‘Halt And Catch Fire’ Looked To The Future In Its Remarkable Season Finale

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BY: Alan Sepinwall 10.12.16


A review of the two-hour Halt and Catch Fire season finale coming up just as soon as I give you this Cisco wrist rest…

“It’s amazing how much changes in just a few years. And how much stays the same.” -Joe

Late in the finale’s second hour, Gordon tries to cheer Donna up about how the first day of World Wide Web brainstorming went by suggesting tomorrow will be better.

“There’s not going to be a tomorrow,” she laments.

Thankfully, for all six of us still watching this great show — which has only gotten better as it’s gone along — there is going to be a tomorrow, as AMC yesterday announced a renewal for a fourth and final season. We’ll get to see what Joe, Cameron, and Gordon’s approach to the Web will be, find out if Donna is going to CERN to work against her former partners or try to help them from a different angle, see if Cameron and Joe end up together or if there’s too much damage from their pasts; find out what facial hair choice Gordon ultimately chooses for the long haul and a lot more.

And I’m very glad about that. The creative team — I interviewed Cantwell and Rogers about the finale — has earned the right to end the story on their terms, and I’ll take as many more hours with these characters as I can get.

But if AMC had looked at the pitiful ratings and decided there wasn’t enough money there, ownership of the series or not, then “NIM” and “NeXT” would have made one hell of a swan song for Halt.

Because last week’s episode so obviously wrapped up a lot of this season’s stories, I had a feeling we might be approaching another time jump, which arrived in the opening scene of “NIM,” showing Donna with slightly less big hair, going by her maiden name as the new name partner at Diane’s firm, using a more modern computer that runs Windows 3.0. In time, the other regulars turned up with ever-more-changed looks — Gordon clean-shaven again, Cameron a braided brunette, Joe an early ’90s hipster — and in new circumstances. Gordon and Donna are amicably divorced, with the toll of the previous seasons outweighing whatever reconciliation efforts each of them made in this one. Cameron is (mostly) happy in Japan, and has become a celebrity in the gaming world for the Space Bike series. Bos is enjoying retirement and life as Diane’s kept man, while Joe is a recluse, making deals by phone and fax and running away from his stint as the public face of personal computing.

It’s a new status quo, but one that fits with everything that came before. Had AMC made the decision to call it quits, this would have made a fine epilogue to the story we’ve seen so far. Instead, it turns out to be prologue for the inevitable final phase of the story, as everyone moves from working on a primitive version of the Internet to the one you’re reading right now — and one where our fictional heroes have a chance of getting in on the ground floor, or through the open stadium gate, or whatever metaphor you choose to take out of their brainstorming session.

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