Halt and Catch Fire Shows Us How to Develop Characters

Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers know their stuff.  Though you may have never heard of them, they write a little show on AMC called Halt and Catch Fire.  Well, friends, HACF is doing more than catching fire—it’s going nuclear.

Set in the 1980s, Halt and Catch Fire is about a group of tech sector professionals trying to navigate the static landscape of Silicon Prairie, the nickname of Dallas, Texas at the time.  Dominated by mammoths like Texas Instruments, the Silicon Prairie was not kind to new ways of thinking.  Basically, tech companies back then were content with giving their customers the bare minimum while charging an ever-increasing premium.  HACF shows us how that house of cards came crashing down.

The story focuses on four main characters: Gordon Clark, a failed inventor working as a depressed systems analyst; Donna Clark, Gordon’s wife, intellectual equal, and fellow computer nerd; Cameron Howe, a rebel programmer disillusioned with the status quo of Dallas’ tech scene; and the mysterious Joe MacMillan, a salesman burned by IBM and out for blood.

I’m not going to get too much into Halt and Catch Fire’s plot because I don’t want to ruin anything.  The point of this blog is to heap praise on the creators/writers of this show for sticking to their guns and developing their characters in the most satisfying and uniform manner I’ve seen in a while.  Sure, there are wonderful characters in most major shows these days who go through excellent character arcs; some of them include Walter White, Tyrion Lannister, and Elliot Alderson.  However, very few shows are capable of developing all of their main characters uniformly as well as HACF.  I’ve tweeted it before and I would tweet it again: HACF has my favorite cast of any show currently airing.

Each season brings a new challenge for each character.  These challenges force HACF’s main quartet to evolve before our eyes—often in heart-wrenching and unpredictable ways.  Furthermore, each of the 3 seasons currently available on Netflix is better than the one before it.  This feat is remarkable and is something I haven’t experienced since Breaking Bad left the air.

Halt and Catch Fire may not be literature, but it’s a damned good story.  I’m thankful for the opportunity to watch it uninterrupted from the comfort of my couch.  In an age where experiences often trump possessions, this show is an experience worthy of your time.  Who knows, it might even help you develop your own characters.