Silicon Valley Review: “The Cap Table” (Season 1, Episode 2)

Thomas Middleditch and Josh Brener in Silicon Valley
Dinesh’s own asshole tendencies are a bit more reserved during the interview, comfortable that his knowledge of Java will give him a key foothold in the company (but he still makes sure to fit in some potshots at Gilfoyle). He’s the most the pragmatic of the group, which is perhaps why he comes off as the biggest asshole when it becomes clear that Richard’s BFF Bighead is the deadweight of the organization. The refrain heard the whole night about Bighead is “he’s a great guy, but…”, which is exactly the sort of person Richard has to avoid becoming if he wants Pied Piper to succeed: the guy everybody likes, and no one wants to work with.

There’s a surprising amount of plot in “The Cap Table,” which is a little unfortunate, as Bighead and Richard’s friendship being at stake doesn’t really carry much water at the moment. The opening scene makes a great case for Silicon Valley functioning perfectly well as just a geeky hangout show, but Judge and company seem to have something a bit more structured in mind. With only eight episodes airing this year, they understandably want to setup as many of the characters and competing interests in Silicon Valley as quickly as possible, so while “The Cap Table” feels rushed in spots, it does bring the story to some interesting places. Undercutting Richard finally channeling his inner asshole with Bighead announcing his promotion at Hooli is a particularly Judge move, who’s never met a big, episode-encapsulating speech he couldn’t hilariously take the wind out of moments later.

The final scene in particular is what solidifies Silicon Valley’s intention to be about more than just tech-savvy bros broing out, and occasionally bumbling their way through the business world. Richard sending a test copy of Pied Piper to the “jock” programmers at Hooli in the pilot was a particularly spineless moment and mistake, one that the Richard at the end of “The Cap Table” might have been smart enough to avoid, but will now have to deal with anyway. With Hooli ripping open the code to Pied Piper so they can get to work on a knockoff, the incompetence of the Hacker Hostel crew is that much funnier, and the show now has some fairly serious stakes that aren’t just personal.

A major part of Silicon Valley’s satire comes from taking aim at the notion of tech industry icons as creatives, because the companies they build wind up mattering more than a face man, or a product they helped create. After all, an icon is just that: a fixed position you can keep your eyes on while hundreds and thousands of moving parts go to work in the background. During his ranting interview, Gilfoyle does hit on an important kernel of truth with regard to how the public doesn’t really care about who’s responsible for the tech they use, just so long as it works. For Silicon Valley, corporate greed presents itself as less a matter of picking than other guys pocket than it is picking his brain, then beating him to the patent office. Pied Piper Inc. can’t even get a cheque cashed yet, so they’re about as little a guy as they come if they’re planning to take on Hooli and Gavin Belson for control of whatever it is Richard created. In just two episodes, Richard’s already gotten his rinky-dink rocketship into a space race with NASA, and in Silicon Valley, no one remembers whose idea landed second.

  • Stray Thoughts

-The show’s brand of social awkwardness continues to be spot-on, whether exaggerated (Dinesh finding a silver lining in Bighead being dead because it would mean avoiding an awkward conversation), or painfully real (Richard asking the bank clerk if she’s the one who can help him get Pied Piper registered with the I.R.S. is the exact sort a question a person with no clue would ask).

-“Queuing: John Wayne, In a Mansion….not found.” The Hacker Hostel may not be Hooli, but at least their voice-activated mood lighting works better than Belson’s music player.

-“I made a perverted, sexist, useless thing.” Bighead has a moment of clarity regarding his own app, NipAlert.

-I’m hoping for a running gag through the season of terrible pitches for apps being brought up out of the blue. The doctor played by Andy Daly last week had his panic attack predictor, which at least might serve a purpose. Peter Gregory probably has more use for Erlich’s pot than he does a stake in a water fountain-locator app.