REVIEW: Silicon Valley the Complete Second Season
It’s a challenge to begin watching a show during its second season. After all, the characters have been introduced, the dynamics established and the backstory in place. Season twos tend to show evolution as the cast and crew all find their rhythm but don’t always remember to reintroduce themselves in case newcomers have wandered by.
I had been hesitant to try Silicon Valley, the Mike Judge-created series on HBO, largely because we sat through the wildly uneven first season of AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire and felt that was our technology quota of television. So, when HBO invited me to review Silicon Valley the Complete Second Season, I decided to take the plunge. First, there was watching it video Digital HD, not disc, and there was exploring something new.
The show is funny and engaging, as much an office workplace dramedy as it is a commentary on our growing connection virtually, and less so as human beings. These ten episodes were filled with characters, mostly well realized, all well-acted.
This band of misfits run Pied Piper, a music app, and the season opened with back and forth over ownership issues, an all-too-common problem with intellectual property these days. Apparently PP was created while members of the team worked for Hooli and their CEO Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) wants it, meaning its valuable, a plus to the team. Of course litigation tends to scare people off and sure enough this complicates locating investors willing to weather the storm.
As a result, they accept the offer from the eccentric Russ Hanneman (Chris Diamantopoulos), whose actions take the PP team into uncomfortable territory. What could have been an interesting breakout character felt like a retread of the dude who took over ACN on HBO’s sister program The Newsroom. Opposing him and acting as the moral voice at times was Richard (Thomas Middleditch), who seems to grow stronger as a leader throughout the season. Of course, there sometimes comes a price to be paid which happens in the season finale. The app gets a real world test so we build up to that moment and deal with the aftermath along with the percolating court case.
There’s some nice chemistry with Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) and Gilfoyle (Martin Starr) as they prank one another that allows the series to veer into other tech realms such as Kickstarter. Then there’s Jared who is the team optimistic and perhaps its quirkiest member.
For a 30 minute series, it has a large sprawling cast, made larger by many new additions notably Laurie (Suzanne Cryer), the new CEO at Raviga Capital. The arrival of so many new faces, including Carla (Alice Wetterlund) at the Hacker Hostel, also meant others got diminished screen time and overall, it’s hard to provide more than a handful of characters any depth.
The storylines drew tighter by the ninth episode and the tenth and “Two Days of the Condor,” the final episode proved the most satisfying with moving storylines along and making a marked social commentary with a human life at stake. Things came to a climax and reset the status quo as things settle down but Raviga, the new investors in Pied Piper want Richard out and he’s fired. From what I saw this season, it was totally justified.
Overall, the series is funny and often wildly so, but it also presents a skewed view of software engineers (I know, I’m married to one) as well as corporate shenanigans. Judge, who did give us the brilliant Office Space, seems to be stretching credulity now and then in the interests of being quirky. Props, though to the real tech, tech theory, and law that was infused throughout the season, grounding it when it could otherwise floated away as a lightweight series.
The show is definitely entertaining and easy to binge so here’s a chance to catch up. The Digital HD release is as pristine as the cable broadcast and streams cleanly with good picture and audio. Will I be around for season three? Probably, there’s enough here to like and the 30 minute slices are good so it doesn’t wear out its welcome.