This week’s episode of Silicon Valley was a fitting, yet jarring, end to a season full of decent ideas never properly realized. Months-long story arcs resolved themselves so quickly, I couldn’t help but feel that the writing staff was just relieved to be done for the year. The show (which made its mark using its initial 10-episode run to build the world’s most intricate dick joke) has become a series of cheap punchlines delivered by unsatisfying characters.
The episode starts with Gavin Belson-who has recently made a habit of buying exotic animals to make dramatic points at Hooli board meetings-discovering that the elephant he was parading around campus last week had suddenly died. Worried that this might mar his triumphant reinstatement as CEO, he fires an assistant who expresses sympathy for the elephant, and orders that the elephant’s 9,000-pound carcass be dumped into the San Francisco Bay. Ultimately, the fired employee attempts to expose Gavin by leaking the story to tech blogger C.J. Cantwell. Gavin manages to keeps the story secret by purchasing C.J.’s blog.
Meanwhile, Richard Hendricks makes the discovery that Jared has been padding Pied Piper’s daily active user stats by contracting a Bangladeshi clickfarm. Instead of becoming enraged, Richard is resigned to the notion that his company is still doomed. He agrees to keep the secret with Jared, since they’ll be out of money in a few weeks anyway. Richard and Jared soon learn that the “slight uptick” in users has inspired Erlich Bachman to go courting new high-profile investors. The flurry of rumors that Pied Piper is on the upswing culminates in an offer of $6 million in series B funding. When it comes time to sign the contract, Richard backs out, since the data Bachman used to fuel interest was fraudulent. Once again we are forced to watch Richard struggle with his morals under pressure from Bachman’s avarice. This cycle has gotten trite.
Prompted by the sudden interest from investors outside Raviga, and by Richard’s surprise confession that they were faking their daily active user metrics, Laurie Bream immediately moves to sell Pied Piper off to the highest bidder. Gavin Belson makes a snide offer for a million dollars. Just like last year’s finale, it seems that all of Pied Piper’s technology is about to fall under the control of Hooli. But fortunately for Richard, Bachman and Nelson Bighetti had become the owners of C.J. Cantwell’s blog during their short-lived business partnership. Having received a million dollars after Gavin purchased the blog, the two combine their income and buy Pied Piper back from Raviga. The season ends, predictably enough, with all the main characters sitting around Bachman’s table, laughing and celebrating their new-old partnership.
So many promising ideas are left behind in this episode and so many characters are jettisoned. If the point of this season was simply to manufacture a way for Pied Piper to become a self-funded company, then mission accomplished. Unfortunately, it wasn’t terribly entertaining to watch. Raviga is now out of the picture. So is C.J. Cantwell, who was never more than a pawn in other characters’ schemes. Main characters have lost millions of dollars, just to keep things in stasis. The reset button has officially been pressed.
Despite the funny moments generated from watching Erlich Bachman orgasmically weave his individual brand of bullshit all over the Bay Area investment circle, this episode served only itself. Pied Piper is a blank slate again, neither bankrupt nor successful. With Dinesh’s video chat implementation of Richard’s “middle-out” compression showing early signs of popularity, there’s hope for a slightly different plot to drive season four. Let’s hope it isn’t so haplessly recursive.
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