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Silicon Valley Season 3 Review: 3.4: Maleant Data Systems Solutions

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This week’s episode of Silicon Valley season 3 wasn’t nearly as exciting as last week’s, but it had a lot of great moments. In particular, the board room scene was probably the best scene we’ve gotten yet for Monica Hall and the actress who plays her, Amanda Crew. Monica standing up against Laurie Bream and Jack Barker at her own risk showed how much she can add to the story when she’s being an active character. Crew played it perfectly, putting a waver in Monica’s voice that got the gravity of the situation across, while Monica determined in her decision. The following scene in which Jared Dunn emphasized what a pointless and futile attempt to help Monica’s stand was put a great pin in the whole sequence.

“Maleant Data Systems Solutions” was also a great episode for Laurie. When Jack bragged about how Laurie’s hands are completely tied, she had almost no reaction. But, at the end of the episode the guys arrived at Pied Piper to discover that Jack had been fired. This show is full of people getting emotional, blowing up and acting impulsively. It was truly refreshing to watch Laurie stay calm in the moment, weigh her options and then take action against Jack. She’s officially my hero.

With Jack out, of course Richard’s immediate question was whether he’s the CEO again. Laurie said that he’s not and then quickly added that Erlich Bachman also isn’t, before he could even ask. Laurie telling the group that for now the CEO chair would remain empty didn’t have the dramatic impact that most Silicon Valley episode endings do. I almost felt like this episode would have been stronger if it had ended on Jared and Erlich’s revelation that Gavin Belson had inadvertently helped them when he purchased Endframe, which is the kind of surprising story punch I expect a Silicon Valley episode to go out on.

Speaking of Gavin, he came back in a big way this week after being absent from last week’s episode. The revelation that his spiritual advisor Denpok Singh is actually pulling his strings quite a bit in order to keep the perks of his job was great. I’ve loved watching Gavin’s development from a seemingly untouchable cold billionaire in season one to the person we saw in this week’s episode, who crumbled immediately at the very suggestion that people might say mean things about him. The writing has very naturally pulled back layers on him in order to achieve this and actor Matt Ross plays every side of Gavin perfectly, so he really comes off as a coherent character even with all his contradictions.

While I enjoyed many of Gavin’s scenes this week– in particular his conversation with Denpok, his welcome to the “new” Hooli employees, and his call to Richard– the board room scene in which he used a bulldog as a metaphor dragged on for quite a while. I get why production would want to squeeze as much material out of this as possible if they’re going to the trouble of working with a dog, but the whole bit felt extremely one-note.

Overall, a lack of story momentum kept “Maleant Data Systems Solution” from being a great episode, despite some outstanding laughs and character moments. The episode continued where “Meinertzhagen’s Haversack” left off, with Jack calling the guys into his office after seeing their plans to commit felony fraud. Richard Hendricks actually stood up to him, pointing out that he, Dinesh Chugtai and Bertram Gilfoyle are three of the only engineers in the world who are proficient in middle-out compression. He was given a great moment of genuine glory before face-planting on Jack’s desk. On the one hand, this was a great scene for Richard’s character, but it also deflated a lot of the story tension that had built up so beautifully at the end of the previous episode.

After this, Richard, Dinesh and Gilfoyle were tasked with creating the box Jack wanted, but demanded to only meet the minimum requirements for it so that they could build the platform faster. However, their skills kicked in and they couldn’t help but design a brilliant box. This led to some very adorable scenes, like them all insisting that they don’t care at all about the design while arguing fervently about which animal the box is most like. There was also some Dinesh and Richard talking in sync that was truly beautiful. Making a quality box ended up being their undoing, since suddenly the appliance started to look like it could be a better investment than the platform. This problem was solved brilliantly when Gavin– in an attempt to get revenge– bought Endframe, which ended up only proving the extremely high value of a middle-out compression platform.

This all sounds like a formula for a great episode, but too many meandering scenes and extra plot threads took the air out of it a bit. When they find out that not only did Gavin solve their problem, but Laurie also already fired Jack, it felt like there were suddenly too many solutions to the same problem. This is not how you want to feel about a show that is generally all about keeping the characters on their toes and keeping the problems coming faster than they can handle them.

Erlich’s plotline felt meandering despite the automatic comedy brilliance that comes from pairing up Erlich’s brazeness with Big Head’s soft, easygoing spirit. I’ll wait to see how it plays out, but Erlich forcing a team up didn’t feel like the best choice for this storyline. A rivalry that’s entirely in Erlich’s head while Big Head continually beats him by accident seems like a better way to go. Partially, for the tension and partially for plausibility. Even generally clueless Big Head seems to understand that a team up with Erlich doesn’t benefit him at all, so I’m  not sure how far Erlich will really be able to get with this. That said, Big Head explaining that he started a rival incubator solely because big houses get scary at night time is one of my favorite character details for this entire show.

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