The Creators Of ‘Halt And Catch Fire’ Discuss How It Evolved Into One Of TV’s Best Shows

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BY: Alan Sepinwall 10.12.16


Halt and Catch Fire just wrapped up its third season — which we know won’t be the last, thanks to yesterday’s renewal for a fourth and final season on AMC. I reviewed the finale here, and I have an interview with the show’s creators coming up just as soon as my apron says “Kiss the Cook” in binary code…

The finale ends with the show’s original core trio looking at a computer at the same time. Was that intentional? Were there iterations of the finale where Donna or Bos was going to be standing with them at the end, or did you know you wanted to go back to the beginning in that way?

Christopher Cantwell: There’s a couple of pieces to that. Ultimately, Chris’s and my goal for season 3 was, in the distance, towards the finale, some sort of reunification. We had had such a splintering at the end of season 1, and we had further splintering in seasons 2 and 3, and we wanted to get the core five in some way shape or form together. But as we explored that and got to that place in the story, it felt like it needed to be earned, and it needed to be a little messy. And there were versions early on when it was all five. And then there were versions where we felt like we had to be honest and true to Bosworth’s story, which is that this guy’s put up with a lot from these people, he’s retired, and he’s fairly well-balanced in his life at this point.

So it didn’t feel right to have him there at the end. Of course, heading into season 4, you’re guaran-damn-teed that John Bosworth will be involved in some way in some form. And with the Donna/Cameron split at the end of season 3, we felt we had to be true to that. And the way that manifested — which was so painful and ugly for them — it felt like sending (Donna) off gave us more runway for stories headed into a potential season 4. Of course, they’re going to cross paths, but as much as these people are drawn to each other, it’s very difficult for them to stay in a room for very long.

How much of the idea of the group being together in this way, talking about both the past and the future, was about giving you guys the opportunity to revisit the show’s past, and now that you know it so well, do an even better version of this group coming together?

Christopher C. Rogers: The way we write the show, is we do believe in writing ourselves into corners and trying to use all of our story really fast, as soon as we have it. So things like Donna and Cameron splitting up, that other shows might have been tempted to keep to the finale, we wanted to do in episode 7. The same is true of the time jump. By the time we got to the finale, we felt we had this real opportunity to do something weird and unique: a quiet finale after all the fireworks in the episodes that preceded it. We wanted to put these people in the room and have them talk about this big idea, but use it as a lens to examine the places they’ve been, and the industry they’re in. One of the exchanges I like the most is, someone invokes the future to move a point forward, and someone says I’m so sick of talking about the future; the future’s just an empty promise to get you to do what they want you to do.” And in a way, that was us trying to talk about some of the mechanics of the show.

These people need to have learned and evolved from the people we met in our pilot. I think we were very happy to see the core lineup we began the show with at the end of season 3, but they’re mature, filled-out people, thanks in no small part to the actors who portray them. It made us really happy, because we were writing it to feel like these people had come a distance to each other and been truthful with the violence they’ve done to each other, but at the same time, they’re new. They grew up. It’s so tempting on a TV show to play the same dynamics over and over with a character: Cameron is difficult and Donna is reasonable. But we’ve been there. Now season 4 can be about people we’ve watched grow in real time.

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