Your favorite tech geeks are back! And while the end of the last season seemed to mark a turn in fortune for this lovable yet awkward group of guys, the season 2 premiere made it evident that despite Pied Pipers success at Tech Crunch Disrupt, not much has changed. Mike Judge does a terrific job of reminding us of all the awkward quirks and tendencies that each member of Pied Piper has when he starts off the episode with the Pied Piper team at a reception hosted at the Giants stadium. Erlich is still obsessed with himself and his abilities to network, Gilfoyle and Dinesh still find themselves getting in competitive arguments, and Richard is still painfully awkward.
In comparison to it’s premiere season, Season 2 of Silicon Valley begins with a bang, as five minutes into the episode Richard is informed of the tragic death of his partner and mentor, Peter Gregory. Going into this episode I was wondering how Mike Judge and the rest of the writers were going to handle the tragic passing of one of season one’s key actors, Christopher Evan Welch. What I found particularly interesting is that instead of tip-toeing around the matter, Judge opted to use the real life death as a plot twist and obstacle for the Pied Piper to deal with.
Judge sets the stage for the rest of the entire season, as Richard is forced to cope with this death not only emotionally, but also financially and strategically as he is forced to contemplate whether he should stay with Gregory’s firm, and their new manager, or take on investments and funding from other companies. As a result of Erlich’s advice, Richard begins to branch out in order to seek funding, yet he does not quite have the attitude and confidence to convince investors to throw their money his way. Richard is only able to grab their attention, after he has an awkward outbreak of anger towards the investors, and is surprised to find out afterward that the investors were actually willing to back him. Then, of course, Erlich decides to run wild with the idea of sassing investors into giving up their money. This was some of the best writing that we have seen in the series this far, as Erlich is able to aggressively manipulate and handle the investors into raising their investment offers. Use the following clip as example.
What I find makes Erlich such a lovable and amazing character is that despite that he usually is completely wrong and outrageous, he always manages to save the team when they need it most. Mike Judge manages to liberate Erlich from falling into the archetype of being a pigheaded asshole, by equipping him with short stints of brilliance that are both enlightening and amusing to watch at the same time. Despite the numerous exorbitant offers for investment that Pied Piper receives, it is Monica and her new boss that come knocking at Erlich’s door with the largest investment. And while the team begins to celebrate, Monica secretly pulls Richard aside to caution him against taking the highest offer, and rather advices Richard to take a low-ball offer in order to allow the company’s value to raise between investment quarters. We began to see the relationship between Richard and Monica really grow towards the end of the premiere season, and I found that this episode did a great job of expanding on their uncanny relationship. Both Richard and Monica seem to be linked together by a certain sense of vulnerability that they both possess.
As always, Richard is left in a very difficult situation, does he risk taking the large investment, or does he start off small and rely on the growth of Pied Piper? One thing that stood out to me in this episode is that Richard seems to be growing in his sense of confidence and composure. While he still is as awkward as always, he was able to make this decision to take Monica’s advice without having a panic attack and throwing up, which may not sound like much, but for Richard it certainly was a sign of growth. Additionally, at the beginning of the episode, Richard was finally able to build up the courage to tell Gilfoyle and Dinesh to shut up and go to work.
Yet despite his growth in confidence, Mike Judge makes it clear that Richard is still extremely naïve to the practices and tricks of Silicon Valley. During Peter Gregory’s ceremony, Gavin Belson gives a heart-warming speech about Peter Gregory’s greatness, leading Richard to remark that, “maybe [Gavin Belson] is a human after all.” However, right when Richard finishes his sentence we hear his phone beep, and it is clear that he spoke too soon, as Richard is alerted that Belson is in fact planning on suing him for copyright infringement…. It is clear that Gavin Belson is just as motivated as before to take down Pied Piper, even if it means he is going against his goal of “making the world a better place.”
I found this episode to be particularly fast paced and more plot-driven than the majority of the episodes in season one. However, the episode still managed to be as clever and cunning as always, and thus I feel that “Sand Hill Shuffle” is one of the best episodes of Silicon Valley to date.
You can find a preview for next Sunday’s episode here: