Season Two of HBO’s hit series Silicon Valley is in the books and to close out a respectable sophomore season Mike Judge and gang went into a very familiar bag of tricks to end on a high note.
‘Two Days of the Condor’ was a fun episode, full of dark humor and great writing. It felt like Silicon Valley really got back to its roots and I’ll tell you why: Erlich was on point.
“Madam, you do not call a man a fool on the transom of his own home. A home that happens to be the world headquarters of a company keeping streaming video of a man who’s about to drink his own urine online for tens of thousands of Filipinos. Does that sound like foolishness to you? So, you can tell your clients, respectfully, that they may go fuck themselves.”
God, that was sweet.
Let’s talk first about the season finale, which was the best episode of season two, because frankly, it worked. That whole sequence with the dude falling out of a condor nest was magnificent. This bearded condor specialist is wailing and crying out in pain and eventually drinking his own urine and our guys are just watching the stream and ramping up their system without a single word of concern for a man living out his own 127 Hours in front of them.
“This guy’s gonna drink his own piss? That’s too good.”
In the courtroom where everything looked stacked against Pied Piper, we got the sense Hooli might be screwed as soon as Gavin’ hubris allowed him to gloat about what he “would have” offered Richard to buy Pied Piper. It’s fitting to see Gavin hoisted by his own petard, with his arrogance in submitting illegal contracts providing the very means for his own undoing. That was a deft touch.
And we just enjoyed the view as the live stream peaked at over 300k with no compression loss. The gang managed the increased flow and pulled together to give us a glimpse of not only a kick-ass clutch team, but what we all were promised Pied Piper could ultimately be.
And then it became this fait accompli. Richard was going to lose Pied Piper and sent word for them to delete everything. Fittingly, only Dinesh’s shitty code saved the company when his delete file didn’t ultimately do its job.
This episode was solid from start to finish, but the bountiful laughs and high-tension moments really pulled a shroud over some of the more glaringly wrong elements of this season.
Here’s the spot review of both seasons:
Season 1: God I can’t wait til Ehrlich gets back on the screen.
Season 2: God I can’t wait until Gilfoyle and Dinesh get back on screen.
Season Problem 1: Ehrlich was tonally off
T.J. Miller carried the first season of this show. His self-importance and conviction that he was destined to be among the Steve Jobs pantheon of tech innovators was painfully effective. He was fresh, he was quippy and he was consistent. Aviato. Aviato.
That’s one thing that went off the rails a bit this season. Somewhere along the line they lost control of Ehrlich’s tone. He was less windbag and more of an actual asshole, to the point where an old acquaintance and potential business partner gave Richard an ultimatum: Ehrlich can’t be around. And Ehrlich didn’t know. He was oblivious to the story line that put him in the role of asshole. It wasn’t funny, it was irritating.
On other occasions the writers tried to build in tension between Ehrlich and Richard, like with the Hanneman vote and the Kimono scene and in both cases, Ehrlich came off as a complete douche. It wasn’t completely tone deaf, it was just tone incorrect, like hearing something at the wrong frequency. The right take was probably somewhere in there, it just somehow didn’t make it onto the screen.
Another note, and this is nothing against T.J. Miller, but I think they tried to give him a little more meat this season and I think he’s at his best when he’s used more sparingly and comes in with brilliant one-liners and scene-stealing moments. Give him too much scenery to chew and the cracks can start to show a little.
Regardless, in the finale, the old Erlich was back. His 11th hour coding session was a great bit, and watching him use a watering can as a bong was season-1-esque gold.
Season Problem 2: Russ Hannemann
Season one had Peter Gregory and Gavin Belson as Pied Piper’s suitors. Season two had this imbecile. So presumably the theory was “let’s put the Pied Piper gang under the control of the type of moron we might find on Entourage and comedy will ensue.” Ennnnnnhhhh. Not so much.
I’m not sure if its the way people write roles for Chris Diamantopoulos but this is the second consecutive show I’ve seen him overact on (His Castor Sotto on Episodes was equally nonsensical and grating).
