Don't get me wrong, I love Halt and Catch Fire. I have to put that out there right at the beginning of this, because some of what I have to say is hard.
First season, the writing was smart, it was tight and engaging, and the characters - for the most part - were three, maybe even four dimensional, flawed, human... engaging.
No, the show isn't perfect. There were missed opportunities, and 'throw-your-shoe-at-the-TV, how-could-whomever-be-so-stupid/gullible etc' moments that occurred throughout the season, but it had a clear direction and compelling storylines. The ensemble cast worked brilliantly, and the storylines left you almost punch-drunk on occasion.
Joe MacMillan's oft Machiavellian struggles to emerge from the weight and shadows of his past - often in questionable ways - were almost mesmeric in their ability to pull you back to the show again and again; he was the one you loved to hate, the one you pulled for - rooted for - wanted to succeed. It was for, and because of Joe, that I watched the show.
Then season two happened. Joe's role was marginalized - and before anyone tries to say it, not because of his relationship with Sara. The Joe/Sara arc of Season two became one of those missed opportunities, and sadly underrepresented, points of the show; one that could have been a huge strength. Instead, we were treated to the almost weekly, pre-adolescent, tantrums of Cameron Howe - a young woman, supposedly intelligent, who frankly should have known better on most occasions, and definitely should have behaved in a more mature manner. The 'ensemble' nature of the show fractured into separate and competing story lines; not that those storylines were not good ones - they were - but the show lacked the cohesion that was one of its strengths in season one, and frankly Lee Pace's acting prowess, and his deeply emotional connection to his character on the show were sorely underused, and MacMillan's path was manipulated back onto the self-destructive-Howe-train... frankly a travesty.
Still the show remained a compelling, if somewhat specialized, drama that kept its followers and fans coming back for more... and more... because we did and do want more.
Donna and Gordon's struggles were heartbreaking and pointed, set against Donna's personal trials to mitigate the unacceptably unprofessional approach to Mutiny's self-named figurehead - how many times, after all, did Cameron insist that Mutiny had no boss, only to then play the heavy handed 'my ball' card? And in the MacMillan/Wheeler 'bulls-locking-horns' it seemed as thought Joe recognised in Jacob what he might have become if not for Sara and their love for each other - only to throw that all to the winds because... 'Cameron' (and the one 'problem' I had with the writing of the show...) Yeah, maybe you could justify the 'breakdown/backtracking' if you really want to - and I know there are lots of Cam/Joe fans that do want to - but equally, given the strength in the rest of the Joe/Sara writing for the show, it just seemed a total throw away, to take that aspect of the show down the path it trod.
Now season three. From what I have read, I don't hold out much hope of a return to the ensemble of season one... There seem to be too many 'Meanwhiles' and 'as' in the synopsis to suggest that everything is just one big ball of ones and zeros.
"The third season picks up in March 1986, as Mutiny has left Texas for the big leagues of Silicon Valley. Founders Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis) and Donna Clark (Kerry Bishé) search for the idea that will launch Mutiny as a player, but new collaborators test their partnership. Meanwhile,Gordon (Scoot McNairy) struggles to find a place within his wife’s company as Joe McMillan (sic) (Lee Pace) builds upon his empire, reinventing himself with a bold play that shocks the Valley and sends him back into the lives of his old partners."
Neither do I hold out hope for the direction of the MacMillan storyline becoming separated from his being Cameron's bitch once again, which so underrates the character who, lets face it, was the catalyst for the whole of the show in the first place... his coming to Cardiff Electric with the intent to build his computer that, "no one else had the balls to build."
Don't get me wrong, I love the show and will continue to watch it, but I must confess to being incredibly uncomfortable and very nervous about what they're going to do with the storytelling and fabric of the show, and the way each of our favorite characters become embroiled in the later half of the 1980s.
I trust the team will prove me wrong.