A lot of smart people who write and talk about teevee professionally have already noted the small miracle that is this season's Halt and Catch Fire. Specifically, the fact that AMC underwrote some drastic protagonist gender reassignment, which transformed a show about underclocking male-centric dumbassery and knockoff hardware which, ultimately, no one really cared about...
...into a show about a struggling software company being run by two women out at the wild frontier of online gaming and social media.
...What no one seems to have noticed is that, to make their product sing, AMC appears to have ported over several components from the operating system from Game of Thrones. Not an exact match. Not Windows ripoff of the Apple interface . HaCF is definitely its own thing, but it's enough to make me go "huh".
Thankfully, AMC did no such thing. Rather than blaming the show’s brain trust — creators Christopher Cantwell and Christopher Rogers plus showrunner Jonathan Lisco — for its stumbles, the network offered a rare chance to debug and get it right. Halt and Catch Fire’s lunky title — it refers to computer code that leads to a system crash — likely didn’t help its performance in Season 1, but it did offer inspiration for one of the most remarkable turnarounds in recent TV history. Season 2, beginning Sunday night at 10 p.m. ET, is a hard reboot. Gone is the protagonists’ misplaced desire to beat Apple in beating IBM at its own game, and gone, too, is the Giant, the clunky PC that was the result of all of their uninspiring efforts. Exiled along with all of that is Cardiff Electric, the drab corporate setting that constrained the plot, and Pace and McNairy’s alpha dog vs. beta male cockfighting that defined it. It’s not that Halt 2.0 is an entirely new show: The faces and floppy discs are the same, and outside the garage it’s still Texas Forever. It’s that Cantwell, Rogers, and Lisco have rewired the mainframe to showcase the stray lines of ancillary code that should have been the focus all along.
Allow me to demonstrate...
To begin with, our major character is now a blond queen slogging her way through the wilderness.
For the moment, she lacks the means to fight her way to her rightful throne, but her unique gifts mark her as it's true heir. The "Mother of Logons" (sorry/not-sorry) promises her followers freedom, but is finding that governing wisely is much harder than coding or conquering brilliantly.
For advise, she leans heavily on a loyal female confidante and subordinate --
-- and an older, battle-scarred man who lives deep within the friend-zone. He comes with a checkered past, but is also wise in the ways of intrigue and combat and is willing to risk what life he has left to serve her vision.
She has a daring young suitor who is up from nothing, but he understands her, and damn can he handle a sword.
While she is leading an army of virginal young men --
-- she is also negotiating with a tricksie envoy from the enemy camp. She has no reason to trust him, but perhaps this time...
There is also a bearded, acquisitive patriarch who is highly focused on his family fortune and legacy.
And a dowager queen who is kind of a bitch.
And out there beyond the squabbling and personal drama of the main characters, barely on anyone's radar, the true, existential threat moves inexorably towards our cast of characters.