Silicon Valley: “White Hat/Black Hat”

(Episode 2.08)

TV Reviews Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley: “White Hat/Black Hat”

Last night was a good night for Silicon Valley and not just because of this fine episode. If you hadn’t yet heard, the sitcom snagged two Critic’s Choice Television Awards for Best Comedy Series and for Best Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series, the latter of which was handed to T.J. Miller.

Since I’m not a member of the Broadcast Television Journalists Association, I can proudly say that the accolades were richly deserved. Even looking at an episode like tonight’s there was plenty of evidence of why this show was able to beat out such acclaimed series as Jane The Virgin, Transparent and even their network-mate Veep.

Not that many of the nominated shows lack this quality but so much of the comedy on Silicon Valley comes from a very empathetic place. Even though, as I said last week, we are watching the creation of a potentially billion dollar company, we still somehow see ourselves in the shlumpy, ill-dressed geeks that are crunching code and trying to navigate the big business universe of the tech world. Or maybe that’s just the shlumpy TV writers like myself that relate.

It was so heartbreaking and hilarious to watch Richard attempt to take an early morning shot of tequila provided by overbearing moneyman Russ (his own brand, of course) and try and smooth things over with Seth, the deposed security engineer at Endframe who was fired due to Pied Piper’s “hacking” of their system. His social awkwardness is so goddamn endearing, and it makes it that much easier to cheer for the guy when he finally stands up for himself as he did to Russ towards the episode’s end.

Or maybe this is aspirational and we all want to be Gilfoyle, strutting through life not giving a fuck and assured that we have the tools and talent to fend off any computational problem or barb being thrown our way. Or we want to be Miller’s character Erlich, a loud buffoon who keeps stumbling yet still lands on his feet with a bong in his hand and a smirk on his face. Again, is that just me?

Really, I think it comes down to the construction of these episodes. It’s the way that the ridiculous tequila bottle, introduced early on in the half-hour, turned out to be incredibly crucial at the end. You know when Russ leans it on a laptop’s delete key and erases hours upon hours of porn from Entersite’s servers (I still think they have a backup of all of this, but… we’ll wait until next week). Or how the big moment was presented as a possible outside hack by Seth, but turned out to be something much more mundane. There was also the perfectly sewn in b-stories that had Erlich unwittingly revealing Monica’s smoking habit to her bosses (itself a coy nod to the vehement anti-cigarette stance taken by most tech companies) and found Gavin desperately trying to set up a fall guy for Nucleus’s eventual failure…and screwing that up. Razor-like satire and discomforting comedy all rolled into one neat package.

The nice thing, too, is that we can delight in these foibles and huge blunders while knowing that, more than likely, a happy ending is going to be delivered in two weeks. We can laugh a little harder at the mistakes and social fuckups resting in that knowledge. And, as I’m sure I’ve said time and time again, there’s been zero indication of just what that big triumph is going to look like.

I’d say that’s more than enough evidence to prove that Silicon Valley is a deserving winner of the Critics’ Choice award. You may not agree with me, but any of the seven comedies nominated could have easily won. Let the little guys have this one, will ya?

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

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