Silicon Valley 3.9: “Daily Active Users” Review

NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of “Silicon Valley” are present in this review



Pied Piper seemed to be riding high over the past several episodes of Silicon Valley, but the greater they are, the harder they fall, it would seem. Once again, the guys hit a pretty big snag for this week’s penultimate episode of Silicon Valley’s third season, “Daily Active Users”, in that plenty of people are installing the Pied Piper platform, but almost no one is sticking with it. This somewhat undermines a lavish and eccentric party thrown by Laurie for 500,000 installs of the platform, with Richard admitting to Monica during the occasion that she may have been right about the platform being impenetrable.

Turns out, the Pied Piper platform is so brilliant and ahead of its time that no one really understands how to use it. Richard got tons of amazing feedback from the beta, but he also gave it to fellow computer engineers and programmers, not everyday people. After holding a series of focus group meetings, just about everyone says that the Pied Piper platform is very intimidating and difficult to figure out, and this eventually has Richard bursting in on one of them to give an exasperated explanation.

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The good news is that Richard eventually convinces the group to fall in love with the platform, after what’s presumably a long time and a lot of whiteboard scribbling. The bad news however is that this isn’t helping the daily active user base, and if Pied Piper can’t achieve any more daily active users, then the company won’t receive a new round of funding. Thus begins a big advertising initiative, including tutorials and demos at events like CES, which doesn’t come at the best of times, since the company already blew most of its ad money on a hilariously vague chair-themed commercial, which is shown in full at the very start of this episode, and that means that they don’t have much to put towards a new ad.

While the circumstances at Pied Piper have once again become pretty grim, this episode still ended up being one of the best episodes of Silicon Valley in several weeks, not just because it was well-written and very funny, but also because it found a clever story concept that once again put the guys to the test, when it seemed like they had nowhere to go but up. It also helps that lesser story arcs like the Jack Barker regime and the Erlich/Big Head partnership are over at this point, but, “Daily Active Users” felt like an especially great return to form, since it was both very funny and very clever with its last-minute struggle for Season Three’s big climax both this week, and in next week’s season finale.

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Richard even gets pretty low in this episode too, to the point where things seem so hopeless that he even considers shutting down the company. Jared tries to console Richard into pressing on, but Richard seems to have firmly given up, after a hilarious, WordPerfect Paperclip-satirizing Pied Piper caricature seemingly only makes things worse in terms of explaining how the platform works to everyday users. Actually, Jared gave Dinesh a bit of an inadvertent break this week overall, since he attracted Gilfoyle’s usual scorn his way for a change, as Gilfoyle constantly tries to prove that Jared is both a terrible liar, and excessively bound to a moral convention that makes him uncomfortable with dishonesty.

This made the episode’s ending twist especially fantastic, as Richard prepares to tell the guys that the company is being shut down the following morning, only to find out that the daily active user base has spiked, and is continuing to climb. It seems like a small shot in the dark has led to surprising good fortune, but obviously, there’s more to this event than luck. Turns out, Jared has been buying users at a click farm in Bangladesh, nicely piggybacking off of a barbed quip that was made earlier in the episode, in a desperate bid to save the company. I imagine that this dark secret will come out in the season finale next week, and Jared’s deception set that up very well, especially since he could stick it to Gilfoyle at the same time, even though Gilfoyle immediately suspected that something was up, as was subtly implied when he asks Jared if the users are legitimate.

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An entertaining subplot also unfolded at Hooli this week, and one that once again shifted the scales completely, right as Gavin Belson appeared to be at his lowest. After being banished to the roof in last week’s episode, Gavin has the random fortune of hearing from a former Pied Piper designer that jumped ship, who confirms that Pied Piper’s platform is impenetrable, and has a terrible DAU count. Gavin seizes the opportunity to claim to the board at Hooli that he lied about his ill-fated platform as a means to trick his enemies, and the way that the show acknowledged Gavin’s tendency to use animals in his board meetings for comic effect was especially hilarious. Another excellent story turn was also had here, as Jack Barker briefly appears at the board meeting, before Gavin lures the board to an actual elephant to tell them that he won’t forget what they did (classic Gavin), and Barker tells the board that they’ll be reviving his box idea for Hooli! This will probably be a big focus in Season Four next year, but the idea of the product that Pied Piper rejected now being turned against them is something with tons of promise to look forward to later!

It’s ironic that Silicon Valley seemed to rebound so exceptionally on the same week that Game of Thrones finally found its footing again in HBO’s previous timeslot, but regardless, “Daily Active Users” has the show preparing to enter next week’s season finale on a pretty exciting note. Richard was just barely stopped from swinging the axe on Pied Piper, but at what cost? Likewise, Gavin has teamed with Jack Barker for a big attempt to strike back at his rival company, but his not-so-veiled threat to the board also seems to show that he hasn’t learned his lesson when it comes to arrogance and being a loose cannon. One thing is for sure; Next week’s season finale of Silicon Valley is sure to be an eventful one!

Silicon Valley fully returned to form with an excellent episode this week, one that nearly destroys Pied Piper, just as Gavin Belson finds his way back to the top.
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The public feedback to the Pied Piper platform, and how Richard responds to it
Gavin and Barker reviving the box idea for Hooli
Jared's morally ambiguous effort to save Pied Piper