Silicon Valley Review: “Facial Recognition”
Often Silicon Valley has been criticized for its repetitive plot formula: Pied Piper tries to do something new at the beginning of the season, setting off a chain of events that give them a conflict they slowly battle against over the season, until ultimately solving the dilemma through a comedic deus ex machina. Season five couldn’t be further from this formula, and “Facial Recognition” has cemented the show into a new “monster of the week” formula. But instead of monsters, we see the show’s writers lampoon a different wing of the tech world each episode.
“Facial Recognition” offers the best use of this formula so far, as multiple red herrings and plot turns are perfectly mixed with well-executed jokes to make for the best-paced episode of the season. While the show begins with an introduction that leads the viewer to believe it will focus mostly on a conflict between Richard and Jared, the show intelligently uses their emotional insecurities to set up more introspective conflicts and resolutions.
This is done best by the episode’s A plot where Richard finds himself tasked with helping an artificial intelligence (AI) firm get set up on Pied Piper’s network. Richard’s task puts him face to face with an AI program that is able to accurately (and comedically) analyze his emotional state while dealing with Jared’s newfound success. Due to Richard’s ego, this pushes him to both convince the AI program that its creator may be disturbed, as well as pursuing a speaking engagement at a middle school to seek the validation he craves.
Ultimately these decisions put Richard at odds with the AI firm whose AI finds itself to be mistreated once connected to Pied Piper’s network, learning of the outside world. This plot point in the show paints Richard in a better light than previous episodes, showing that his actions to do the right thing in the tech world ultimately highlight the wrongdoings so many other firms carry out. The fact that viewers were able to experience the plot unfold with Gilfoyle’s comedic warnings of an AI uprising make it even better.
Viewers get a small, though deeper, glimpse into Jared’s character as well, as ultimately he loses his time in the spotlight due to his unfettered trust in his friends. While Jared has always been one of the smartest characters on the show, it's clear he’s often insecure in his own abilities. These insecurities are usually the butt of a joke (as they are for the majority of this episode) but it was enjoyable to see Jared’s character get developed rather than simply serving as the funniest character for one-liner deliveries.
Silicon Valley continues to become a smarter show even after being on the air for four previous seasons. While the show can underserve its supporting cast such as Dinesh and Gilfoyle at times, the show nevertheless remains a reliably funny half-hour every single week. Hopefully with Westworld season 2 leading into the show now, HBO’s quirky little sitcom can get another boost in viewers looking for a comedy as smart as the drama they’ve just finished watching.
Chandler Copenheaver is a senior majoring in public relations. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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Senior / Public Relations