Silicon Valley took the world by storm with its first season, but the caustic, geek-centric, culture commentary show had a lot to work out to get a second season to fly, and while still better than quite a bit of the television world, it didn’t quite make it to the level of the first few episodes of the show.
The second kicks off by finally addressing the death of Christopher Evan Welch, who played Peter Gregory. While the show figured out ways to dodge his loss at the end of the first season, it was something that had to be explained for the show to continue. The show also had to take a turn away from the success of our crew of tech-geeks, lest the show lose all perspective. You can’t really rip on the culture of super start-ups and the general world of tech stars if you take it over and start running the bachanalia.
Much as the show already has extremely loyal fans, it begins to show the cracks almost immediately in the second season. It’s a show built around a theory of awkwardness incarnate, but it often throws out awkward for its own sake, developing scenes that are clearly odd and/or awkward, without bothering to take the next step and figure out if they’re actually funny. The scene where we learn how Peter Gregory died (or don’t) is a prime example, and the season is just getting underway.
Beyond that, the first two episodes of the season spend a lot of time on establishment, laying the groundwork for what we’re going to see, and the result is that the show doesn’t feel as open to actually moving. We have to set up the competition, because winning a TechCrunch award doesn’t mean the other companies are going to leave you alone, which means we’ve foreshadowed the machinations that will soon play out. Stay Tuned!
Even when it’s funny, and it is, it seems written within the constraint of a flowchart we need to move through, and an expanding group of players. Still, the show never loses sight of the ultimate goal of tearing down tech and business giants, and taking shots at the vipers and psychotics who run things. But, through the first few episodes things are limited to throwing out a few key moments, mostly in the form of things like Data-geddon monologues.
Once into episode 4 or 5, it’s like stepping into another show. The shackles come off, and the show just roams around, which is most of what made it great in the first place. Watching Thomas Middleditch and T.J. Miller just run with a situation is the driving force here, and overworking the long arc just detracts from their abilities. When the show just lets the stars, including everyone at Pied Piper, take hold of the characters’ responses, that’s where it takes off. This isn’t a show that actually has audiences caring what’s going on, it’s just hanging out with these guys that is hilarious. In fact, the curious dance the show has to maintain (which plays out in a great microcosm in the first episode) is that you want Richard (Middleditch) to succeed as the “lost puppy in a world of sharks” character, but he’s the most fun to watch when he’s getting smacked down by the system he doesn’t really want to be part of anyway.
As I said, the show powers through, and it’s still solid enough to maintain things through the rough opening of the season. That’s the trouble with being such a great show, maintaining a level that meets expectations becomes practically impossible.
The Digital Release includes a trailer, preview, and two bonus featurettes.
Reality Bytes: The Art & Science Behind Silicon Valley is about three minutes, and really it’s just a behind-the-scenes run, mostly with Mike Judge talking about how they put things together so that it seems as realistic as possible. That turns out to mostly be a result of actually doing whatever it is that happens in the show.
Invitation to the Set is about five minutes, and is one of the better behind-the-scenes looks you’re going to get for a television show. Walk around with the cast and crew, and largely in a more “real” structure, as opposed to something put together just to have another notch on the Blu-Ray release. There’s a lot of just hanging out with the cast, and learning what it’s like to film the show, and fans are going to like it far more than your average throwaway bonus.