‘Silicon Valley’ Turns Its Focus to the Morality of Tech Companies in Final Season
Entering its sixth season, “Silicon Valley” is closing its run with an even darker edge full of satirical bite. More than ever it pokes fun at the defining entrepreneurial culture of our time, the tech industry, while using recent headlines to fuel the effect. There’s a fresh set of ethical dilemmas at the core of this final batch of episodes, as our nerdy heroes get close to a billion dollars but wonder at what cost: a fitting finale to one of HBO’s smaller yet highly relevant shows.
The season opens with Richard (Thomas Middleditch) doing a Mark Zuckerberg and testifying before a congressional hearing on whether his company Pied Piper gathers private data on individuals. Not only does Richard deny it, he also makes a passionate plea for a more democratic internet. Watching the proceedings are Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani), Gilfoyle (Martin Starr) at the fancy new offices Pied Piper acquired last season. To Richard’s horror, it turns out the company is indeed amassing vast amounts of data through the game “Games of Galoo.” As Richard tries to save the company’s integrity, old foe Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) is having his own major crisis when his company Hooli is gobbled up by Amazon. Outside of the drama, for now, Jared (Zach Woods) has returned to the “incubator” to reconnect with Jian-Yang (Jimmy O. Yang) who has a masterful new coder only lacking a business plan. Richard will try to get Jared back at Pied Piper, even as he himself is trying to figure out how to save the company.
Much has changed in the years since 2014 when “Silicon Valley” first premiered. But showrunner and director of the season premiere Mike Judge and his team have managed to keep the show up to date. The first three episodes of the final season are some of the series’ most relevant, touching on the subject of a world where the heads of tech giants now testify before Congress and explain how they collect data. The material this time around is more acidic and less goofy. Richard before congress or Belson flipping out over Amazon buying his company feel quite close to reality, even as the dialogue crackles with real hilarity. We still get some classic moments like Dinesh and Gilfoyle scheming against each other at the office. One of the best bits in this particular story angle involves Gilfoyle making an A.I. version of himself online to interact with Dinesh and others, so he doesn’t have to worry about actual social interactions. Of course Dinesh then acquires an A.I. of his own which then interacts with Gilfoyle’s, the result is the power suddenly going down at the office. And look no further when it comes to commentary on the cold nature of corporate business when Belson is forced to sell the Hooli building to Pollo Loco’s corporate offices.
Yet this season the villains become even shadier. The big development comes when Richard is offered a potential $1 billion deal for Pied Piper from a Chilean investor who decks his mansion walls with photos of the miners who worked for his father. But his demand is that Pied Piper be used to collect user data. How Richard will respond turns into one of the season’s surprisingly suspenseful moments. More revealing are the conversations between Richard, Dinesh and Gilfoyle on the deal with Dinesh in particular admitting the monetary temptation is just too hard to resist. When the Chilean pulls a fast one to scuttle the deal because of Richard’s hesitancy the gang then targets the next best thing, Hooli. At the end of the idea it all comes down to profit, meaning how much the company makes and how much the owners’ take home. “Silicon Valley” suddenly becomes more of a morality tale.
The first three episodes give us a strong sense of how good this final season of “Silicon Valley” will be. Its nerd humor is intact, complete with archaic dialogue about coding, but this is also a show about the here and now in general. Corporations have amassed great power and some of their owners are as goofy the class clown in school. “Silicon Valley” was always relevant, but now more so. Its satire was welcome as social media fully engulfed everything, now it’s even more valuable for how it wants to discuss where we’re going. “Silicon Valley” begins its exist with a grin and nudge at the culture’s ribs.
“Silicon Valley” season six premieres Oct. 27 and airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.