This week’s SILICON VALLEY turned out to be more of a wrap up to last week’s premiere, as it gave us the end of Dinesh’ Piperchat in what was one of the funniest plot twists of the show thus far. We knew Dinesh’s rise to the top was going to be short lived, but I didn’t expect it to end with the revelation that through Dinesh’s negligence, Piperchat has effectively become a play ground for online pedophiles. Facing fines in the billions, the team realizes they have to abandon Piperchat, and so now two episodes into the season, “Terms of Service” leaves us with infinite directions for this season to take.
It’s a dark turn, but one that feels so right in a world where real life tech oligarchs are finally revealing the grime beneath their platforms. Certainly from its inception, the show has been quick to point out the hypocrisies of the industry, but with fresh scandals like Juicero, the Fyre island debacle, and the strange cultures at companies like Uber and Thinx coming to light, it’s especially ripe for parody. Dinesh, like Richard before him, is so consumed with his ambition and the perks of his newfound success, that he loses track of the actual product and for whom it’s supposed to serve. I expected the Piperchat storyline to carry on through the season but am pleasantly surprised to see the show isn’t settling for obvious choices.
In fact, the most consistently impressive thing about this show is how it makes plot choices that are surprising, yet inevitable. And that gives it a constant freshness despite the fact that this season is basically a re-set. It’s such a shocking surprise for them to punt on Piperchat that it’s hard to know what’s going to come next. And when your foundation for plot is to subvert it in a smart way that makes sense for its world, that currency trickles down to the jokes and the characters in ways that continually motivate engagement.
Now, Silicon Valley and its HBO compadre Veep, are in a similar boat where they may risk wearing their audiences out with the lack of forward motion. But what both shows also rely on most are their characters and the jokes that come out of those relationships. Dinesh does let it go to his head, but he’s never cartoonish, and in fact has a very good explanation for locking Richard out of the app and starting the chain of events. So in return it makes sense for Richard to come around to helping him, and the scene of Richard trying to comfort Dinesh despite him having been a jerk, is genuinely touching.
That is an added layer to the show that is missing in the cynicism of Veep or other shows that are equally as sharp and witty, joke for joke. Each of the “Silicon Valley” gang is vulnerable to the pitfalls of success, but in the end it’s the camaraderie of being at the bottom and their shared humility that keeps a warmth to the show and leaves you constantly rooting for them. I love hanging out with this crew and for thirty minutes a week I still don’t need them to succeed to enjoy spending time with them. Yes, the show is transforming and it’s hard to imagine it having ten seasons of them constantly failing, but this show has consistently subverted my expectations in positive ways and it’s hard for me to imagine they won’t give it a smooth landing.
Structurally it’s a very lean show and this episode is a great example of that. No set up or joke go to waste and everything is motivated. Take the Jack Barker and Gavin conflict from last week and notice how neatly it’s paid off with the Piperchat problem. Small character needs like Denpok trying to stay relevant to Gavin, lead to Gavin buying out piper chat. We have the scene of Dinesh’s extremely douchy interview, and while it’s funny on its own it works to push Richard, who moments before felt guilty about it, into looking up the Piperchat data and moving the episode forward.
So where do we go from here? Is Richard’s new internet going to be the focus of this year’s season? I imagine so, but then again they could go in a completely new direction that we haven’t seen yet. In any case, I have a lot of confidence in Mike Judge and company to take us someplace great and original, and I’m excited for the rest of this season.
A couple of my favorite moments:
– Richard’s line “What, you’re comparing me to Gleb?”
– Richard’s look when Jared says “everyone reads the terms of service.”
– Gavin’s inability to see Denpok clearly lying as he goes on while his security guard Hoover fumes over it.
– Dinesh saying, “oh man crushing it, I’m in a bathtub!”
– Any scenes between Erlich and Jian Yang, but specifically the interaction when Erlich realizes he’s attached to an octopus recipe app.
– The return of the focus group surveyor at the end of the episode.
Season 4, Episode 2 (S04E02)
Silicon Valley airs Sunday at 10PM on HBO
Greg Brecher | Contributor