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Monday, April 18, 2016

Blu-ray Review: 'Silicon Valley - The Complete Second Season'

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: 'Silicon Valley - The Complete Second Season' on Blogcritics.

HBO’s Silicon Valley is releasing The Complete Second Season next week, just before the third run begins. Although not a novel approach to home video, it is certainly appreciated, as Silicon Valley is a hilarious comedy ripe for binge-watching, and had I not already seen all of the episodes on this release, I would likely be plowing through them. As it is, I am tempted to watch again anyway because the show is particularly good.

If you’re not familiar with Silicon Valley, it takes place in the tech mecca mentioned in the title, and follows a small group of programmers and their start-up company. Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch) is the brains, developing a compression algorithm better than anyone else ever has before. Along with his pals, Gilfoyle (Martin Starr) and Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani), landlord and loudmouth Erlich (T.J. Miller), organized support man Jared (Zach Woods), and the advice of Monica (Amanda Crew), who works for their first investor, Richard founded a company called Pied Piper to sell his creation.

Season two begins with the Pied Piper team shopping around for new investors, wanting to scale up their product. At first, they’re riding high from a big win at the close of the freshman year. But then Gavin Belson (Matt Ross), the villain of the piece, CEO of huge corporation Hooli (think Google), shows back up and sues Pied Piper, claiming it was developed on his computers. Belson also has Richard’s friend Big Head (Josh Brener) in his employ, a useful pawn in the competition.

The rest of the second year becomes a back-and-forth struggle as Richard and company try to keep control of their invention, while those with a lot more money than they have try to wrest it from their grasp. It’s a classic David-versus-Goliath battle in the world of geeks, and only one of them can win. Will it be our heroes? Or will Silicon Valley show them struggle through defeat and have to come up with something else to rise from the ashes? Honestly, it’s quite uncertain through most of the ten episodes.

Complicating matters are two new faces for the sophomore season. Suzanne Cryer’s (Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place) Laurie takes over Peter Gregory’s company. Gregory’s portrayer, Christopher Evan Welch, sadly passed away last year, and his character is similarly written out. Cryer does a good job, but definitely brings a different energy than Welch had. Chris Diamantopoulos (About a Boy, The Office) enters as eccentric rich man Russ Hanneman, who soon involves himself in Pied Piper’s affairs, both as a help and a hindrance. 

Silicon Valley is a geeky look at a niche subculture that everyone knows about, but few venture into. The actual Silicon Valley is a world unto itself, and it’s great to get a sneak peek inside, especially with this very talented cast of humorous performers, who make dark situations look fun; there are laughs to be found in their misery. I cannot recommend the show enough.

As far as extras go, there are six audio commentaries that are very welcome, featuring creator Mike Judge (Office Space), the hilarious T.J. Miller, and others. There are also the obligatory deleted scenes, and a brief featurette about “The Art & Science Behind Silicon Valley.” In all, not a lot, and I couldn’t help but wish for more. But at least what is present is solid.

I can’t say there are strong, specific reasons for choosing Blu-ray over DVD. There aren’t a lot of special effects, outside of the very cool theme song, and the soundtrack is pretty basic, as it usually is for most sitcoms. But things just look so much better in HD, why would you want an inferior quality if given a choice?

Silicon Valley: The Complete Second Season will be available next Tuesday, April 19, at retailers everywhere.

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