Three episodes of the second season of “Silicon Valley” were provided for review purposes prior to broadcast.
Peter Gregory is dead. If there’s one major takeaway to be found in Sunday’s premiere, and the following two episodes of Silicon Valley’s second season, it’s that the eccentric tech billionaire and benefactor of Pied Piper is no more. That’s bad news for Richard, Erlich, and the rest of the guys at the Hacker Hostel, and not much better news for viewers at home: Silicon Valley suffered a major loss with the untimely passing of actor Christopher Evan Welch midway through the first season. His absence weighed heavily on the final batch of episodes from last spring, and how the show would choose to move forward in its sophomore year has been a big question.
Welch was only able to film an initial five of the first season’s eight episodes, and avoiding the elephant in the room was something Silicon Valley worked around as best it could while wrapping up Season 1. A year later, with another season of episodes ordered by HBO, something had to give. Short of using some Seinfeld-style camera trickery (which allowed Larry David to frequently play Yankee’s owner George Steinbrenner), or recasting a role Welch had already put an indelible stamp on, the creators were going to have to figure out how to make Silicon Valley without Peter Gregory.
When last we left our heroes, Pied Piper had won the TechCrunch Disrupt competition, and was moving up to the next echelon of startup stardom. We were more than likely due for some sort of short-term reset at this point, regardless of Welch’s passing: you can’t let the underdogs achieve too much success before swatting them back down to Earth. The premiere doesn’t beat around the bush, letting Richard and company know within the first five minutes that the magnate who helped launch Pied Piper has died. “Sand Hill Shuffle” makes Peter Gregory’s death a logical reason for Pied Piper to be in dire straits once more, and doubles as a fine sendoff to Welch’s work that’s fittingly awkward and absurd.
As for the premiere itself, and the first three episodes of Season 2 as a whole, it’s clear that Silicon Valley is still recovering from the setback. Moments of laugh-out-loud hilarity are more sporadic than what we saw from the show at its best last year, but this is still an amusingly detailed and populated world that Mike Judge is mocking. The tech industry hasn’t become any less ripe for parody since Silicon Valley left the airwaves, so the milieu is often as entertaining as ever. If you’re looking for alternately scathing and satirical takes on the Valley’s culture of self-determination and self-obsession, there’s always an app joke for that, and more in Silicon Valley.