AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire has taken an odd route for a modern-day prestige cable drama. The story of a company called Cardiff making an IBM-knockoff personal computer in the early 1980s got mixed reviews from critics when it debuted in the fall of 2014, with many denouncing the main character, Lee Pace’s Joe MacMillan, as a second-rate knockoff of Mad Men’s Don Draper. The first season got mediocre ratings (compared to such AMC hits as Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead) but managed to get a second season renewal anyway.
The second season, however, was a different story, earning better reviews and positive word of mouth, as the show pivoted from the computer company to an early video game startup – ‘Mutiny’ – and shifting the focus to two leading ladies: Mackenzie Davis’ punk computer hacker Cameron Howe, and Kerry Bische’s working mother and businesswoman Donna Clark. Despite the marked creative improvement of the show, the ratings stayed low, leaving its renewal in doubt after the second season concluded- until AMC ordered a third season in October 2015.
That third season is set to arrive this year, and AMC has now announced that Halt and Catch Fire will return on August 23, now airing on Tuesday nights this year, after debuting on Sundays throughout its first two seasons. The network also released some photos of the new season, as well as plot information:
In the third season, which picks up in March 1986, Mutiny leaves 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. Gordon (Scoot McNairy) struggles to find a place within his wife’s company as Joe McMillan (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.
The first photo shows Scoot McNairy’s tightly-wound programmer Gordon Clark:
Now in the valley, it’s “Mutiny Independence Day”:
Toby Huss’ John Bosworth:
Lee Pace’s Joe McMillian strikes a Steve Jobs-style pose:
The co-founders: Donna (Kerry Bische) and Cameron (Mackenzie Davis)
The new details of the season sound promising. Halt and Catch Fire has gradually improved throughout its run, and it’s bringing back its entire cast (and giving them new things to do when they return). The move from Texas to Silicon Valley is also intriguing – the Valley may be a ubiquitous part of popular culture now, but it really wasn’t in the 1980s, which means plenty of stories from the era, and the growing tech wave still to be told.
As for moving to Tuesdays, it cuts both ways: the switch moves Halt out of competition with the other cable Sunday shows, but also puts it up against new episodes of Fall network shows debuting on the same night. Whether that leads to any type of ratings boost remains to be seen.
Halt and Catch Fire returns for season 3 with a two-hour episode on August 23, 2016, on AMC.