HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Halt and Catch Fire: Season 2
HTS Overall Score:72
As someone who has been alive ever since the dawn of personal computing really BEGAN, it’s always fascinating watching the shows and movies that document the inception of the phenomenon. I remember when having a 28.8 k Baud modem meant you were on top of the world, and a 1 GIG hard drive meant you basically had more storage capacity than anywhere could EVER use. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, IMB, Apple, Microsoft, Intel, all are names and companies that have shaped the computing world from being one of a fascination and wonder into something that has become a necessity for everyday life. These founders and pioneers paved the way to shrink down a computer from something that was a novelty item, or used for high end businesses into something that we can now hold in the palm of our hand or stick inside our backpack rather than take up an entire building. “Halt and Catch Fire” takes a look at the founding days of the computer revolution during the 1980’s and the incredible wildfire effect that happened in that incredibly life changing generation.
Sadly it’s been almost a year since I watched “Halt and Catch Fire” on AMC itself and I did not end up reviewing the Blu-ray or DVD when it came out, so my memory was a bit rusty when watching season 2. Thankfully the show picks up quite closely to where the previous season ended and a few hours of a re watching the last couple episodes of season one had me back in the game. Interestingly enough, the show almost does a soft reboot this season, taking out Joe MacMillan’s character (Lee Pace) from the main spotlight and instead focusing on Cameron (Mackenzie Davis) and Donna (Kerry Bishe) in their journey of creating Mutiny (a newbie game company that has suddenly become a big contender in the burgeoning digital age). The shift of focus turned out to be a boon for the series as it allows for the show to focus on the tech revolution that was taking off, rather than just focusing on the characters themselves. Also it allows for Joe MacMillan to adapt and change his persona rather than just be seen as the oddball loose cannon who was always acting crazy (as fun as that character is).
As good as those changes are, there is still the weak link of Gordon (Scoot McNairy), who is completely bat crazy in his dealings, even though it’s kind of SEMI explained this season as he’s been revealed as having an ongoing cocaine addiction that fuels his crazy rants and off the wall behavior. Still, he acts as the foil to all the other characters, and not in a good way. He seems kind of out of place and too over the top in a show that deals with personal character growth and adaptation in an ever changing world. Much of it has to do with the fact that he’s the outsider of the group, working from outside of Mutiny, rather than being involved with its creation like Joe, Donna and Cameron are.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=76601[/img]What makes “Halt and Catch Fire” so unique and engaging is the reality of the tech universe and how the characters interact with each other. I love where they took the new changes in Mutiny’s future and dealt with those issues. Donna and Cameron fight over the direction the company takes in regards to gaming, and Joe is a complete and total shark from beginning to end, coldly manipulating everything to his advantage and making him one of the most likeable and unlikeable characters in recent history. Tom is a welcome addition to the crew as well, allowing Donna to fall for someone who isn’t a complete degenerate (something that she struggled with in the last season), and Joe gets a redemptive arc as he tries to change his erratic and bizarre ways. In fact, he has one of the most complete and fulfilling character arcs of anyone in the show, despite being taken out of the limelight this season.
There are moments that made me wince, and certainly some flaws to the pacing, but “Halt and Catch Fire: Season 2” turns out even better than the slightly rougher first season made me think it was going to be. First seasons are tricky. It seems that the first season of a show ends up being the best seasons as all the other seasons just pale in comparison, or else acts as a rough takeoff and the show sours with each progressive season. So far “Halt and Catch Fire” seems to be following the pattern of the second scenario, as it was definitely a good bit better than last year.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=76609[/img]“Halt and Catch Fire: Season 2” is one of those shows that got a season one on Blu-ray, but the subsequent season sadly only has a DVD release, so we’re forced to view the show in 480p. Still it’s not a wild problem as the show was never a head turner to begin with. Like the Blu-ray of season one, Season 2 is a bit grungy and rough around the edges. Clarity is good, but not great and the color palette is geared towards that yellow and blue tinge that shows and films use to imitate the late 70s and early 80s. The same goes for the digital noise that pops up in the shadows and sometimes sallow skin tones (although skin tones usually are very nice and natural in the show). Black levels are good, and maintain healthy bits of shadow detail (despite the occasional digital noise and some banding). Overall a nice, but heavily stylized show that doesn’t have a whole lot of natural “pop” to it.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=76617[/img]The 5.1 Dolby Digital audio mix for “Halt and Catch Fire” is very simply, but still very effective at what it does. The show has tons of little ambient noises that fill in the background, such as the beeps of a computer terminal, the sounds of the busy bustling street, or the tick tick tick of someone tapping a pen on the table as they think. Dialog is the main centerpiece of this arrangement, and that is where the brunt of the work is too. Vocals are crisp and clear and accentuated by those little pop out background noises I mentioned. LFE is quiet and restrained, but still there when need and can pop up with a little surprise here and there. It’s simple, quiet and strangely enamoring despite its simplicity.
• Inside Episodes 201-210
• History of Now
• The New Joe
• Tour of an 80's Startup
• Set Tour with Lee Pace and Scoot McNairy
“Halt and Catch Fire” is an interesting character driven drama that is surprisingly engaging despite the benign premise of the show. It’s not the best of the best in AMC’s lineup, but it is a serviceable and rather interesting show if you have a few hours of time to invest in the show’s first season. I usually like to binge watch the prior season when reviewing a new season, but this time I only had time for a few episode refresher course before I started this one, and have to say that the distinct tonal change with the new setting is quite well done. Audio is great for a dialog heavy show and the shows trademark “grunge” feeling is quite present for the video encode as well. Definitely worth checking out if you’re into character driven tech dramas.
Starring: Lee Pace, Scoot McNairy, Mackenzie Davis
Created by: Christopher Cantwell, Christopher C. Rogers
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: Dolby Digital 5.1
Studio: Anchor Bay
Runtime: 434 Minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: August 9th, 2016
Buy Halt and Catch Fire: Season 2 On DVD at Amazon
More about Mike