From its premiere at SXSW, it was apparent that HBO's Silicon Valley had a clear understanding of the tech world. With its creator Mike Judge (Office Space) having spent some time in that realm, the first season used technical accuracy, smart writing and well-defined characters to poke fun at the world of start-ups and technology. As season two progressed, it became clear that Silicon Valley was one of the funniest comedies on TV. With season three in our midst, it also looks to become one of the best.
Without question, the strong suit of Silicon Valley is its ensemble cast. There aren't any heavy hitters, but Thomas Middleditch is a great, vulnerable lead as protagonist Richard Hendricks and is rounded out with fantastic comedic talent in TJ Miller, Kumail Nanjiani, Martin Starr and the show's secret weapon, Zach Woods. Their chemistry immediately clicked and the character roles became almost instantly defined and established, making the world of Silicon Valley easy to step into.
The show has been able to skewer the inflated self-importance of the tech world while also adding a sense of absurdity to the direction in which it's growing. Its tone is an equal balance of intelligence and trademark stupidity of Judge's style. Episodes can contain ridiculous elements, such as a man trapped on an island in a self-driving car, next to a dick joke so complex that an actual academic paper exists to prove its accuracy.
Season two ended with an anxiety-filled court decision to see if the company at the center of the show, Pied Piper, would be able to keep the compression algorithm that set them apart from everyone else. Turns out they did, but CEO and founder Hendricks found himself out as chief executive officer. Season three picks up with Hendricks being asked to downgrade to chief technology officer in order to bring someone else in to run the company.
The first three episodes waste no time in picking up the tone of the series. Every character falls into place as you'd expect and the laughs are consistent. As Hendricks slowly agrees to his new role, he once again sees the vision and capabilities of his dream becoming compromised. From there, the team must come up with a way to save the integrity of Pied Piper from becoming a profit-driven product that short changes the consumer.
The challenge that Silicon Valley faces as it progresses into its third season is that of narrative stagnation. Throughout the course of the series, many of the events have been about how a group of loveable losers continue to lose. From that standpoint, the show faces the issue of becoming overly repetitive.
The third episode of this upcoming season flirts with a new idea of sorts. It puts the gang and its leader in a position to try to pull a fast one and insert a well-thought-out kink into the fold. In the episode's closing moments, it goes just about how you'd expect, which is fine, for the sake of comedy. But for the sake of story, it would be nice to see something a little different.
The best episodes of the series have been those in which the team has found their way to some success in spite of all odds. Not so coincidentally, they have both come at the end of their respective seasons. If the formula becomes "beat these guys up until you give them a small win in the finale," Silicon Valley can still remain a solid show and certainly one of the funniest on TV.
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