‘Silicon Valley’ begins in familiar fashion … and that’s not a bad thing

Monday, November 4, 2019 - 9:39am

'Silicon Valley'

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HBO

With the amount of television being created, it becomes harder to sift through the options and differentiate between the garbage and the gems. I spend a lot of time thinking about the television shows I choose to devote my attention to: Is it being produced because a platform needs more original content? Does it have potential to be a high quality program? Is there an enticing plot? Premium broadcast channels such as HBO continue to produce consistently high quality programming with short seasons that contain tight narratives and complex plots. “Silicon Valley” continues this trend, as it simultaneously wraps up old story lines and brings in new ones. 

Given the conversation surrounding the tech industry, data collection and Congress, it’s fitting that the first scene of the farewell season to “Silicon Valley” begins where it began six years prior — the protagonist Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch, “Dream Corp LLC”) making a fool of himself. Except this time, he isnt an aspirational one-in-a-million employee trying to make it in a cutthroat industry. Until the Season 5 finale, the success of Hendricks’s start-up company, Pied Piper, was not guaranteed. Given the hard-fought battle endured by Richard and his team over the previous five seasons, this makes one last season all the more satisfying — one in which Richard is no longer fighting the uphill battle. If only that were the case.

The season opens with Richard continuing his winning streak as he presents himself in an unusually confident manner, delivering a speech in which he promises that his company will not be corrupt like Facebook, Google or Amazon and collect user data. Unfortunately, Richard soon learns that this is a lie. Richard unknowingly lies to Congress as the game developer Colin (Neil Casey, “Big Mouth”) explains he does collect data on PiperNet — a network that allows users to control their own data rather than storing it on a centralized server — to improve gameplay quality. Richard orders him to stop, but Colin has the upper hand. He owns the gaming platform which makes up PiperNet’s largest user base. 

Although the Pied Piper team has made ethical exceptions in the past, Richard justifies them as necessary and promises they will be erased once the reality of their company is ensured. If he fires Colin to stick to his morals, PiperNet will be at risk of shutting down. On the other hand, what Colin is doing goes against their defining principle. Board members Monica (Amanda Crew, “Tone-Deaf”), Gilfoyle (Martin Starr, “Drunk History”) and Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani, “Bless the Harts”) decide to let it slide because without Colin’s users, Pied Piper has no chance to succeed.

Richard decides to take matters into his own hands by exploiting a marginalized and vulnerable Jared (Zach Woods, “Big Mouth”), who is normally the voice of reason. He knows he is making the wrong decision but sees this as an opportunity to get back on the inside. The two of them become responsible for facilitating a blackmail scheme directed at Colin and driven by artificial intelligence. Naturally, this backfires for Richard and leaves Pied Piper with a huge data collection bag, and Colin’s board members are excited about the prospects of this new tool.

It is this kind of storyline that suggests the final season will ride its familiar formula success. Given that we only have six more episodes, its hard to fault executive producers Mike Judge and Alec Berg for not messing with what has already worked so well. It will rely on the fortunes and misfortunes of its characters’ peaks and valleys, all in the context of a single episode. Despite everything that the characters have been through, the question that has driven every season is what will ensure a successful end to an already successful series: Can this group of misfits succeed and create a product that will make the world a better place? Richard has six weeks to figure it out.