Richard (Thomas Middleditch) and his company, “Pied Piper,” have certainly had their work cutout for them since their hugely successful software demo at the end of Silicon Valley season one. The second season has had them scrambling to attain funding, business partnerships, a new office space, a new (self-created) server, legal advice, new employees–all while dodging the advances of their rival company, the much larger “Hooli.” Season 2, episode 6, called “Homicide,” introduces event live-streaming as potential advertising space. Pied Piper is up to explore this new area of brand exposure, particularly after Hooli’s stream of the UFC fight fell to pieces before a worldwide audience. Determined to prove themselves as more capable than their bumbling competitor, Pied Piper partners with an energy drink company preparing a live feed of an extreme driving stunt.
Jared awkwardly tries to coerce the women to be friends
It was refreshing to take a break from the file compression algorithms and technicalities of running a start-up software business in favor of this lighthearted, fast-paced mini-conflict that involves a double-crossing sports-drink executive, an tumultuous stunt jump, snide nicknames, a distasteful pros and cons chart, and the hi-def broadcasting of a California Condor’s egg. Early in the episode, Jared (aka Zach Woods, of The Office US fame) introduces Carla , the new team member, to Monica, a day-oner and a member of Pied Piper’s board of directors. The interaction allows the show to comment – with a wink and a nudge – on its own lack of female characters. Carla wittily remarks: “One thing worse than being the only woman in the company is being one of the only two. Everyone puts this super weird pressure on you to be friends. It’s creepy.” Season two has done a much better job than its predecessor in acknowledging and commenting on a scarcity of female characters as well as a general exclusion of women in the computer programming industry. While the show has only made instrumental strides to include more women, the introduction of Carla has given the show a mouthpiece with which to at least acknowledge these issues, as the quick-witted, sarcastic Carla never misses an opportunity to razz her coworkers about gender stereotypes and expectations.
The episode circles around the familiar one-upmanship between Pied Piper and Hooli, with Hooli and its director Gavin Belson continuing to fall short. These constant failures provide some of the best punchlines in the show. My favourite is when Gavin, trying to gauge the failure of his latest tech device, asks: “Is this Windows Vista-bad? Don’t tell me it’s iPhone 4-bad. Fuck, it’s Zune-bad?” The reply he is given is equally priceless and topical: “I’m sorry, Gavin: It’s Apple Maps-bad.” Zing! Silicon Valley isn’t afraid to take a playful shot at big-timers in the tech industry. However, other than the primo opportunity for stinging one-liners, the Hooli/Gavin failure routine is getting worn out. For a large and supposedly threatening corporation, the show treats them more like Wile E. Coyote – dumbfoundedly running off cliffs or getting blown up by his own TNT. The Hooli struggles have become tired, redundant, and doomed to fail in a way that provides no suspense for the audience.
The crux of the episode occurs on two fronts: Richard stands up to a corporate bully while Dinesh and Gilfoyle plot the pros and cons of “Letting Blaine Die” (the stunt driver for the Homicide event). Richard’s storyline has potential. He is confronted by a savvy, sweet-talking business man who tries to downplay their symbiotic partnership instead of adhering to the advertisement deal that was initially agreed upon. It is great to see Richard stand up for himself. It’s always satisfying to watch the soft-spoken, socially awkward protagonist step up and fight for his fledgling company. Unfortunately, the majority of this storyline revolves around a Mean Girls-esc “frienemy” conflict and poop jokes (colonoscopy bag jokes, to be precise). It unfortunately feels like the potential for character growth is overpowered by immature humour and he-said-she-said high school-style drama.
Aaron Anderson of “Homicide Energy Drinks” demonstrates the stunt he intends to live-stream
Luckily, the episode has two fantastic redeeming qualities: the Dinesh/Gilfoyle gag and the surprise twist at the end. Let’s start with Dinesh and Gilfoyle, who notice a fatal mistake in Blaine’s stunt calculations. After inadvertently flirting with Blaine’s girlfriend Gina, Dinesh is torn between trying to warn him and turning a blind eye. Using Jared’s “SWOT” bulletin board, which charts the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of any major decision, Dinesh and Gilfoyle essentially plot out a pros and cons list of what they title the “Let Blaine Die” scenario. It’s no accident that this episode (and the fictional energy drink company) is called “Homicide.” Blaine eventually realizes the calculation mistake on his own and confronts Dinesh and Gilfoyle about the bulletin board that lists everything from his own hypothetical death to Dinesh’s hypothetical relationship with a tragically single Gina. The humour of the endearingly geeky chart likens back to season one, where a jacking off joke scrawled on a whiteboard ends up inspiring Pied Piper’s file compression software. It’s scenes like this that give the show it’s personality: that perfect blend of technical jargon and very normal, relatable happenings. We’ve all experienced unrequited or unattainable love, although we might not approach it with a SWOT chart. Who knows, maybe now we will.
The grand finale is what really pulled the episode together for me. When Richard loses the partnership with Aaron and “Homicide,” he transfers the live-stream software to a real-time, hi-def viewing of a California Condor egg, per Jared’s suggestion. The video feed turns out great–for the 17 people who tune in, that is. It’s a funny, humbling ending to a somewhat melodramatic episode. What really brings it home, though, is when Richard and his team switch over to the Homicide stunt video feed and see that it’s being powered by a new company called “EndFrame.” What’s more, EndFrame is somehow using Pied Piper’s video compression algorithm. Turns out, a company that Pied Piper pitched to while looking for funding used what they saw in the pitch to steal Richard’s formula. Hooli might have let us down as the antagonist that the Silicon Valley audience deserves, but it seems that “EndFrame” is stepping up to fill that gap. The twist might just breathe some much needed conflict and tension into the rest of season two. It will at least make for an exciting seventh episode, apparently titled “Adult Content,” due to air next Sunday, May 24th.
-Moments of genuinely good humour
-Surprise twist at the end
-Redundant antagonist storyline