Silicon Valley Season 1 Episode 2 Review: The Cap Table
With the decision now made to launch a startup, the show’s nerds begin their entrepreneurship struggles.
Now that the meeky Richard Hendricks has decided that startup is the way to go, it looks like we’re going to be treated to a host of entrepreneurial challenges that the group faces along the way. And the first one is presented right in the show’s opening moments when Richard and Erlich walk up to Peter Gregory, expecting him to guide them on their path to incorporation. Instead, they quickly realize Gregory is a tough mentor who expects a lot more of them and quickly dispenses them off to draft a business plan detailing the company’s shareholding and distribution. I was half-expecting Monica to jump into Richard’s aid in secret but it looks like that isn’t happening yet.
Silicon Valley squeals in delight at the prospect of putting its protagonists in trouble. The “programmers” are shown to be clueless in the dynamics of business management and quickly realize that running a company is going to involve quite a bit of that. Thankfully, Donald “Jared” Dunn shows up as their savior who defected from Hooli to join the ragtag bunch of scavengers. His departure does come across as a bit jarring, seeing as there was no specific indication made of Jared despising the Hooli life; it also seems a little unlike the timid Jared to quit an immensely well-paying job overnight for a role that may not even have a guaranteed future. It was definitely an out of the blue plot point but one that the show needed to help Richard progress with his B-plan.
That proposal quickly comes to Richard and Jared interviewing the company’s first “employees” about their roles in the organization. Both Gilfoyle and Dinesh are able to sell the importance of their contributions with conviction, Gilfoyle adding a lot of technological mumbo-jumbo and exaggerating the work he does by citing safety from packet sniffing and fradulent internet transaction management as examples while also claiming he’s one of those responsible for preventing the PetaBytes of data flowing around the internet from getting corrupted and breaking the chain and it’s done in a hilarious manner that, techies will certainly be able to relate to. It also brings out an interesting rivalry dynamic between Dinesh and Gilfoyle, with the duo’s constant need to one-up the other for sure to be played out for laughs in subsequent episodes. And again, it’s conveyed rather subtly with the rants being granted the over-the-top moments, ensuring the character dynamic doesn’t really lose its charm.
This brings us to the gang’s truly useless member: Nelson “Big Head” Bighetti. Josh Brener plays Big Head as an absolute naive misfit in the otherwise corrupt world of Silicon Valley who, by his own admission, hasn’t really done anything significant. You can sense Richard wanting him to stay shut but Nelson outs himself as a liability to Pied Piper quickly than anyone can brand him as such. It’s played for laughs, sure, but there’s a brief poignant side to it as well when Big Head expresses his desire as nothing else but to earn money by programming on computers, not concerned about investor shares or “percentage points”. Which is why, in another jarring shift, he betrays the very friend who stands by him when he accepts Gavin Belson’s counter-offer of a $600,000 annual salary with a promotion.
Not only does this dampen some of the impact of the prior moments, it kind of underscores Thomas Middleditch’s impressive performance when he so unnervingly stood out for his best friend. Then again, it’s also genius in a way for Richard to be betrayed yet again by his close friend when even he develops a selfish interest in the Valley and is concerned more about his pay-package than Pied Piper, proving he wasn’t so naive after all. It’s a hole in the arm to Richard who closes out the episode with a disappointment and it’s just lovely to see Thomas Middleditch play out the kinks of Richard’s shattered confidence with such nuance that you’re almost coerced into sympathising with his plight.
Once again, borrowing from Silicon Valley parlance, The Cap Table means essentially laying out the company’s shareholder distribution plan, defining such things as percentage ownership, stock vesting options and other terms and conditions that make it clear who gets what stake in the company. The above recap-cum-review should convince you this was basically what this episode was all about. And it was a thoroughly enjoyable one that, minus some of the abrupt character shifts, is a shining example of stellar writing and direction to give us some dazzlingly fresh comedy.
Silicon Valley Season 1 Episode 2 Rating: 8.5 out of 10
I’m doing individual episode reviews of HBO’s Silicon Valley in light of the upcoming final Season 6. While I’ve seen Seasons 1-3 before, I’m still writing with a fresh perspective, keeping references to future episodes down to a minimum.