire:

Have I talked about the characters already? Just like Silicon Valley, the computer speak is interesting, even for someone not at all trained in computing, but the characters make the show!

Sometimes the show is exciting, other times frustrating as the characters are thrown new challenges and challengers to overcome, and at times it is the most emotional show I have ever seen. There’s a moment, somewhere in the series, that I will not spoil, but completely broke me as a person. TV shows have made me gloomy before, but this one event was so surprising and unsettling, I was depressed for days!

I’m not recommending the show to depress you — shows with great characters have a way of destroying me emotionally — but rather bringing up this moment to try to ready you for the pure power of character in this show. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show, Breaking Bad included, where every major character changes so immensely from where they started. Sometimes it is growth, other times its regression. But I enjoyed every damn minute of it!

For the record, Halt and Catch Fire is my second favorite completed drama behind Breaking Bad. In case that helps convince you.

Where You Can Find Episodes And Seasons of Halt and Catch Fire:

Halt and Catch Fire has already aired all four seasons on AMC. Which means you can binge this sucker! As of now, all episodes live of Netflix, so let the binging begin! You won’t be disappointed (I hope).

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