So, yes, “Silicon Valley” is still a comedy. And in mining tech primarily for humor rather than dread, I suspect it will be the last show of its kind at least for some time. Newer takes on the industry — in “Black Mirror” most notably, but also upcoming adaptations of the scandals at Theranos and at Uber — depict the perils of technology and the business of tech more squarely, seriously and scarily.
It’s true that “Silicon Valley” has often ridiculed techies’ insistence that their primary goal is improving the world. The series’ best-ever quip, from Season 2, is the Hooli chief Gavin Belson’s insistence that “I don’t want to live in a world where someone else makes the world a better place better than we do.”
Yet even now, the show still holds out hope for tech’s redemption, and still seems to buy into its characters’ idea that they are mainly in this for the betterment of humanity. Mike Judge, the series’ co-creator, has often argued that there is a stark difference between Wall Street and tech: Wall Street only cares about money, but in tech, people do want something bigger, realer, better.
In the years since “Silicon Valley” hit the small screen, I’ve grown less and less sure that Judge is right. And despite the show’s darker turn, I worry that a neatly redemptive end — in which Pied Piper finally makes it big, crushing the competition without losing its soul — might be in the offing. The show’s best feature is its well-researched verisimilitude. Just about every gag and personality trait in the script seems copied from real life; many tech insiders, including Dick Costolo, the former chief executive of Twitter, consulted heavily with writers to ensure its realness.
But a redemptive end would mar that truth. What we’ve seen in real-life Silicon Valley in recent years is that it might be impossible to be successful and good. Success in tech almost necessarily involves exploitation — of users, of investors, of employees — and when it comes, it arrives at such disruptive scale that it invariably hurts someone, somewhere, in ways that nobody could see coming.
I’m curious how “Silicon Valley” will navigate these treacherous threads. If it were up to me, I’d rather Richard and the gang fail honorably, letting Pied Piper die, than succeed by selling out. But that, too, would be unreal.