Sunday, April 23, 2017

Silicon Valley recap: Season 4, episode 1, "Success Failure"

Richard (Thomas Middleditch) bumbles his way to an unlikely victory at the start of the season premiere of Silicon Valley, posing as an Uber driver in the latest chapter of Pied Piper's comically inept struggle to survive. The nerdily awkward pitch Richard initiates to the venture capitalist in his back seat, video-conferencing with the rest of the Pied Piper team to show off the unexpectedly popular platform they've created more or less by accident, doubles as a reunion for the show's viewers, bringing the main characters together in all their dysfunctional glory.

Ironically, it's doormat Jared (Zach Woods) who captures the VC's interest, since his enthusiasm and admiration for the team's work is (as always) so real, in stark contrast to the comically wooden attempts by Richard, Bachman (T.J. Miller), Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani), Gilfoyle (Martin Starr), and Big Head (Josh Brener) to communicate the kind of enthusiasm that Jared un-self-consciously oozes. In typical Silicon Valley fashion, their stunt is ridiculous, ham-fisted, and desperate—and effective.

As Willy Staley points out in his profile of Mike Judge for the Times Magazine, that kind of “verisimilitude-as-satire” is one of the show's signature moves. The monstrously narcissistic pettiness of Hooli chief Gavin (Matt Ross) is another prime example. In the latest of the show's many comic illustrations of the fact that no one in Silicon Valley is too big to act small, Gavin launches a jihad to take down Jack (Stephen Tobolowsky) for the sin of getting their private plane to drop him off first on the way home from China. The test runs that Gavin orders, with paramilitary zeal, to determine whether the altered flight plan was less efficient than the one that would have gotten him home first constitute the least principled, most spendthrift stunt he's pulled since that fiasco with the elephant last season. Read the rest in Slant Magazine

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