Halt and Catch Fire: Seeing the Tech Startup World Through ’80s Eyes

Halt and Catch Fire
Frank W. Ockenfels 3/AMC
Halt and Catch Fire

The personal-computing revolution will be televised during the second season of the AMC period drama Halt and Catch Fire. After ditching her job at software corporation Cardiff Electric, punk hacker Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis) has formed Mutiny, a new startup that specializes in transmitting computer games via telephone lines. It’s now early 1985, and the fledgling operation is gaining momentum, thanks to an unlikely alliance between Cameron and her former adversary/current hardware engineer, Donna Clark (Kerry Bishé).

“There’s not a whole lot of maneuvering, posturing, or intimidating,” Bishé says of the women’s new working relationship. “It’s two people who really want to make the best thing out there and are really trying to make it work, but they have different views on how to achieve that goal.”

While Donna is enjoying her success at Mutiny, her marriage to Gordon (Scoot McNairy) is being tested in new ways. “Season 2 deals with the interpersonal fallout in a partnership where both people are ambitious intellectuals who ardently pursue their goals,” Bishé says. Cameron is also forced to confront her feelings about cocky visionary Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace) after he returns from his journey of self-discovery. “There’s a magnetic pull to them,” Davis says. “I’ve always thought of their relationship as having a three-way with the computer. That was the conduit for them.”

The spirit of the 1980s is still alive in the show’s soundtrack and costumes, but there’s one fashion accessory Bishé is happy to ditch this season, thanks to Donna’s new job. “I don’t have to wear panty hose anymore!” she says with a laugh. “I’m delving into a more casual wardrobe, because Donna lets her hair down a little bit.”

Halt and Catch Fire, Season premiere, Sunday, May 31, 10/9c, AMC