Silicon Valley: “Runaway Devaluation”

(Episode 2.02)

TV Reviews Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley: “Runaway Devaluation”

Much of this week’s episode played out like last week’s season debut, but screened backwards. Sort of like Napoleon XIV placing “They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” played in reverse on the b-side of their 1966 novelty single.

When the Pied Piper team learns that Raviga has pulled their funding in the wake of Gavin Belson’s lawsuit, they go through the laborious process of returning, hat in hand, to all the venture capital firms that they insulted and negged before. As you can imagine, it doesn’t go well, as the boys are reminded of all the awful deeds that Erlich did in these initial meetings, like calling one potential investor a “chode gargling fuck toilet” and placing his balls on the conference room table. Though in that case, the angry head of this VC firm decides, “You’re going to watch me do the same thing!”

While this is happening, the rest of the team has to reckon with the fact that the money they got from winning TechCrunch Disrupt is going to run out fast. This wouldn’t be a problem for anyone but Dinesh, who has pledged $5,000 to his cousin’s Kickstarter campaign (to fund a ridiculous app called Bro, an instant messaging service modeled poorly after the much-maligned real-life Yo app). Naturally he tries to convince his cousin to cancel the campaign but unwittingly winds up encouraging him. And at the funding party that his cousin throws, Gilfoyle gets in on the fun, pledging $500 to the campaign just to spite his co-worker/frenemy.

Storylines like that are a reminder of how Silicon Valley manages such a great balance of providing really pointed commentary about the weird universe that tech companies inhabit while also keeping things open enough so that folks who aren’t Wired readers can still enjoy the comedy.

It’s subtle things like the costume design (in the VC meetings, Richard and Erlich are rumpled and casual, while the money men are in their polo shirts or zip up sweaters). And it’s bigger moments like the meeting that Pied Piper takes with potential investors who are really trying to “brain rape” the team (getting them to explain in detail how their compression algorithm works, so they can steal the idea and build their own software/app).

This is also there in the tug of war going on between Gavin and Richard. As Pied Piper’s lawyer points out, there’s no reason for the lawsuit other than for Hooli to keep the competition tied up in litigation while they hurry out their compression engine, Nucleus. But, there’s another motive at play as Gavin reveals at the end: to try and acquire Pied Piper.

These are the fiendish tactics of the business world being revealed through the lens of comedy. It makes Silicon Valley such a natural fit for the Sunday night HBO lineup, where Veep and Last Week Tonight are also giving viewers a spoonful of sugar to help swallow the bitter medicine of socio-political analysis.

Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.

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