Season 2 Premiere: “Sand Hill Shuffle”
The Pied Piper boys are back, and now they’re in the Big Leagues! Quite literally!
The Season 2 premiere of HBO’s breakout comedy hit of 2014, Silicon Valley, opens up in AT&T Park. We find Richard (Thomas Middleditch) and the boys, being wooed by one of the rabidly ravenous venture capitalist (VC) firms that populate this episode. It’s immediately evident that none of our Techcrunch Disrupt winners have changed, but their world is dramatically changing around them. In fact, this opening is the perfect juxtaposition from the first scene of the first episode of Season 1 — where the boys, pre-Pied Piper, are merely wallflowers at a party being thrown for someone else.
Erlich (TJ Miller) sums up where Richard’s head is currently at perfectly: “…if you can’t enjoy this many people kissing our ass at this level, then I feel sorry for you!” That sums up Richard’s character in a nutshell, but it’s nice to see that even with the big victory he had at the end of Season 1 — he’s still going to be Richard; and he’s still going to be awkward, indecisive, and insecure. This point is punctuated by the conversation that Richard has at the end of this cold open when his friend Javeed (Charan Prabhakar), who was the one being celebrated in that aforementioned party from the pilot episode, becomes sort of a walking cautionary tale to Richard: how fast you can lose your company in the face of a downturn.
This episode, as a whole, was a lot better at mixing up conclusions with set-ups, than its Game of Thrones lead in. Unfortunately, one of those conclusions was addressing the real life death of actor, Christopher Evan Welch, with the death of his character, Peter Gregory, on the show. The moments around his death are treated with respect in this episode; and it doesn’t become dramatic to the point where it feels like Mike Judge (Office Space) and the writing staff are just exploiting his unfortunate passing, for purposes of gratuitous sentimentality.
It’s just the opposite.
Gregory, even in his afterlife, is still as strange and weird as he was in his life. Even Monica’s (Amanda Crew) sad confirmation of his death to Richard and Erlich ends with a hilarious explanation of what happened: An absurdly freaky safari accident involving a hungry hippo. But Peter Gregory was more than just a weird person in Richard’s life. He was also an important one, and the show’s plot is affected with the appropriate amount of change in his absence. Richard and Erlich have to scramble to wipe the egg off their asses, just in case Gregory’s company folds in the wake of his death; and Pied Piper finally has to have a heavy sit-down with all the venture capitalist firms that have been flirting ever-so-hard to seduce them. This is when Middleditch tries to push his Richard, as an alpha character, awkwardly attempting to gain dominance in a meeting over those vulture capitalist firms, who will possibly buzzard-block his advances.
What’s interesting about this sequence, other than Jared (Zach Woods) hilariously calling out ‘negging’ as “a manipulative sex strategy used by lonely chauvinists,” is seeing Richard finally becoming the asshole that Erlich wants him to be. The montage of Erlich talking shit about the various VCs was obviously designed for TJ Miller to do what he does best, and he definitely succeeds! Middleditch also gets to do double duty, and he awkwardly attempts to drop his best version of Urkel at a freestyle battle, countering his aforementioned hard-ass stylings.
Despite heavy focus on the Pied Piper storyline, Silicon Valley still finds time to build up Gavis Belson (Matt Ross), the CEO of techno-competitor, Hooli. Belson hasn’t forgotten Hooli’s loss to Pied Piper, and they’re in the throes of desperately trying to out-market Piper’s technologically-advanced algorithm. Ross’ Belson is still the same cocktail of: One part towering antagonist to Richard, one part earnest businessman to Hooli employees, and one part future Pied Piper business partner. This concoction bodes well for the makings of a thirst-quenching Season 2. Even when the show uses Belson’s ridiculous CEO persona for satire with lines like, “I don’t want to live in a world where someone else makes the world a better place better than we do,” it also makes him infallibly human– as when he delivers a touching eulogy to his old friend Peter Gregory.
Belson also drops John Woo villain-intimidation factor when we find out that Hooli is suing Pied Piper at the end of his speech, with a shot of him releasing doves on-screen in slow motion. Thankfully the show has seemed to find a good counterpart to Belson’s big persona with Gregory’s replacement, Laurie Bream (Suzanne Cryer). Bream’s unique brand of awkwardness is a perfect replacement for Gregory’s. She’s a wild card that shuffles deftly into the deck here.
If the rest of Season 2 can maintain the same joke-density-to-story-development ratio, then it might top Season 1; although no single joke on television will be better than the Pied Piper guys figuring out: “The Equation,” in the “Optimal Tip-To-Tip Efficiency” episode. Gawker has already found real life parallels from this episode to actual venture capitalist quotes, and Kumail Nanjiani, who plays Dinesh, just did an AMA on www.reddit.com, where he came out and said: “This season there are two big storylines that emerge, and criss-cross each other, and come together right on the last episode. The last episode is so good and intense. It’s like an action movie. For real. It’s genuinely suspenseful.”
If he’s right, then the Run The Jewels track that closes out the episode is fitting because every Sunday on HBO looks like it’s going to be a “Blockbuster Night”…
Words: Myke Ladiona
Edits: Jason Bud