By LIZ MINIET
If Kanye West can have pop-up stores, then it’s only fair that AMC could have a pop-up sneak premiere of season 3 of “Halt and Catch Fire” on Sunday night.
The Atlanta-filmed drama about people trying to stake a claim as the personal computer industry evolved in the 1980s officially will have its two-hour debut starting at 9 p.m. Tuesday (Aug. 23).
But a few Twitter postings over the weekend (ultimately including one late Sunday by an AMC exec) and a suspiciously long two-hour “Talking Dead” spot in the TV listings at 10 p.m. after the return of “Fear the Walking Dead” had me checking out AMC at 11 p.m. Sunday. I understand the placement after a returning show with better ratings, but I don’t understand the “psst, come here” strategy.
Still, I showed up and there it was: the first episode of season 3 of “Halt and Catch Fire.”
As season 2 ended, smooth talker Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace), Mutiny business partners Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis) and Donna Clark (Kerry Bishé), and Donna’s engineer husband, Gordon (Scoot McNairy), were shaking up their lives and seeking new opportunities in California.
If you tried a few episodes of season 1 and the show wasn’t working for you, I’d say it got a lot stronger in season 2. (The focus on developing the characters and storylines of Cameron and Donna certainly paid off, especially as you saw the early days of chat rooms and online gaming taking shape.)
So, how is season 3, which is set in 1986, looking now that the action has shifted from Texas to California?
Let me say this: I think there’s a strategy in airing the first two episodes of the new season together. The first episode, the one that sneaked up on us Sunday night and will air again at 9 p.m. Tuesday, felt like it was very much about setting up the playing board for this season, which appears to start six months after the end of season 2. The characters are adjusting to earthquakes and “temporary” living arrangements that last way too long.
Cameron and Donna realize how small Mutiny is compared to companies such as CompuServe and know they have to find something big to get on the map. Meanwhile, there’s an impressive new coder who has plenty of ideas — if only someone will listen to him. Bosworth (Toby Huss) is back as a stabilizing influence in Mutiny. (Is the message that even startups can use the old-school touch sometimes?)
On the personal end of things, Donna and Gordon seem to have a stronger marriage these days, but you wonder how long that will last.
And what about Joe, who was the center of it all when the show launched in 2014? To be honest, we feel Joe’s influence on the others’ lives more than we actually see him in that first episode, but you suspect that’s just a setup for what is to come.
What’s perhaps most interesting is how issues such as online security are a theme in this 1980s-set show and yet still plague us 30 years later.
This episode was a bit quieter than the last few of season 2, but I’m curious to see where season 3 goes. If you’re new to “Halt and Catch Fire,” each season has had 10 episodes, so it’s not hard to catch up. Episodes are available on Amazon and iTunes (which both are having deals on the season passes) and Netflix. If you could use help picking some episodes to get you started, Wired.com did the heavy lifting for you in a recent article.
“Halt and Catch Fire”
9 p.m. Tuesday (Aug. 23), two-hour season 3 premiere, AMC; regular time will be 10 p.m. Tuesdays