This episode of Silicon Valley opens with one of its sharpest bits of satire yet: a video from Gavin Belson announcing the rollout of Nucleus, his version of Richard’s compression algorithm. “Small is the new big,” he announces. “If we can make your music and video files smaller, we can make cancer smaller. And hunger. And AIDS.” Ah, the delusional tech billionaire convinced he is making the world a better place … you can almost taste the acidic tang of that line of bullshit.
Belson’s announcement, though, sets the boys of Pied Piper scrambling a bit to make sure they are getting all their ducks in a row to announce the company proper. That includes securing the name of their business, as they learn a sprinkler company in the state also goes by Pied Piper. Richard negotiates a fair deal to get the name, but it all goes south when Erlich takes to the tech blogs to call out Belson and Nucleus. That’s when all hell breaks loose.
The owner of the other Pied Piper comes calling demanding $250,000 for the name after learning that Richard is a “billionaire” from the tech blogs. Erlich decides to swallow a bunch of hallucinogenic mushrooms and take a Steve Jobs-like vision quest to find a new name. And the boys at the house struggle to come up with a replacement (“What about Dwarfism 2.0?” “Small Come Back Now Y’Hear?”).
Okay, so maybe that’s not really hell, but sure is funny watching everyone stumble over themselves trying to keep the ship righted. (They eventually do land the name Pied Piper, incidentally.) It’s even funnier when that person has locked himself in a gas station bathroom in the midst of an intense trip and then shows up at the house with a child that he insists is his reincarnation.
As with any of Mike Judge’s work to date, it’s the little things surrounding this central story that make the episode so very good. Such as the realization that Gilfoyle (Martin Starr’s character) is actually from Canada and living in the country illegally, which opens up a world of great banter between he and Dinesh. (“You know who else is Canadian? Justin Bieber, the Hitler of music.”) There’s also the extended b-plot where Peter Gregory is inspired by the food of Burger King to invest in sesame seed futures and, in doing so, help save one of the companies he helped fund. If that sounds ridiculous, it is, but it’s a great excuse to hear the late Christopher Evan Welch deliver his lines with such weird panache.
What “Articles of Incorporation” also plays with is the struggle that I think all new tech firms must be dealing with: trying to live up to the successes and triumphs of their peers. For as much as they laugh at the shit being spewed out by folks like Belson, they want to be the ones making the hyperbolic pronouncements about how they are going to change the world. And of course they want to have as much “fuck you” money in the bank as possible. Getting to that point is, of course, never as easy as it seems. That’s the beauty of satirical shows like this, though: they offer up some glimpses of the sausage being made and all the mistakes its creators make as they try to create the recipe from scratch.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.