NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of “Silicon Valley” are present in this review
After floundering a bit last week, Silicon Valley better found its footing again in this week’s episode, “To Build a Better Beta”, even if the humour still isn’t quite reaching the brilliant highs of earlier in the season. Still, this episode had a strong hook, as Richard and the Pied Piper crew decide to launch a closed beta for their integrated platform, which nets a very surprising reaction from the people they share it with!
Immediately, the show inverting the expected reactions worked to sublime effect. The stingy and critical nerds loving the platform was a pleasant surprise, and this made for another effective and well-earned victory for the guys, as they take their next step towards launching their passion project. It was equally effective to have Monica be the one user who disliked the platform and didn’t really understand it, despite wanting to like it the most, though this also led to a teachable moment for the ever-neurotic Richard, who learns that he can’t please everyone, and just needs to have faith in what he’s doing. All in all, this was a very satisfying result, and one that saw a welcome dose of optimism to the guys’ usual struggles this week.
Again though, the episode wasn’t really full of laugh-out-loud moments so much, even if there was still amusement to go around. The funniest joke of the episode was probably Dinesh appearing to be charitable with his requisite ten beta invites after ribbing Gilfoyle about having no friends, with the episode ending off with Dinesh predictably getting caught red-handed with having no friends outside of Pied Piper himself, but exploiting the discovery that Monica lied about using the platform, since she didn’t want to tell Richard that she didn’t like it. The Dinesh/Gilfoyle humour was pretty consistently on-point, even if the rest of the jokes were a bit more uneven this week.
A big weak point in the episode is unfortunately its subplot with Erlich and Big Head, which isn’t devoid of humour, but definitely doesn’t feel rich with it either. After trying to process being broke, another twist comes to Erlich’s attention, whereupon he learns that the business manager embezzled and subsequently lost six million dollars, which is one of the main reasons why the two men lost all their funds. After confronting the guy about it, then City Hall, Erlich and Big Head learn that they really can’t do anything, since, even if they win a lawsuit, the money is gone forever, and their partnership is still dead. If Erlich doesn’t pay the people he owes money to though, the city will absolutely prosecute him for that.
As you can see, this got fairly dramatic for Silicon Valley standards, and almost too dramatic, frankly. The Erlich/Big Head struggles felt a bit excessively grim in the end, especially when they ended with Erlich having to secretly sell his shares in Pied Piper, right as Richard launches the platform to the public at the end of the episode. This would have been a good turn for the season’s climax, and probably still will be, but it sucks that the show just couldn’t mine more laughs from what’s supposed to be a pretty funny mishandling of funds, or at least it was before. When it turns into a serious case of embezzlement that Erlich and Big Head are helpless to stop, that might be a little too real to maintain the show’s entertainment value.
Fortunately, Gavin Belson and Hooli were still around to inject some decent humour into the episode as well, even if this plot also came apart a bit towards the end itself. The End Frame employees and Nucleus employees get wind of the beta, and withhold the information from Gavin Belson, who later learns of it from a spoofed E-mail account, and tries to spy on the technology. When he’s inevitably caught by the Pied Piper gang though, they hit Gavin with a ZIP Bomb, which spurs him to order all of the power shut off to the Hooli building. Again, this initially presents more hysterical impotence on the part of Gavin, but when he starts losing almost all of his workforce to his latest fit of comical stupidity, it does sort of take Hooli out of the equation for possibly the rest of the season, and that’s a let-down. Gavin has been known to bounce back quickly before, but he’s already fired and re-hired a bunch of people, so can he really do that all over again in any satisfying fashion?
The Pied Piper crew launching their platform is a huge step, and one that will probably serve as the basis for the season’s final trio of episodes. “To Build a Better Beta” did represent a small lull as the show prepares to move to greater and more ambitious plot developments in store for the climax of Season Three, but it was still entertaining and satisfying enough to get by. The beta build of Pied Piper’s platform may have been received well, but will the public be a different story? It’s satisfying to see the guys score another well-deserved win, and they’ve been fairly lucky this season. Considering their history though, one definitely has to wonder when their luck is going to run out again.
- The surprising reactions to Pied Piper's beta platform
- Gavin's latest sabotage biting him in the ass
- Dinesh and Gilfoyle hassling each other about their social circles
- Erlich/Big Head subplot is too grim
- Gavin yet again losing his workforce