The major criticism of Silicon Valley in its first season was the lack of strong female characters in the cast. It could be argued that this was merely a reflection of the valley in real life, where men are disproportionately over-represented and which has an ingrained sexism problem; but diversity in a TV cast is important for a number of reasons, even if that means it’s not as accurate a representation of the world it’s satirising. This week’s episode shows the programme becoming more self-aware as they address their critics.
The addition of more, different characters increases the range of stories, scenarios, conflicts or friendships. It’s all about possibilities, and the more the better. So it’s good news that much of this week’s episode focuses on the next step in Pied Piper’s evolution – hiring more staff. We begin with Richard and Jared interviewing new programmers, an opportunity to show that there are even stranger people out there in the valley than our heroes (“It says here on your resume that from 2010 to 2011 you…crushed it?” / “Nice pool. Can my dog go in? Is there a lifeguard? ‘Cos my dog can’t swim.”) But it’s also an opportunity for Jared to take on the role of the show’s critics, telling the guys that “There’s a distinct over-representation of men in this company…I think it would behove us to prioritise hiring a woman.”
Dinesh and Gilfoyle recommend Carla (Alice Wetterlund) – funny, sarcastic, obscene, a brilliant programmer, and one of the few people who could handle sitting in a room with those two all day. Perfect, “and a woman” says Jared. But Carla doesn’t want to be known as a “woman engineer,” she’s just an engineer and wants to be hired for her skills, not her gender. As Jared puts it in his own inimitable way, “Oh. Of course. We want to hire the best people who happen to be women, regardless of whether or not they are women. That part is irrelevant.”
Carla is already a great addition to the team and has more of an effect in one episode than Monica has over the whole run. She immediately knows how to mess with Jared and it’s good that she has a history with, and the respect of, Dinesh and Gilfoyle – putting her on a level footing. She compliments the Dinesh-Gilfoyle dynamic while also, to use a tech buzzword, disrupting it. Carla messes with the guys by pretending that she’s getting more money and equity than them, and isn’t actually afraid to use her gender to screw with Jared and his new code of conduct (“If I can’t call Cunty Cunty I’m not gonna want to have Cunty over at all, which I kinda feel like violates my rights…as a woman.”) It’s going to be exciting to see the other impacts her presence has on the group.
The rest of the episode fixes another problem the show had, but a much more recent one that we highlighted last week – the diminution of Erlich. Thankfully the writers seem to have dropped the idea of Erlich being awed and meek in the presence of Russ Hanneman and he’s back to his old self. In fact he’s even more loud and obnoxious than usual, pissed off that Richard might hire a guy to whom he offered a job but who used it to leverage a better offer elsewhere (“The son of a bitch is a goddam cyborg!”) He rages around the house hilariously complaining about the spoon size to yoghurt pot ratio and the unalphabetised nature of his Starblazer VHS tapes. It’s good to see Richard being assertive, but again he chooses the wrong times to do it. First he doesn’t listen to Erlich’s advice from experience, and then eventually decides he won’t hire the cyborg because it’ll upset him. “I’m trying to respect you asshole.” “If you wanna respect me then just hire the piece of shit, don’t act like a moron.” “You don’t get to tell me how I respect you ok. I can respect you however the fuck I want.” However it turns out that the cyborg went and did exactly what he did to Erlich. But this time he got a job from their own investor, Russ. Russ is turning out to be just as much trouble as we thought, an antagonist from within, also winning a vote to supply them with crappy merchandise (or schwaaag) thanks to a spite vote from Erlich.
Meanwhile Big Head keeps falling into success despite his complete cluelessness, a new pawn in Gavin Belson’s game to take down Pied Piper. He’s named ‘Co-head Dreamer’ at Hooli’s new XYZ division (a take on Google X, the company’s semi-secret facility dedicated to making major technological advancements). Let’s hope we see him come into conflict with his old, but newly assertive, friend Richard soon.
Silicon Valley is proving to be a flexible, self-aware show; capable of learning from its mistakes quickly, listening to and mocking its viewers at the same time. This can only be a good thing for the rest of the season.
Silicon Valley airs Wednesday nights on Foxtel’s The Comedy Channel