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How the ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ Showrunners Decided on a Time Jump

Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers joined Andy Greenwald to talk about the Season 3 finale and more

AMC
AMC

Halt and Catch Fire’s season finale brought the show into the ’90s, another dramatic jump for the series after it moved its setting from Dallas to Silicon Valley this season. On the latest Andy Greenwald Podcast, creators and co-showrunners Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers joined Greenwald to talk about their decision to make the jump and how the show, which was renewed for a fourth and final season just after this podcast was recorded, always seems to be in limbo.

Listen to the full episode here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.

On Jumping Ahead Four Years

Andy Greenwald: How much of this was always the plan, that you wanted to do a big time jump before the season was over, and how much of it was just sort of writing your way into the season and realizing you hit this beautiful crescendo in Episode 8, and maybe [it was] just time to pull the rip cord and see what happens next?

Christopher Cantwell: We came in, Rogers and I did a weird thing where we got renewed, and we went out to Joshua Tree [National Park]. We rented a house, an Airbnb, and we were out there for three days, talking about how we’d run the show together.

Yeah, we felt like we could be a little weird about [the third season]. So we went out to the desert, talked about how we’d run the show together, and then talked about what we wanted the season to be. We looked at it and we said, “Well, they get on the plane [to Silicon Valley] at the end of Season 2.” And there was so much character story there. We didn’t want to just leave that on the table and jump four years [ahead] at the outset. We felt like that would be too much.

But there was something undeniably attractive about ending Season 3 with WWW. That just felt so cool to us, and it felt like where everything was headed, where things were pointed to in Season 2 and in Season 3. So while we were out in the desert, we were like, “Well, what if we just did both? What if we have a lot of character story? They just get to California. Let’s see what’s there. Let’s mine there and know at some point, we’re going to jump to 1990, and we’ll just see if we can earn it.” And we did.

And we didn’t know when it was going to happen. We didn’t know if it was going to be half and half, or six [episodes] and four [episodes], or seven and three. Or, one episode that was the finale. And ultimately, everything kind of built to a natural crescendo in eight. And so we said, “Well, let’s do kind of a bridge episode with 9, and then 10 can be that kind of reunification,” which is something else we talked about in the desert a lot — getting everybody back together.

How the Show Has Always Been in Limbo

A.G.: Much like Season 2, Season 3 ends in a place that could be a series finale.

C.C.: Yeah, that’s where we always are. I think it’s … People really like the show, [but] very few people watch it. And there is the rub. And so, the network kind of takes that into consideration and, thus far, has been very supportive. But we write the ends of all of our seasons like they could end the story, not just because of the situation that our show is uniquely in, but just because it’s satisfying for me as a TV viewer to have a finale that gives you a kind of catharsis with some threads of like, “Well, you could go somewhere, there.” Where it doesn’t just feel like an epilogue or just a straight cliff-hanger.