HBO’s new comedy, Silicon Valley, wrapped up its freshman run last night in “Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency.” The team is still at the Disrupt conference, their project having been fast-tracked to the finals to avoid legal action after a crazy judge ruins their first presentation. When Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) unveils a better version of Pied Piper, all looks lost. But some risque jokes among the dejected group give Richard (Thomas Middleditch) new inspiration, and the ending of the episode, while not surprising, is inspiring.
In retrospect, it always has to be Richard that steps up for his product, not Erlich (T.J. Miller). I love Erlich’s character, and he has plenty to do in this episode, but the technology and the brains belong solidly to Richard, and if he isn’t the face that wins the day, he’ll never be the real power in the company. Silicon Valley is the story of a meteoric rise of a hero, and in order to achieve greatness, a hero must overcome. Richard’s stammering delivery on stage may not be the stuff of legends, but what he’s come up with is, and “Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency” lets Richard triumph while maintaining his loser character, including a puking scene afterwards to prove he still has a long way to go.
Richard does almost get the girl, Monica (Amanda Crew), icing on the cake, but his win actually costs him any chance at a relationship, as they can’t date while working together. I will admit, her attraction to him does seem a tad dubious, given how bumbling he is around her, and pushing off their almost-certain relationship is even more forced, Silicon Valley follows the example of most TV shows in that it keeps its lead single no matter what. I wish the writers would go there or forever close the door, rather than leave this thread flapping in the wind, and maybe next season they will. There is enough tension without this.
Silicon Valley is terrific because of its mix of dirty jokes and interesting personalities. There is a lot of conflict among the characters; Gilfoyle (Martin Starr) and Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) even think about abandoning the company mid-episode, and that drives the story. It’s not a group of guys that inherently like each other at the start, but they are united by shared purpose and dreams of fortunes. As they go through these trials together, they will probably grow into fast friends, but that’s likely to happen without any of them realizing it, a welcome departure from people who really want to be together.
The show makes sure to serve each of the characters well. Erlich trying to start rumors about Belson to the press, dancing around anything that could seriously get him into trouble, is hilarious and a totally perfect moment for him. Gilfoyle and Dinesh wrestling with their consciences is terrific, convincing themselves they aren’t dickheads as they are being dickheads. Even Jared (Zach Woods) tosses in a great contribution to the jerk-off equation when he brings up girth, finally feeling like part of the group. Each is a distinct individual, and each has their own piece of the plot, getting development and growth for their characters.
It’s fantastic that Richard’s inspiration comes from the team calculating how Erlich can jerk off 800 dicks most efficiently. It’s a throwaway line at first that the guys, tired and slap-happy, can’t help but double and triple down on, until it grows into a beast of his own. This gives Richard his eureka moment, but it also beautifully illustrates the dynamic of the group and tone of the series, taking something ridiculous completely serious and geeking out over it. It’s a perfect sequence, saving a last-minute save from being too cheesy or stylistically abrupt.
A glaring hole in “Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency” is the missing Peter Gregory (Christopher Evan Welch), weirdest of the weird and Pied Piper’s benefactor. The reason the part is absent is because the actor passed away from cancer prior to completion of the season. Rather than write him out immediately, Silicon Valley treads water, keeping him alive by mentioning where he is, but fans will likely miss his fantastic performance. What the show will do from here is still up in the air, and he is not easily replaced.
Even without Gregory, though, Silicon Valley delivers a nearly flawless season finale, with plot and characters well served, twists feeling fresh even when they shouldn’t, and a good, new starting place for next year to pick up from. I’ve been impressed with the entire first year of the show, and sticking a landing like this should solidify it as a must-watch by the time it returns.
A second season has been ordered, and Silicon Valley will likely be back on HBO in early 2015.[amazon template=iframe image&chan=default&asin=B00JVMQ70K]