When we first meet Joe McMillan (Lee Pace) in the premiere of “Halt and Catch Fire,” he comes across as single-minded and arrogant — in other words, not that different from several other antiheroes at the center of AMC dramas.
Pace doesn’t object to that read on the character, but he says future episodes will reveal that for all his ambition, Joe also “means what he says.”
“He just wants to make a great computer. He just wants to make the computer no one else has the balls to build,” Pace tells Zap2it. “He knows if he makes a computer that’s fast, that’s cheap, people are going to buy it. And when they buy it, the culture changes.”
“Halt and Catch Fire” will spend part of its first season unraveling what Joe’s motive is in wanting to take on his former employer, IBM, in the personal-computer business. Pace and creators Chris Cantwell and Chris Rogers say it has something to do with the missing year between Joe’s departure from IBM and his showing up at Cardiff Electric in Texas.
“He was that guy in that suit, thinking about computers as a corporate tool [at IBM]. This is the reboot — he’s done doing business like that,” Pace says. “It’s personal — it’s always personal. People like to think about this line between business and personal, but think about how much you care about your work. You care about it, it means something to you. Joe has got it all on the line.”
Cantwell adds, “It was surprising how much we touched upon Joe’s humanity, because in the pilot he’s presented as such a steel force that plays his cards close. I think we really crack him open in this first season and see what he’s like as a human being.”
We’ll have to take their words at this point, as AMC only sent out the first episode for review. But the “Halt and Catch Fire” pilot is full of good performances — the dynamic between Pace and Toby Huss as his boss at Cardiff is particularly strong — and the underdog story it’s setting up could be an intriguing one.
The characters could use a little bit of shading — it’s my fervent hope, for instance, that Kerry Bishe is not destined to become the Wife Who Holds Her Husband Back, and there are at least hints that won’t be the case. And it would serve the show well if, as Cantwell promises, Joe does open up a little bit at some point.
But the trappings of the era feel right, and the ensemble is strong enough to carry off these early, not-entirely-filled-in characters at the outset. I’ll be back for episode 2.
What did you think of the “Halt and Catch Fire” premiere? Tell us @Zap2it.