As an episode, the Silicon Valley season 3 finale was pretty disappointing. It wasn’t especially funny or exciting and a couple extremely sloppy plot points were very distracting. But, the nice thing about the episode was that the new status quo it set up is full of potential and makes me excited for season 4.
In this episode, Richard Hendricks found out that Jared Dunn had started paying for active users to increase Pied Piper’s numbers. Oddly, Richard was fine with them continuing this action until Pied Piper runs out of money. The point he made last week about giving the remaining employees at least some money to walk away with after all their labor wasn’t brought up at all, despite seeming like a natural conflict.
Erlich Bachman told Richard that he had a new seed firm interested in funding the company, thanks to the daily active user numbers which Erlich didn’t know were falsely inflated. Jared reminded Richard that taking funding based on these inflated numbers would be fraud. What was odd is that neither of them brought up the question of why Jared purchased the extra users in the first place, if not for this exact thing. It’s not that I don’t buy that Jared would make this purchase in a moment of panic and then regret it, but it wasn’t even a conversation. He acted as though it made sense for him to be willing to drain the last of their money on purchased users for no reason, but that actually letting the company benefit from this was something he never considered. Richard even mentions that the inflated numbers were “just to make the guys feel better.” You know what would have made them feel better? Getting to walk away from Pied Piper with at least some money.
Anyway, Richard’s conscience stopped him from letting the seed firm buy Pied Piper and he disclosed that the daily active user numbers were falsely inflated. Erlich naturally got angry at him for not telling him sooner and letting Erlich put together a deal based on these numbers.
Monica Hall found out about all this and was bizarrely forgiving. She told Richard that she understands why he went to another company. I find it hard to believe that she would be so understanding of the fact that he secretly inflated Pied Piper’s numbers, then tried to fix the situation by abandoning Raviga in order to dupe a different company. She went on to say that even though she understands, Laurie Bream is going to have to force a sale of Pied Piper because she can’t stand for even a hint of fraud.
Meanwhile, the painfully unfunny running gag of Gavin Belson bringing different animals into Hooli’s board meetings became an actual plot point when an elephant he’d rented died on Hooli property and he wanted to secretly and illegally have it flown to the ocean to be disposed of. Patrice angrily quit and then ratted him out to reporter CJ Cantwell. The obvious problems with this plot point go on and on: why was it Gavin’s responsibility when he’d rented the elephant legally and surely they have some plan in place for the animals they rent out dying? How did Gavin expect to get away with this and keep it secret when there was a giant elephant on Hooli property? Why would he let Patrice, who is privy to seemingly all his secrets, just walk away without an NDA when earlier we saw him give Big Head $20 million just to protect his secrets? This clunky plot point was all so Gavin could buy CodeRag, leading to Erlich and Big Head getting a million dollars.
This all led up to the episode’s climax. Laurie held a board meeting to force a sale of Pied Piper to the highest bidder. The twist in the scene was that the highest bidder wasn’t Gavin, it was Erlich and Big Head. The idea that Laurie would have an official vote without revealing the identity of the person buying Pied Piper requires huge suspension of disbelief and I’m not sure this pay off was really worth it.
But, as I said, the upside of this episode is the groundwork it laid out. Next season will get a version of this company owned by Erlich and Big Head. Richard and Erlich’s relationship has always been one of the strongest parts of the show and Big Head has always been delightful but oddly peripheral to the story, so this change seems great. The company will also be pivoting to focus on Dinesh Chugtai’s video chat app. I’m extremely excited to see Dinesh be a major plot player and not just a vehicle for great one-liners and subplots.
I hope they really let the tension between Dinesh and Richard play out, rather than softening him. That kind of conflict was what this episode was missing. Just like Monica was completely forgiving of Richard nearly committing fraud, Dinesh took the fact that Richard and Jared took underhanded actions to falsify Pied Piper’s data rather than hear him out about switching to his video chat tech awfully well.
Silicon Valley season 3 was at its best when Richard was being called out for being entitled– look at “Founder Friendly” or “The Empty Chair,” which were stand out episodes. Yet, repeatedly characters like Monica and Dinesh were written passively just to make it easier for Richard to get from one plot point to the next.
This season demonstrated how important plot really is to Silicon Valley. If Brooklyn Nine-Nine or New Girl has a meandering plot or has to quickly change directions when something isn’t working, it’s not that big a deal because you watch those shows to laugh and because of the characters. Silicon Valley is the rare comedy where you’re watching to find out what happens, which is why this season often felt so unsatisfying even when it had funny scenes. I can only hope Silicon Valley season 4 has a stronger plot and allows the supporting characters to feel properly motivated.