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Review #22: Halt and Catch Fire

A TV series that goes by the name of a computer race condition is bound to pique my interest, just the way that Pirates of Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley, The IT Crowd and Mr. Robot caught my attention by their name alone. It is no surprise that I never came across the HCF instruction during my time spent in meddling with the assembly language, though I must admit that I have experienced the effects of it in some other manner.

By my standards, I can say that I indulged in binge-watching (which constitutes watching nothing else but a single TV series over a month rather than a weekend) all the 3 seasons released till date including the season finale from earlier this week. The way the show throws around jargon, it indicates that it certainly has its heart in the right place. In fact, the show got me to research a bit more on computer history and taught me a few terms that I was unaware of. It certainly does a great job of setting technology as a plot device. The series is well shot and there couldn’t be a more apt theme song that the one from Trentemøller.

However, in the same breath, it is extremely egregious to see all the technology developments from the past 2 or 3 decades being shown as emanating from the minds of the protagonists over 2 or 3 years. Just when you start thinking where the line shall be drawn, the Season 3 finale jumps a few years but still ends up showing the protagonists pioneering the web browser ala Netscape. At this rate, my guess is that the final season will see them being Yahoo! imitators. Science fiction is wonderful in the way it tries its best to portray the future within the realms of the present understanding while retro fiction can be at fault for attributing all of the present to few minds from the past. HCF does precisely that leading to disbelief and disconnect. Portraying reality seems to be many times better than creating an alternate parallel one.

The next big turn off is the casting which feels quite off the mark and stereotypical. The lead expert coder does her typing using a single finger while looking down on the keyboard and presents a single wide-eyed expression. The chief protagonists include a marketing genius working in tandem with an engineering one from a garage, the only novel template that has ever existed in Silicon Valley. On top of that you have a female hardware expert thrown in for diversity, equality and creating familial tensions. Throw out the technological backdrop as a pretense and all you are left with is a soap opera that tries its desperate best (by including a love scene in every episode) to show the fallacies of human emotions, something that’s par for the course.

Having invested so much in to this show, I am bound to follow the story progression over the final season to its conclusion, but.without the same vigour with which I started the series. This one strictly falls under the “good but some way from great” territory.

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