Silicon Valley puts a new spin on the term bad money when Richard Hendricks decides to go with egocentric, has-been billionaire Russ Hannemen instead of taking Gavin Belson’s offer that he had almost set his mind to. He strongly believes it to be a good decision in light of how terribly the team reacts at the prospect of working for Hooli but red flags emerge when even someone as strong-headed as Monica expresses concern over Richard choosing to side with Russ than Gavin. And this is when Gavin is suing them.
That makes you wonder what kind of a guy Russ Hanneman could be. That’s where Chris Diamantopoulos comes in, giving an explosive, eccentric performance that’s nothing short of dynamite. He’s partly arrogant, uber confident and often talks to the point but is incredibly self-centered. And yet, unlike someone you’d expect to meet in the show at this level, he isn’t plain dumb. He’s smart enough to not hand Richard a $5 million check outright, but deliver chunks of cash in accordance with PP’s burnout rate. And he drafts his contract to give himself two seats at the board table.
His magnetic charisma ends up repelling nearly everyone except Erlich. At once taking a liking to Russ, Erlich tries his best to impress him and win some favors, or at least a nod of appreciation or acknowledgment, only to be snubbed by Russ every time he’s approached. It turns into a running gag throughout the episode that has the potential to wear thin but thankfully doesn’t. Seeing Erlich out-Erliched by someone won’t get old so soon. Meanwhile Gilfoyle emerges as the episode’s breakout as he delivers sarcastic one-liners that Russ realizes are true at some level but laughs it off, for want of coming back with a strong comeback.
Russ takes the centerstage for pretty much the entire episode which does push back some plot progression. Even so, funny bits abound, such as the resource problem where Gilfoyle and Dinesh ask for an exhorbitant number of people to code, just to mess around with Richard. Beneath the humor is an underlying principle of software development: if you’re given the opportunity to hire more resources, you definitely will, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work with less. And Jared shares some fun Julia Roberts banter with Richard, who still struggles with his speaking issues. Speaking of which, Russ delivers another Silicon Valley lesson: it’s not always about chasing revenue.
Gavin Belson on his part, gets caught up in a mess of his own making as he compares the troubles of billionaires to the atrocities inflicted upon Jews by Hitler. I’m not sure how that joke resonated with audiences worldwide but the good thing is, the audience in the show’s talk show didn’t take it well either, landing Gavin into some deep PR trouble. That is to say, it still concludes with his team of lawyers figuring out how to use Big Head to counteract Pied Piper’s claims of having built the tech themselves.
Overall, this was an episode too heavy on Russ Hanneman and while he can begin to get on your nerves a little, I still enjoyed the time spent watching it. And Pied Piper just keeps digging itself into a whole gigantic mess. You’d think they’d have it easy after winning $50,000 at Techcrunch Disrupt but it sure looks like getting a startup up and running is a whole lot messier than it’s made out to be, which is one of the things I love about Mike Judge’s show.
Silicon Valley Season 2 Episode 3 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 1-4 before, I’m still writing with a fresh perspective, keeping references to future episodes down to a minimum.