“Maleant Data Systems Solutions”

Grade: B-

The One Step Forward, Two Steps Back mechanism for this show is broken. It’s out of control.

We pick up right where we left off in episode three. Richard’s team has been caught red-handed with a plan to get out from under the thumb of newly appointed CEO Jack Barker. They want to build their platform, but Jack wants them to build “The Box.” Richard came up with the idea for The Box as he was explaining to a member of Jack Barker’s ad team what the company shouldn’t build. It was the worst possible thing Richard could think of to take time away from their building of the platform.

silicon-valley

But almost immediately — within the same opening scene, in fact — Richard gets what he wants. He sees that as part of the agreement with the buyers of The Box, “Maleant,” Pied Piper must come up with a prototype within 10 weeks, and the only other people “in the world” who are capable of doing what Richard and his team can do work at EndFrame, Pied Piper’s competition. This means if they so choose, Richard can just hold out and do nothing until the 10 weeks are up, and neither of the men get what they want. At least then Richard would have his revenge.

But couldn’t all of this have been avoided if Richard had just carefully read the agreement he surely had access to? It seems like all he had to do was pay attention and all of this season’s story would go down the drain. It’s such a simple fix to what became a big problem. It feels contrived.

In the past, Silicon Valley has created road blocks for the team so that they don’t immediately get what they want. That’s okay. That’s necessary to make a story last, to develop character, to create a season-long plot as well as self-contained plots, but in this case, none of it felt earned. Once I knew how easily it could’ve been avoided, I felt cheated. You could argue Richard would be too flustered, too upset to look over the fine print of the company’s agreement with Maleant. Okay, sure. I can buy that. But based on the seasons prior, I refuse to believe that Donald, so frequently the show’s saving grace, wouldn’t have gone over the deal, especially as he handles the business end of Pied Piper.

matt-ross-sv-19201There are some good things about this episode, like the return of two of my favourite characters: Gavin Belson, and Bighead. Both characters date back to episode one of the series, and so they loom large when they return. Gavin Belson has been around this season, but not as a major player. This is his return. He buys EndFrame for a large sum of money, large enough that it sends Pied Piper’s value up so high that Laurie, truly in control of Pied Piper, already at odds with Jack after he says she “can’t do a damn thing” about their goings on, is able to fire him…

And that’s it. Jack’s gone. He posed a massive threat to the team and he’s gone, just like that, after three episodes. If he returns, I’ll be less annoyed, but once again this felt like a wrench in the machine, unnecessary in the long run.

Bighead, despite his small stature, is a big presence, a rorschach test for all the characters that interact with him. He’s valuable to the cast of Silicon Valley and to the writers of the series. He’s been lurking on the fringe since the end of the first season, so when he appears here, it makes sense. It’s in keeping with the show. Now he’s given Erlich a place to stay.
There are some good setups for the rest of the season in this episode, but until we see them payoff, Richard’s consistently hollow victories keep my enjoyment on a short leash.

But such is the structure of this show. Richard Hendricks has the rug pulled out from under him so often I wonder why he doesn’t stare at the ground in perpetuity. Maybe then he’d have noticed the garden hose in the office last episode. Maybe it has to be that way for the style of comedy on which this series has made its name.

Thomas Middleditch as Richard shines in certain moments, like the face smash in the first scene. I hope I see no end to the dynamic at play between Martin Starr (Gilfoyle) and Kumail Nanjiani (Dinesh). T.J. Miller’s (Erlich) verbal diarrhea grew tiresome over the course of the episode, but every so often it has its bright spots. Amanda Crew (Monica) is underrated as the only true straight man on a show filled with characters playing the straight man. Zach Woods as Donald forever.

Some Bits I Liked:

  • “I’m big enough. Are you, big… head?”
  • Re: Gavin’s bulldog, “Bring it back here. Look at that hideous face.”
  • “More useless than a bag of dicks without a handle.”
  • Elrich’s bong-coughs
  • The jaguar-gazelle-cheetah discussion
  • The entire turn around of enthusiasm for The Box
  • “Umdane?” “My name is Dane.” “Oh– oh okay.”
  • “Shared aesthetic vocabulary”
  • Donald’s bison story — so courageous

 

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