Halt and Catch Fire is an AMC television show that could be considered a sibling of Mad Men. Like Men, Fire focuses on a particular decade in America’s past (this time the 80’s) and takes place in a tense corporate atmosphere full of egotistical, shrewd and opportunistic characters (including the mysterious perfectionist lead role by Guardians Of The Galaxy’s Lee Pace). Pace plays John McMillan; a former-IBM computer salesman who recruits a young programmer (Mackenzie Davis) and a sour employee (Argo’s Scott McNairy) at his new job for Cardiff Electric to reverse engineer the highly classified IBM BIOS in order to build a revolutionary new computer.
Toeing the line between illegal activities and trailblazing the industry, the trio struggle to stay the course in the cutthroat computer business world with obstacles and failures continuously getting in their way. What’s interesting about Fire’s focus as a show is that it concerns itself more with the corporate and technological aspects of the story rather than the ensemble drama it has the makings to be. Some tech-savvy and business enthusiast viewers might appreciate this procedural approach but it may throw others looking for some captivating character drama and depth. It’s less about the people and more about achieving the impossible without losing your grip.
The show is rounded out by a very competent cast but Lee Pace; an actor who commands the screen anytime he appears, is the charismatic and dynamic hook of the show. His performance as McMillan ultimately drives each episode and is worth the view alone. Fire also does a nice job of capturing the 1980’s and the corporate tech atmosphere of that age, with down-to-the-bone details that are quite impressive. It gives the show a credible sense of realism that an audience is sure to appreciate.
The entire first season is collected on Blu-ray (released by Anchor Bay Canada on May 5, 2015) in a slick package with some noteworthy technical aspects and bonus material. Fire’s 1080p high-definition image captures the show’s time period aesthetic incredibly well, while also maintaining good clarity like many of AMC’s Blu-ray efforts (i.e. The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad). The edition possesses a strong Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio mix that balances dialogue, sound and music effectively.
The weakest aspect of the edition is the light bonus material, but at least it provides some to peruse. There are 10 ‘Inside Episodes’ featurettes that discuss each particular episode for a few minutes, a brief feature on capturing the 1980’s, a short clip on the decade’s computer business in Dallas and finally a five-minute doc on the show’s attention to detail in ‘Setting The Fire’. But beyond that, AMC and Anchor Bay Canada have provided a nicely packaged edition for a computer drama-show that is low on the radar, but worthy of consumer consideration.