In the eighth episode of its second season, Silicon Valley’s exposed the bad math at the heart of its operating algorithm. The shaggy robodog tale derives humor from the delayed inevitability of Pied Piper’s success, but that hilarious frustration isn’t hilarious when it’s character driven. Mike Judge and his deputies take pains to make it clear that PP has the best middle-out product on the market so all the madcap fuckuppery that constitutes SV’s plot can be chalked up to lingering biz dev issues.
Richard Hendricks's work computes; Richard himself needs be debugged.
The problem is that the show has moved past “D2F” whiteboard jokes toward broader industry humor and that, in that context, the men of Pied Piper are morons. Hendrick’s behavior in “White Hat/Black Hat,” which sees him confessing malfeasance to a wronged hacker ready to target Gilfoyle’s work, is slightly admirable but so overwhelmingly stupid that it isn’t likable. The audience is supposed to root for this guy, but virtue clearly isn’t his achilles heel. His achilles heel is that he insists on trimming his tendons with a wire cutter.
Hendriks is an awful business man, a terrible leader, and - as this episodes makes painfully clear - a coward.
The contrast between Hendrick’s perfect work and his imperfect self (this feels like a pitch for some Menlo Park self-help book) is so stark at this point that Pied Piper no longer feels the opposite of inevitable. That would be a good thing if Judge has the balls to write the episode where Dinesh gets fired, moves to San Jose and LinkedIn stalks the recruiter from Salesforce so he can legally stay in the U.S. That would make for good, alienating television, but the show has done too much table setting to not feed Pied Piper’s enemies, specifically Gavin Belson, a bit of crow.
What was most disconcerting about “White Hat” was that it had the feel of a sitcom. Everything was about to change when the Intersite deal went through and Hendricks had the boner-facilitated opportunity to scale up, but then a poorly placed tequila bottle deleted all those pop shots and the crew found themselves back in their shared space with exactly the same problems as before.
Reversion to a humorous, audience-friendly mean isn’t just divisive, it’s an act of subtraction. No one really wants to watch a Palo Alto-set reboot of King of the Hill (King of the Sand Hill?) so Pied Piper has to succeed or die. If - more likely when - it succeeds, that success will now seem inauthentic and unearned.
Hell, it will be unearned. Hendricks is an idiot. But at least some funding would get the show back on track.
Here’s hoping that the SV and Judge don’t give up on Intersite CEO Molly Kendall, unrealistically having her walk away from a deal that would, at least by the show’s logic, be in her best interest. She’s the one-eyed man and these born servants need royalty.