This season of Silicon Valley has been full of highs and lows for the boys of Pied Piper, and you can say the same for the viewers. There have been self-inflicted disappointments and numerous narrative dead-ends, but in the finale the writers try to pick up and play off the moments you might have forgotten about, the loose plot or throw-away punchline, and make them have a real significance in the end game. Threads like the condor stream, the Intersite deletion, the ferret-loving neighbour, Richard sued for employing Jared and Dinesh’s coding skills are all made important for the finale’s plot.
I’ll summarise ‘Two Days of the Condor” quickly because I want to get on to other things, but basically the condor stream, now showing the guy who fell last episode rather than the egg, attracts thousands of viewers and it goes viral thanks in no small part to a retweet by Manny Pacquiao. The guys come together to keep the stream going right to the end by any means possible, with holes in the wall and fires in the house. Meanwhile in court it looks like Pied Piper is dead, with the judge saying Richard’s computer use means everything now belongs to Hooli. Motivated by Gilfoyle’s earlier suggestion, Richard tells the guys to delete everything – they can’t seize anything if there’s nothing to take. But the judge isn’t finished and reveals that Gavin inserted an illegal clause in to Hooli employee’s contracts, meaning that technically Richard never worked there. With his phone dead and car keys down the drain Richard rushes back to stop the deletion, and does so just in time. Celebrations all round! Except, of course, there’s one last thing. The threat of a 3 vs 2 vote referenced earlier in the season returns, because of course the Pied Piper team cannot be allowed to enjoy a win for long. Raviga have taken over Russ’ shares and voted to remove Richard from his position as CEO.
This was probably the best episode of the season, with the energy level surrounding the back half unlike anything the show has done before (apart from the brief tension of the Intersite deletion scene). It was exhilarating and had triumphant moments sprinkled throughout. The whole streaming section was done brilliantly, with each scene in the house featuring the guy’s on-going suffering on screens in the background. Dinesh and Gilfoyle’s continued their run as season MVPs and terrible human beings with their concern only reaching as far whether the guy might selfishly die or get rescued before he drinks his own piss and their numbers go through the roof.
Importantly there was also a feeling of redemption for two characters which the show has often taken a dim view of this season – Erlich for his tech-bro douchbaggery and bulbous ego, and Jared for his awkwardness, over earnestness, pushover status and naivety. Erlich taking the ridiculous cash offer for the house, prompted by the ferret-loving neighbour’s sale, wouldn’t have been unreasonable after all his business and incubator mistakes this season. It would have probably been in-keeping with how he’s been portrayed this season. But his turning down of the offer (“Madam, you do not call a man a fool on the transom of his own house”), strapping on his wrist supports and clipping back his hair to code was a fist-pumping moment. In this episode Erlich finally became less of the asshole the writers have morphed him into this season and turned back into the pompous yet ultimately harmless windbag of last season, always there at the right time with a perfect line reading.
There’s also a win for Jared. He’s been the heart of the failing company since he’s joined when, like Erlich says, he could have been a deputy VP at Hooli by now. The pure joy in his eyes as he talks of the magic surrounding the camaraderie keeping the stream alive makes it all the more satisfying when it’s revealed that the non-compete clause in his contract is what wins Pied Piper the case. The opposite is true for Gavin Belson, whose arrogance throughout the series finally comes back to him. He’s managed to avoid the Nucleus disaster blowing up in his face so far, but his final gloating to Richard over the case’s apparently foregone conclusion is hubris ad extremum.
The episode also turns the season’s default formula of ‘the team contrive to bring about their own downfall’ on its head. This time they snatch success from the jaws of defeat. Their previous ineptitude actually comes to their aid by providing a reasonable excuse for the nuking of Pied Piper (the Intersite debacle), and their procrastination and preference to get drunk and high, plus Dinesh’s shitty code, stops the total deletion at the last second, meaning for once everything doesn’t come crashing down.
The episode may have been the best of the season, but it didn’t paper over the cracks. They tried to plaster over them with this episode but trust me, they’re still there. The ‘female problem’, as many critics have called it, still looms large. The writers have a funny, sarcastic, obscene and combative female character staring them right in the face. Carla, the programmer hired back in “The Lady”, was not only criminally underused (she pretty much only featured in that episode) but was scandalously discarded off screen by way of a passing comment in the last episode. Carla needs to be featured more regularly in the same way that Monica’s character needs more fleshing out. Where was the scene that showed Monica conflicted and agonising over the decision of whether to vote with Richard or with Raviga? Nowhere of course because on this show women are 2D objects pretty much defined by their looks or one particular character trait.
There’s hope though, as the other major problems of this season look to have been somewhat addressed in this episode. As said above Erlich seems like the guy we loved from season one, while with the buyout that’s (hopefully) the last we’ll see of Russ. All he was was three jokes: radio on the internet, three commas, and car doors. Repeat. Lastly, and maybe a major change in the shows focus, Richard. The overreliance on pushing stupid roadblocks on the Pied Piper team in order to slow them down was something I lamented in pretty much every recap this season. Of course everything can’t go well all the time, but I have to believe in those obstacles. The launch of Pied Piper does not automatically mean they become billionaires and the show ends. Many of these problems came from Richard himself. Think back on all the difficulties they’ve had this season and pretty much every time it’s his fault. He may be a brilliant coder but he’s also incompetent, naïve and wholly unsuited to running a company. Have the writers acknowledged that they’ve got all the mileage they can out of him by having Laurie and Raviga fire him? Maybe moving him to the side and getting a new CEO is not only the best thing for Pied Piper, but also the show?
Despite all the problems Silicon Valley stood out as one of the best comedies this TV season. Fix the issues that held it back this year and season three looks very bright indeed.
(Episode & Season)