Silicon Valley – Season 3/Episode 1 “Founder Friendly”

HBO’s wonderful comedy, Silicon Valley, created by Mike Judge, John Altschuler, and Dave Krinsky, wrapped a tremendously successful Season 3 on Sunday night. Below is my synopsis and review of Episode 1, “Founder Friendly,” written by Dan O’Keefe and directed by Mike Judge.

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HBO’s wonderful comedy, Silicon Valley, created by Mike Judge, John Altschuler, and Dave Krinsky, wrapped a tremendously successful Season 3 on Sunday night.  Below is my synopsis and review of Episode 1, “Founder Friendly,” written by Dan O’Keefe and directed by Mike Judge.

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Opening Title.  

Copyright © 2016 by Home Box Office, Inc.  All rights reserved.

SYNOPSIS

Pied Piper (PP) founder, Richard Hendricks [Thomas Middleditch], is out as CEO.  Erlich Bachman [T.J. Miller] characteristically and selfishly asks him, “What about me?”  En route to Raviga, Erlich’s van hits a Stanford robotics student’s “Bambot,” a highly resilient and slightly aggressive robotic deer.

After the credits, we open with Richard and Erlich going to the Raviga conference room for a meeting with Laurie Bream [Suzanne Cryer], Monica [Amanda Crew], and attorney Ron LaFlamme [Ben Feldman].  Laurie congratulates Richard on Series A financing of $5 million based on a valuation of $50 million, dryly saying he should feel good about having created a company too valuable for him to run, and offers him a position of Chief Technology Officer, thereby keeping his board seat and allowing his option to vest.  Richard balks.

Outside, Richard asks LaFlamme if she can do that.  She just did, LaFlamme observes, citing the bad deal Richard made against his advice with Russ Hanneman [Chris Diamantopoulos], who later sold his shares to Laurie, giving her effective control of PP’s board.

Arrogantly, Erlich thinks he should be considered for CEO, but Laurie quickly dissuades him of this ridiculous notion, assuring him he will never be CEO.  She suggests to Richard he give his input into the CEO hiring, but Richard quits instead, threatening to sue. LaFlamme then informs Richard he can no longer represent him, being PP’s corporate counsel, not his.

Later, at the house, Monica explains to Richard she didn’t have the power to stop Laurie, but that she stayed on in hopes of changing things in the future.  She informs him Raviga already brought a new highly qualified CEO aboard — “Action” Jack Barker — since Richard claimed he didn’t want any input.  The guys quickly Google Jack and confirm his bona fides.

Monica reminds Richard that no VC will fund a new venture of his for fear of being sued.  Richard counters by saying Jared, Dinesh, and Gilfoyle won’t go without him.  This is news to Dinesh Chugtai [Kumail Nanjiani] and Bertram Gilfoyle [Martin Starr]. Jared, though, doesn’t think twice about remaining loyal.

Meanwhile, at Hooli Gavin Belson [Matt Ross] makes a goodbye announcement, with Nelson “Big Head” Bighetti [Josh Brener] and Gavin’s spiritual advisor, Denpok [Bernard White], sitting front row in the audience, drinking Big Gulps.  But it’s not Gavin who’s leaving — he’s saying goodbye to all Nucleus employees, who he promptly fires.  In cultish adulation, employees gush, “Amazing!”  Denpok and Big Head, depart.

By the pool that night, Dinesh and Gilfoyle conspire, using the acronym, RIGBY, (“Richard Is Great, But Y’know…”) to qualify their conclusions that Richard was presumptuous in assuming they’d give up their jobs for Richard out of principle.

Always the external optimist, Jared finds Richard laying on the floor the next day, depressed.  He plops down a plastic case full of CTO job offers for Richard elsewhere in the Valley, among them, Flutterbeam.

Erlich meanwhile demands to meet Barker [Stephen Tobolowsky] at Raviga. After insulting him about his age, Barker claims to be a big fan of Aviato.  “My Aviato?” Erlich beams.  Indeed.

On Bloomberg TV, we see anchor Emily Chang lauding Gavin for boldly disbanding the failing Nucleus division.  In a Hooli legal meeting, Gavin is informed that the noncompete clause of the employees’ contracts have the same problems caused by the arbitration with PP (resulting in Big Head’s promotion,) but told that he can fire underperforming personnel without cause, which Gavin calculates is about one in five.  The fifth lawyer at the table looks up, saying he’s sorry, he missed what Gavin said. Gavin glares.  (This lawyer doesn’t appear at the next meeting.)

At the house, Jared sets up a meet for Richard at Flutterbeam.  Erlich appears, telling Richard he must meet Barker, who can turn PP from just a unicorn into a deca-corn.  On their way out the door, Dinesh and Gilfoyle notify Richard of their intent to stay with PP.   Richard is livid, angrily questioning their ability to scale the platform without him.  He was the one who coded it.

At Flutterbeam, Richard is introduced to the “rad” new project called “‘Stashe” he’d be overseeing.   He’s dismayed to see it’s a high latency plugin that can put a mustache on anyone’s photos. It’s fine to have his own attorney look over the terms, he’s told.

