Silicon Valley has completed a lazy spin on a wobbly axis and arrived, flaccid and exhausted, right where it was at the beginning of the season. Richard Hendricks has become CEO again and Pied Piper is in direct competition with Gavin Belson’s Hooli. The struggle isn’t without appeal but I wonder what the point was of the previous four episodes. Not a single character has changed or developed after their conflicts with Raviga and Jack Barker, nor did any new situation emerge as a result of those struggles. Compared with the majesty of an initial season that built up gracefully to a glorious dick joke, you have to wonder if Silicon Valley is running out of steam.
This week begins with Richard continuing down a juvenile warpath of entitled whining. He agonizes over the fact that he isn’t CEO of the company he founded, and that Laurie Bream has chosen not to immediately fill the CEO position left vacant by Jack. When an industry blog writes an unfavorable appraisal of Pied Piper’s technology, Richard demands that Laurie allow him an interview to correct course. She agrees, but only if Richard meets with Raviga’s PR director first for some media coaching. .
Still miffed by his lack of power, Richard wrests the financial records from the accountants, evaluates their cash on-hand, and starts making drastic cuts to Pied Piper’s expenses. Unsurprisingly, Richard fires all the new employees except the show’s core characters and returns Pied Piper’s offices to Erlich Bachman’s house. As this is happening, Bachman continues his aggressive attempts to partner financially with Big Head, which are nothing more than a thinly veiled scheme to gain access to his recently amassed fortune.
Jared, Dinesh, and Gilfoyle, in order to raise capital to hire more coders, sell Pied Piper’s nonessential office equipment to the public. Realizing they accidentally sold Dinesh’s personal hard drive and some company secrets along with it, the three hatch a plan to masquerade as the Geek Squad to destroy the hard drive before the seller realizes what they purchased.
The episode generates more moments of extreme discomfort than laughs. For example, Richard walks into a conference room with the woman he assumes is the PR person and unloads a tirade against Raviga and Laurie. As he finishes, he discovers he was actually talking on the record to the tech blogger. Of course, Richard escapes from his career-limiting faux pas by episode’s end, convincing her to spike the story by giving her a juicier one on Gavin Belson. Just before the credits roll, all principal characters are back in Erlich Bachman’s incubator, plotting their next move to develop Pied Piper’s platform before Gavin Belson beats them to market.
Tonight’s episode was written by Megan Amram, Twitter comedian, Parks and Recreation staff writer, and author of the satirical book Science…For Her! The high anxiety that drives this episode is not atypical humor for Amram but is atypical for the show. Things get awkward on Silicon Valley, but usually don’t become so dire. I was hopeful when I first saw she had written this episode, but the result left me wanting, like most of this season.
The longer Richard bemoans his lack of authority, the less sympathetic his character becomes. It’s reaching the point where I’m starting to root against him. Limiting a character’s options or power can be a great technique. Take a David Simon show like The Wire and see how a character’s drive can push past obstacles that ultimately cause them to change. It creates a rich world where imperfect people strive for greatness and often fail. Instead, Silicon Valley gives us characters that whine and connive about obstacles that magically evaporate. If I wanted a show where everything worked out for a group of nerds and nobody changed for the sake of easy comedy, I’d watch The Big Bang Theory.
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