Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Who Run the World? Nerds!

(L to R) Scoot McNairy, Mackenzie Davis and Lee Pace look out of their clandestine offices at IBM representatives who invade their territory with a mixture of defiance and intimidation.
So the highly anticipated series on AMC that's not Mad Men or Breaking Bad premiered this past Sunday. Halt and Catch Fire tells the almost unknown technology story of tenacious and rebellious renegades in the 'Silicon Prairie' a decade before Silicon Valley ever crystallized as the center of the technology revolution, that stole IBM's flagship product; the PC, to basically create some of the most important innovations in the field birthing the Dell computer, and without whom we'd all be staring at a black IBM screen typing in green face letters. I exaggerate, but we'd definitely not be as technologically evolved. 
Speaking for myself I was so relieved to watch the premiere of a new AMC show without immediately thinking; 'well this is pretentious'. Let's face it people, AMC has a weird streak of broadcasting good material on its viewers and then letting it fall into bleakness, pretentiousness, and I right Breaking Bad? But this series, promises to be new and different, exciting and incendiary, sexually charged and spy-thrillery, throughout, and yes all of that came through just in the pilot. Not to mention how refreshing it is to wax nostalgic about the 80's rather than the 60's.

I wish I could tell you there was a love story between these two characters; Joe and Cameron, but it's more of a hate-sex thing. It's much better!
Faux-rebellious protagonists who turn anti-heroes because of blind ambition like Don Draper and Walter White are out. This show focuses on desperate people with nothing to lose and an enormous thirst for power, legacy, and entitlement. The three protagonists could not be more different from one another nor from any protagonists in scripted television right now. Though they may have certain familiar quirks and characteristics, they are fundamentally unique, and we have the writers and actors playing them to thank for this.
Lee Pace as Joe MacMillan; the ring leader.
Joe MacMillan (played by Lee Pace) seems like your typical 80's yuppie. He drives a cool car, wears a sharp suit, blow dries is hair, and always has something elitist to say to his 'lessers'. But he's not everything he appears to be. Even though he's what's commonly known as a 'closer', he can't seem to catch a break. Sure his job pays well but no one really takes him seriously when his ambition gets the better of him. He might have the appearance of a staunch business man, but he wants more. And the way to get it is to do it his own way and circumvent those standing between him and ultimate power. 

Scoot McNairy as Gordon Clark; the 'brain' and most of the time, the voice of reason.
Gordon Clark (played by Scoot McNairy) is basically his polar opposite. Thin and physically inferior with huge glasses and a face-masking beard, he's the 'misunderstood genius'. There was a time when he had brilliant ideas, but his dreams were crushed, along with his self-confidence when he tried to build his own computer with his wife which turned out to be a pyrotechnic disaster. No one ever took him seriously again until Joe offers him a new means of recognition; not to build a computer from the ground up but to reverse-engineer the IBM computer and make it their own. It's hilghly illegal, and yet extremely titillating. Where would we be today if innovation ideas weren't pirated and nuanced to make that particular product better?

Brilliant Canadian actress Mackenzie Davis as Cameron Howe; the rebel.
And then there's Cameron Howe (played by Mackenzie Davis). Is she ever a loose cannon, and she perfectly rounds out this trifecta of brilliant thieves. She's her own kind of rebel, outwardly and aesthetically punk, extroverted, and defiant, inwardly an enormous genius for someone her age (I'm guessing she's about 21-22 considering she admits she's a college dropout). She's beautiful and spunky and doesn't take shit from anybody. She doesn't belong within a 5 mile radius of an office building, but when called upon by Joe to work on the reverse-engineering plan, she jumps to the opportunity considering all that's on the horizon is 'repairing VCR's for 3.25 an hour'. 

Two enormous egos battle for their time in the harsh glare of the tech spotlight.
The three formulate a plan to take down the biggest and only computer company in existence, but are soon met with opposition not to mention their mutual hate and resentment of each other. There's sexual tension basically everywhere, and if this show teaches us anything it's this: 1) Don't live in Dallas. 2) Be bold and do whatever the fuck you want even when everyone tells you not to, because that's how great people become great. I'm on board AMC, thank you for redeeming yourself with really enthralling material for a change. I have high hopes for this show, I can't wait for the next episode, and it's been a while since I cancelled plans for TV. This is the story never told, and the story we've suddenly become fascinated with thanks to The Social Network (2010). It has a unique point of view, and shed new light on a quiet revolution that happened behind locked doors and curtained windows. It takes a million artistic liberties but who cares? It's not on The History Channel. 

Trailer below: 

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