It feels so tired when an entire A plot of a series is based around one mouthy jerk who won’t let anyone else get a word in. Richard spent all season doing his stuttering, disempowered anxiety junkie routine and Hannemann ran roughshod over him. Any time the gang was at an important juncture, Hannemann showed up trying to get them to drink. It was a long play throughout the season that ultimately ended with Hanemann selling out to Laurie at Raviga. So what was it all for? I still don’t know.
Season Problem 3: Bullshit made up problems
From Richard talking to the wrong people to Richard not asserting himself to Richard telling the guy to delete Pied Piper and then not being able to call and kicking his keys and taking the bus, the Mike Judge team spent all season just slowing down the train with really dumb shit. You have to figure that when they launch Pied Piper and everyone becomes billionaires that this show is functionally over. So, they have to somehow pump the brakes, and they often choose some hacky ways to do it. Here’s the season:
Monica gets a new boss, an emotionless robot woman who withdraws Pied Piper’s funding.
The guys have to find new funding! They have many choices but alienate everyone. Wuh wuh wuh.
Guess they’ll have to go with the biggest d’bag in America!
Then they all fight about new hires that they never hire.
Ehrlich almost closes a no-smoking app deal but Jian Yang smokes in the office of the financier! Wuh wuh!
Finally we devote a full episode the the very cool ‘Carly’ character who ultimately does nothing and walks out on Pied Piper (with all the other new hires) off screen, (huh?)
Then Hooli sues them and they have the whole thing won until oopsie! Erlich gives them the one piece of information Hooli needs to take over Pied Piper. Oh poo!
In the end, the guys are saved by some bizarro deus ex machina clause in Jared’s contract. And I do mean guys, because Monica spenty most of the season being absolutely useless. Not to mention that she had a seat on the board and in order to fire Richard at the end, she would have had to have made a decision to vote with Raviga or with her loyalty and (offscreen) she must have chosen Raviga. But again, women on this show are apparently eye candy, droids or fucking cool chicks that quit. Off camera. Right now the most interesting female character on the show is the character on the board of Hooli that actually calls bullshit on Gavin.
Ultimately none of that is the biggest problem for the show.
Season problem 4: Richard
I don’t know how much of it is the writer’s fault and how much is Thomas Middleditch’s portrayal, but the Richard character’s arc completely sucks. He’s afraid of his own shadow and the only time he actually kind of throws care to the wind and speaks his mind he always ends up apologizing immediately. It’s pretty tiring to watch. He blows up on the double asshole guy and we find out he has a colostomy bag. He blows up on Ehrlich and it makes him look kind of bullyish. He blows up on Russ Hannemann and then apologizes when he thinks Russ bought him a car. He’s just this one-note manikin who never seems to learn from his mistakes and that’s kind of a eyeroll anytime he’s monopolizing precious screen time. Especially when all we want is more Gilfoyle and Dinesh.
Look at this scene, for example. Richard is supposed to be dorky and awkward, but I’m telling you, he’s outgunned by the other comedians. A stronger comedian nails that payoff.
You see Richard on screen and you’re like “what accidental mistake is he going to make to subvert his own company today?” Where the other characters have really seemed to settle into themselves, it feels like Middleditch is still working out the kinks. Richard is incompetent, naive, and has all the corporate foresight of a cork on the ocean. When we come to find that he’s been sacked I breathed an anticipatory sigh of relief for season three.
You’d fire him too, guys, and so would I. He’s a nitwit about everything except middle-out compression technology.
So, maybe they figured all of this out in the writer’s room of Silicon Valley. I certainly can’t wait to see who the new CEO is. If they pick right instead of going for the “oh crap we work for a dummy” Russ Hannemann-type shock value, this show could really thrive. All of the raw materials are in place, now they just need to de-centralize Richard, get some new leadership at Pied Piper and maybe write a female that has some complexity of any kind.
All in all, I enjoy Silicon Valley, and it seemed like they got back on track in the season finale. Let’s hope this is a sign that things are headed back in the right direction.