Silicon Valley, Season 2, Episode 5, “Server Space”
Written by Sonny Lee
Directed by Mike Judge
Airs Sundays at 10pm ET on HBO
It’s not every week you get to experience a monkey using a robot arm to masturbate.
Silicon Valley is a show about pride. Even with all its expertly dumb gags, like the aforementioned monkey spanking the monkey and Richard’s paranoia that his night sweats are going to turn into bed wetting, the show is following through with this idea that pride is the main motivator for the movers and shakers within Silicon Valley. At Hooli, that pride is causing Gavin Belson to not care about one of the brightest minds in the world, who has come to work for his company. Instead, Belson is putting all of his effort into a guy who spends valuable resources making a giant potato cannon that may have the power to kill. For Belson, losing the compression race to Pied Piper, a company started by a guy he used to employ, will be the ultimate blow to his ego, and so he, being made entirely of ego and juice cleanses, will stop at nothing in order to prevent that shameful loss. And fear of shame seems to be something of a corporate culture at Hooli, as Belson’s drones working on Nucleus are too afraid to tell their superior how incredibly behind schedule they are.
Back at the Incubator, Richard is so terrified of being publicly destroyed by Belson that his stress has reached night sweats level, with the potential to escalate to bed wetting if he is not careful, and what is more shameful than peeing yourself while you sleep? Erlich, meanwhile, is sad to see his Incubees leave the nest, but is too proud to admit he’d like them to stay. But when Pied Piper is forced to build their own servers and has to move back into the house because they can no longer afford their new offices, Erlich is secretly happy to have them back, even though his pride only allows that happiness to be vocalized as “I’ll be forced to forgo those [other] opportunities due to your mediocrity.”
Pride also ends up being the undoing of Noah (Frank Collison), the Incubator’s neighbor. His desire to keep the neighborhood nice “for families and pets” leads to a series of events that not only gives Richard and Erlich pictures of his illegal pet ferrets, which they use to blackmail Noah in order to continue operating their illegal business, but it causes him to have to rent out his guest house to Jared, who speaks German in his sleep.
Even in the smaller plots of the episode, pride has a hand. Dinesh’s pride in his ability to build servers, and his natural assumption that he is better at everything than Gilfoyle, leads him to blow out the power for the whole block. The monkey’s utter lack of pride, on the other hand, allows him to use his new robot arm to immediately and furiously jack off in front of his human observers.
Mike Judge also demonstrates great pride (segue!) in his direction of “Server Space.” Silicon Valley is not the most visually groundbreaking show in the history of television, content to let its killer writing do the talking, so to speak. But “Server Space” has two of the best shots the show has pulled off so far: the opening of the episode, when Richard wakes up from his night sweats, and the handheld shot that follows Erlich as he berates the developers of a Christian dog-sharing app out of his door. The former shot has Richard’s shadow hit the angle of the room where the wall and ceiling meet, manipulating the shadow into the original Pied Piper logo, which, beyond being a good visual gag, shows how, even in his sleep, the problems and stress involved with running the company is always attached to Richard. The latter shot is tight on Erlich’s face as he throws passive-aggressive insults at the coding Christians, and ends on a composition with Erlich tight in the left of the frame and the empty table where Pied Piper once worked occupying the majority of the frame. Erlich is alone, and wants the guys to stay, but doesn’t fully realize this until he is confronted with a symbol of their absence.
Though it may have been moving a bit at half-speed in the previous weeks, by dealing directly with pride, the engine that has always driven the show, Silicon Valley is now moving at a full, tight clip. “Server Space” gives the season a new set of stakes by moving both the Hooli side of the story forward and giving Pied Piper a shot in the arm. All the coding is done, the servers are put in place, and now the only thing left to do is let the algorithm run, and watch as the back half of the season generates laughs and chaos.