On Sunday, June 25, HBO’s tech-centric comedy “Silicon Valley” ended its fourth season with a little nod to “Jesus Christ, CEO of the world,” as one of the characters once called him.
(BTW, that phrase is now on a t-shirt.)
“Server Error” marked the end of a downbeat season that saw formerly upstanding tech entrepreneur Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch), a self-identified Episcopalian, sinking deeper into murky ethical waters as he struggled to keep his startup, Pied Piper, afloat. Built around his astonishing “middle out” compression algorithm, the company has seen huge success and crashing failure.
In desperation, this year, instead of securing another crazy billionaire investor, Richard decided to seek out a customer for his audacious plan to create a decentralized Internet, by storing highly compressed data on a huge network of smartphones.
In the season finale, Richard and his team faced the consequences of hacking the cellphones of rival tech giant Hooli, when the software they illegally planted on the phones to hold their customer’s data caused the devices to overheat and catch on fire (sometimes in users’ pockets).
Richard’s loyal business-development expert, Jared Dunn (Zach Woods), finally reached the end of his ability to stomach Richard’s moral decline and tendered his resignation. Possessed of a twisted and dark backstory — involving living on the streets, abuse and forced adoption — the sweet and patient Jared has been the moral center of Pied Piper.
Having watched Richard lie and cheat, have sex with the client’s fiancee, and refuse to face the consequences of his actions, Jared despaired and walked away.
At the last, looking utter disaster in the face, Richard accepted that he’d gone too far and prepared to fess up to his client. Before that, he confessed the error of his ways to Jared, who decided to return and stand by his pal at the end.
Ultimately, Pied Piper was saved by luck and happenstance (as has happened often on the show), and by the last act of its computer server, nicknamed “Anton,” before its ultimate demise after being ejected from the back of a truck (caused, in part, by Richard’s panicky rejection of diligent, careful Jared).Engineer Guilfoyle, a self-proclaimed Satanist whose most deep and enduring relationship may have been with his beloved equipment, observed that “Anton died so we might live.”
“Like Jesus,” said Jared, causing Guilfoyle to have an uncomfortable moment.
Under its torrents of profanity and crude humor, what has always kept me watching “Silicon Valley” is the obvious love that producers Mike Judge and Alec Berg have for their characters and their flawed but essential humanity (which even goes for the unborn).
Despite using “Jesus” and “Jesus Christ” as epithets, the show also mentions His name in more favorable, non-blasphemous contexts, which hardly ever happens these days in mainstream entertainment.
Might be interesting to see if a rule could be instituted that, if you’re going to use the Lord’s name in vain, you have to counterbalance that by saying something nice, or at least accurate, about Him. I doubt some shows could pull this off more than once a season, if that.
“Silicon Valley” also has a consistent moral center. Pied Piper prospers when Richard retains his ethics, and it fails when he strays from the path. Now, you can argue that what saved Pied Piper this time would have happened whether or not Richard had felt remorse and repented, but he did still repent.
And the bit with the customer’s fiancee earned him a beating and a black eye.
Can’t wait for next season to see if Richard can keep his company, and his soul, intact at the same time.
Image: Courtesy HBO