Cut to Richard entering a correctional facility.  “Are you a lawyer here to see your client?” an officer asks him.  No, he says, I’m a client here to see my lawyer.  The officer lets him in without further inquiry.

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 Richard consults with his disgraced attorney in jail. 

Copyright © 2016 by Home Box Office, Inc.  All rights reserved.

Richard enters a visiting room where his prior lawyer, Pete Monahan [Matt McCoy]  sits across from him in a prison orange jumpsuit.  He soberly tells Richard he’s prepared to serve his time after he had consumed alcohol, which he thought was organic tea, and then ran around in a blanket with a meth high, assaulting a police horse with a shovel.  He looks at Richard’s Flutterbeam contract, lamenting he can’t redline it because prisoners aren’t allowed pencils.

Back to the house where Dinesh and Gilfoyle realize they can’t figure out how to scale the PP platform without Richard.  Preposterously, they decide to just pretend they’re giving up the project out of solidarity with Richard, in hopes he’ll take them on at Flutterbeam.

Back to the visiting room where Monahan hasn’t been persuaded Flutterbeam is a good match for Richard. He convinces him to at least meet Barker.  Better to eat shit, because you may end up eating worse, he warns Ricard.

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Big Head has been a thorn in Gavin’s side since the beginning.                                                                           Copyright © 2016 by Home Box Office, Inc.  All rights reserved.

At Hooli, Big Head meets with Gary Irving [Gabriel Tigerman] in Human Resources to sign his severance non-disclosure/non-disparagement agreement.  He wants to keep his employee ID to visit his friends on the roof. Gary tells him he no longer has friends at Hooli.  Big Head considers not signing it.  It’s a good severance package, Gary assures him.  Big Head agrees $2 million is good.  No, it’s $20 million, Gary informs him.

Meanwhile, Richard meets Jack at his luxury home and the two have a heart-to-heart. Jack understands and appreciates Richard’s honesty and thanks him and walks Richard to his car.  Jack tells Richard the deal won’t go through without him. We get that Richard thought Jack would push for him, but instead, Jack simply says he’ll backs out of PP altogether.  It seems he considers Richard to be indispensable. Richard rethinks his position. The episode concludes with Richard backing up his car to talk to Jack again.

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Richard and “Action” Jack Barker at Barker’s home. 

Copyright © 2016 by Home Box Office, Inc.  All rights reserved.

REVIEW

The premiere lived up to high expectations and picked up at a critical point in the story, propelling the season forward well.  It set up Big Head’s wealth and Jack’s influence.

Whether and to what extent the characters’ facial expressions and mannerisms are scripted, under the influence of the director, or interpreted by the actors themselves matters little to the viewer as it’s done so effortlessly and effectively.  The comedy obviously begins with solid, tight scripts, driven by an inherently intriguing and (to this outsider, at least) bizarre culture and one easy to satire.  And this entire cast is sublimely superb, including new character, Jack Barker, introduced here.

The worst part is the opening: the animation is good, but the cacaphony of the intro music is grating, even if thankfully short.

The best plot advancement was taking PP from the incubator stage to a growth phase with Series A financing.  PP can now be deemed a serious player in Silicon Valley.

The best character growth was unquestionably Richard’s.  Finally, the shy, reclusive tech genius asserts himself, leaving behind panic attacks and enuresis, which had played themselves out comedy-wise last season.  Yet, his social skills remain a challenge, along with nearly everyone else’s.  Here is the charm.

The funniest moment was when Richard entered the correctional facility and was asked if he was an attorney in to see his client.  Without missing a beat, Richard replies he’s a client to see his lawyer, and the guard brushes this off as the most ordinary of things.  Then, straight-faced,  Monahan tells him his tale of woe about circumstances landing him inside.

A close second was when Laurie told Richard his company was too valuable for him to run and that he should be proud of that fact.  The social ineptitude of most of the characters, especially Laurie, is what makes them so appealing and comedic.

The most touching moment was when Jared encouraged him, and compiled job offers for Richard, without regard for his own uncertain future.  [We learn more about Jared’s sorry personal history throughout the season, making his eternal optimism all that more endearing.]

A distant second is the rare camaraderie exhibited by Dinesh and Gilfoyle, who, despite pretexts, are, indeed, each other’s best friends.

The coolest moment was the Bambot.  While it seemed merely a fanciful moment for the writer (or a Stanford student), it had that Valley vibe we expect in the show.

The dumbest moments were Big Head’s confusion, especially as to his severance package. It’s true Richard couldn’t justify keeping him on in Season 1.  True, too, the character clearly stands for the proposition that being lucky is better than being good.  But he must’ve had at least some modicum of intellect and rudimentary math skills to have been Richard’s friend in the first instance — at least enough to know a difference between $5- and $50 million package.  He obviously wasn’t coded MR in school if he was coding at all at work.  [Throughout the season, this characterization of Big Head was, by far, my biggest peeve.]

In summary, the premiere episode launched an extremely satisfying Season 3.  I highly recommend the series as a whole and this season in particular, and will buy the DVDs on release.

All images Copyright © 2016 by Home Box Office, Inc.  All rights reserved.  

Screenshots are reproduced pursuant to the Fair Use Doctrine of the United States Copyright Act.

Author: Annie Moss

Political junkie and writer.

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