Silicon Valley ends its run with its series finale, delivering a solid, poignant episode with many callbacks to the old times while still maintaining its premise and staying true to its characters, right down to the last frame. It was incredibly touching to see the guys go through the events, then recall the times they spent at the incubator working on early builds of Pied Piper before settling down and coming to accept the hand that life had dealt them.
After their unexpected success at RussFest, thanks largely to an AI written using their middle-out compression, Pied Piper gets offered a deal by AT&T and is set to launch their network out to the US. However, Richard discovers a glaring flaw from an astute observation that leads them to realize their network is capable of cracking even the most secure of encryption and thus, needs to be shut down for the betterment of humanity. The resulting events see them wrestle with, then accept and finally attempt to implement a plan to sabotage their own launch event so they could get AT&T to reject the deal.
To lend things the perspective of closure, an alternate narrative is filmed in cinematic documentary style that chronicles the journey of Pied Piper by speaking to its main players 10 years in the future. We see aged iterations of our core gang, though not that aged since it’s only 10 years, and some like Monica appear to maintain their pristine image even a decade down the line. We also have appearances from some of the old players along with their fates revealed: Gavin Belson has founded his “Tethics” institute and is a part-time sleaze writer, Laurie Bream is in jail and Jian-Yang is dead (or is he?). As if to truly honor every major person in the show, Richard also calls back to Peter Gregory with an image of the late Christopher Evan Welch flashing on the big screen.
The beauty about the structural premise of the episode is how it stays true to the incompetence of our lead characters, yet hands them a win they wouldn’t be able to share with everyone. Essentially, the storyline rests on Richard and team needing to shut down Pipernet in order to “save humanity”. If there’s one thing we know that the guys have done well consistently is to fail, and fail in the most unexpected, bizarre and at times spectacular of ways that no one would see coming. It’s fitting then that the show’s conclusion relies on the guys to succeed at the one thing that they’ve excelled at the most: failing.
And yet, the fact that Richard’s network is capable of building an AI that in turn can crack encryption as sophisticated as “P-256” or even Tesla’s secure encryption means they’ve built a network that’s so efficient that it can break through any barrier in its way. It could go on to become a privacy nightmare, crack nuclear codes and just develop into every apocalyptic sci-fi nightmare we’ve witnessed in Hollywood. The fact that their network was capable of birthing this AI and consequently making itself highly efficient is their biggest success, effectively proving that their concept works. It just works too well.
The sequences 10-years later are rightfully filled with nostalgic callbacks. As useless as he has been, it feels heartwarming to see Nelson Bigetti to be included with the gang; it’s even funnier to see the documentary crew explain to him the reason for his nickname “Big Head”. And he continues to be the most successful, having become President of Stanford. Again, I like how minimalist and subtle the outcomes are: everyone isn’t on the streets, no one is crying themselves to death, they all consider this to be a part of their life experience and have moved on. Richard teaches “tethics” at Gavin’s institute, Jared works at an old-age home and gets the care of parents he never received and Monica works for a “non-profit” though the implications are really something deeper and more sinister. And Dinesh & Gilfoyle? They’ve co-founded a cybersecurity firm together with the writers insinuating a gay relationship between the two, or leaving the door open.
As the crew visit their old incubator there are memories of old episodes playing out. The fervent coding sessions, the startup hustle, Richard smashing through the door, callbacks galore make you highly emotional if you’ve been following the series since its inception. And yet, an entire generation will grow up without even aware of Pied Piper’s existence, the company that was once valued at $8 billion. It’s like an older generation born to a world where Napster or Nokia or Netscape isn’t a thing anymore. Quite true to life.
But really the fundamental lesson of the series is encapsulated in the small game that they play; flipping a ball so that it lands “always blue”. Back in Season 3, a potentially season-long feud between Richard and Erlich is dissolved in an instant when a scene hinting as such cuts straight to them enjoying a game of always blue. For all the big stuff that you can accomplish in life, it’s sometimes the smaller things that are infinitely more valuable and bring a joy to your face. Our gang struggled and got crushed under the burden of an insane valuation and success, and yet this seemingly simple game makes them forget the blunders of the past and enjoy the time as is, in the moment.
Silicon Valley has proved to be highly resourceful and crisp with its writing and it showed right down to the final episode. Every character got handed a fate that was in line with their characterization. Richard continues to be clumsy to date, so clumsy in fact that he misplaces his last bit of Pied Piper code, perhaps a way for Mike Judge and Alec Berg to end on an ambiguous note of sorts in case a comeback is possible. There are no overtly happy endings, nor soul-crushingly sad ones as dejected as you may feel with Pied Piper’s outcome. It’s also just bonkers how cleverly the name Pied Piper ties into the outcome of the ultrasonic noise releasing a bunch of rats out n the streets. There is what’s called, the reality of life. And it just moves on.
It’s been great following the series since Season 1. Few shows out there maintain their rhythm from start to end and Silicon Valley in my opinion was one such show. It was even in the top wishlists of several high-profile techies and some of them appear in the documentary segment such as Tech Journalist Kara Swisher, Twitter’s ex-CEO Dick Costolo and Microsoft founder Bill Gates (yes, finally). Silicon Valley consistently delivered, keeping its storylines contained and razor focused on tech, without letting romances, family issues or anything else detract it from its central premise too much. And for what it’s worth, it was a thoroughly entertaining ride and one that will sorely be missed. Sorely.
This is me signing off from reviewing Silicon Valley episodes.