‘Halt’ catch­ing fire in 3rd sea­son on AMC

The Republican Herald - This Weekend - - News - BY VERNE GAY NEWSDAY

The third sea­son of “Halt and Catch Fire” — which be­gan last week — has shifted for­ward two years, to March 1986, and to San Fran­cisco where Cameron Howe (Macken­zie Davis) and Donna Clark’s (Kerry Bishe) soft­ware startup, Mutiny, is look­ing for seed money and growth.

As part of a pact to save their mar­riage, Donna’s hus­band, Gor­don (Scoot McNairy), has joined Mutiny. Gor­don’s for­mer part­ner, Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace), has beat them all to the land of milk and honey.

Mean­while, some fa­mil­iar faces have joined this sea­son, in­clud­ing Doug Sa­vant as a smarmy ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist; Man­ish Dayal as Ryan Ray, Mutiny’s head­strong code writer; Matthew Lil­lard as Ken Diebold, one of Joe’s con­siglieres; and Anna­beth Gish as Diane Gould, an­other ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist and un­likely pal to Donna.

Prime­time has three ex­cel­lent se­ries about the dig­i­tal revo­lu­tion, each dif­fer­ent and each — in sub­tle ways — just about the same. “Mr. Ro­bot” is a dark gaze at tech’s ero­sion — or oblit­er­a­tion — of hu­man iden­tity. “Sil­i­con Val­ley” is a cheer­fully scat­o­log­i­cal sendup of the Val­ley cul­ture that got us to that (or this) point. Then there’s “Halt,” which has lo­cated the heart of its own par­tic­u­lar dark­ness in Pace’s Joe MacMillan.

Part-Sven­gali, part-Yoda, Joe is also a self-styled Zen master of the pithy, emp­ty­headed quote that still man­ages to sound aw­fully deep, at least when he’s say­ing it: “Only by mov­ing past fear can we move to the truth.” By the be­gin­ning of the third sea­son, MacMillan has re­lo­cated to San Fran­cisco and has turned Gor­don’s an­tivirus tool into a bil­lion-dol­lar en­ter­prise.

He’s meant to dis­tantly evoke other Pied Pipers who bro­kered the dig­i­tal revo­lu­tion, like Larry El­li­son, John McAfee or even Steven Jobs. But he’s es­sen­tially just a master sales­man sell­ing fear, and fear is what peo­ple are buy­ing.

Maybe in­se­cu­rity is just the fla­vor of the mo­ment, or it re­flects the great loom­ing un­known circa 1986: Is this re­ally the early stages of a “revo­lu­tion” or just a good oldfash­ioned money grab that could im­plode at any mo­ment? Joe doesn’t care, as long as he’s in the mid­dle of it.

But what’s so good about “Halt” this sea­son is that it doesn’t stop with MacMillan but of­ten pushes him to the side of the screen. “Halt” re­ally wants to un­der­stand the push and pull of in­no­va­tion — the joy ride of it all — and has as­signed Cam, Donna and Gor­don that cen­tral role. Mutiny is es­sen­tially a fam­ily unit, with all the at­ten­dant drama, and in­ti­macy, of any fam­ily unit. Gor­don and Donna squab­ble, trade pil­low talk, raise kids and grope to­ward a fu­ture that changes daily, or by the minute.

Ab­sent the pil­low talk and kids, Cam and Donna do ex­actly the same.

And out there in the dark­ness is Joe, lis­ten­ing … lurk­ing.

With the third sea­son now based in San Fran­cisco — ex­actly where it be­longed all along — “Halt” fi­nally looks like a se­ries go­ing some­place im­por­tant, and worth view­ers go­ing there with it. Grade :A

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