Based on the season three opener, HBO’s Silicon Valley feels undercooked in its return
Silicon Valley has been one of my personal favorite sitcoms of the last few years. True, I have worked in a tech environment that echoes even the most outrageous aspects of the series, so it’s definitely right up my alley. That’s why it’s even more disappointing that it returns limply, feeling less like a worthy bridge between the great Game of Thrones and Veep and more like a red-headed stepchild.
When we last left Silicon Valley season two, Pied Piper won an arbitration victory against corporate giant Hooli. Sensing an opportunity, investment firm Raviga swoops in and buys a handful of seats on the Pied Piper board. Richard (Thomas Middleditch) finds himself removed from the CEO role as Raviga wants to go in a different direction with a more seasoned leader. Season three’s opener deals with the fallout as Richard’s bruised ego guides him away from Pied Piper despite their offer at a CTO position.
Right off the bat, Richard’s reaction and inability to recognize the merits of the new arrangement completely annoyed me. Regardless of how inexperienced or borderline autistic Richard or others of his kind are, I never once believed he would be so blind as to completely walk away from Pied Piper. It is, after all, his identity, as much a part of him as Steve Jobs was to Apple. Richard’s petulant behavior continues through the episode as everyone around him advises against it. Eventually, he relents thanks to the charm and near-mind control of new CEO Jack Barker (the great Stephen Tobolowsky).
Aside from the annoyance of Richard’s actions, the biggest missing component of season three’s opener was the constant stream of jokes found in the previous seasons. There is only really one great joke in the episode, and it’s completely a throw-away. Hooli CEO Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) discovers it would be cost effective to fire a large portion of the company, partially justified by recent performance appraisals that indicated 20 percent of the workforce weren’t performing. He addresses a table of five people, one of whom a beat later says, “Wait, what?”
But where Silicon Valley‘s main cast historically occupied the underdog role, here all of their quirks and petulance feels increasingly annoying and childish. It’s not the actors’ fault as T.J. Miller and Zach Woods continue to amuse with their spot-on characterizations. These are smart guys, but creator Mike Judge seems to treat them now with more contempt than ever before. Satire is a delicate balance, and it really only works in cases like this where you can sympathize and laugh at your main characters equally. But Silicon Valley appears heading down a mean-spirited path, one that’s more cruel and less funny than before.
Let’s hope this episode was a glitch. Time to reboot before next week.