The first season of Silicon Valley came to a close this weekend with its eighth episode this season, chronicling the trials and tribulations of a small startup surrounded by money and fame as well as mediocrity and failure. Did it stick its landing?
On the last episode of Silicon Valley, the Pied Piper crew was limping to the preliminaries of the TechCrunch Disrupt Conference programming competition. Just as they were about to present their program, Ehrlich’s mischievous history with one of the judges came back to bite him in the backside, with the Pied Piper spokesman being assaulted just as they were about to present.
This episode, entitled “Optimal Tip-To-Tip Efficiency,” opens with the team instantly skyrocketed up to the finals of the competition because of the final events of the last episode. Riding high on a free ride past most of the competition, their sails quickly become deflated as their rivals at Hooli debut their similarly remarkable compression software, Nucleus. Regardless of who developed which system first, the iron had already been struck and any debut they make thereafter would only look a pale imitation.
All About the Characters
Continuing the series’ spotlight on the here-today-gone-tomorrow relationship between developers and investors, former Piper supporters quickly distance themselves away from the platform, leaving the guys dangling in the wind. Each of the guys handle these circumstances differently: Erlich (T.J. Miller) looks to make their image seem strong in the face of doom, Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) and Gilfoyle (Martin Starr) start assessing their options with other companies, Richard (Thomas Middleditch) is bogged down under the weight of his code, and the ever loyal Jared (Zach Woods) tries to find a “pivot” point for their program to adjust its direction.
The team and the episode turns around what could have been nothing more than a typical story to something amazing when a random brainstorm that gives this episode its namesake provides just the spark for Richard to reprogram Pied Piper in time for their presentation. Words here would only spoil the hilarious leaps in logic and calculations the team makes in order to give him what he needs. It falls in line with much of the comedy this series is known for and is by far the strongest scene in the episode.
More of the Same Isn’t a Bad Thing
Much of this episode is a microcosm of the series, good and bad. There were individual character moments throughout. Richard’s social awkwardness and pessimism gets a special spotlight here, stumbling through Pied Piper’s final presentation, after decrying the platform’s death so fervently in the beginning. Dinesh and Gilfoyle continue playing off of one another trying to figure out how their next move would look in the face of impending failure. Erlich is as mercurial as ever, trying to bring down the competition to at least the same level as they’re in. Woods finally gets to evolve beyond his retread of The Office’s Gabe, allowing for his depiction of Jared in this series to go far more manic than his previous series ever allowed him to be.
Silicon Valley tends to stick too much of the clichéd framework of the underdog team fitting against giants. The instant plant in the finals and the convenient resolution to the Pied Piper’s problems has been done to death in many forms. The plot itself doesn’t provide much, if any, surprises, instead looking to see how each character reacts to the turns in the story. Funny moments, yes, but to the detriment of a predictable plot akin to Karate Kid.
The series’ subservience to product placement still stands here as well with yet another celebrity cameo…sort of. Near the opening and following the Nucleus presentation a supposed Shakira performance was to begin, to paltry results, seemingly using the celebrity name to use her music for the title card and nothing more. Though it plays out like a cursory presentation, it ended up being a reference for reference’s sake.
Come Back for More
Silicon Valley finishes its season maintaining its standard to the final minute, not exactly wowing the audience in the completion of its underdog story, but also not letting the casual fan down either. The characters continue to be the draw, showing a more human portrayal of the nerdy programmer than some other recent sightings on the small screen. Even despite its by-the-numbers plot, the character-work should be enough for this series to justify its announced renewal for another season of computer hijinks.