Silicon Valley Review: Artificial Emotional Intelligence

On HBO’s Silicon Valley someone (usually Richard) causes trouble by being immature, it’s sort of the main conflict of every episode. However, this week’s episode, the aptly titled “Artificial Emotional Intelligence” went a bit meta with this aspect of this show, blatantly pointing out (and laughing at) the complete emotional immaturity of nearly every main and supporting character, and it paid off for the most part.

As Lori appoints herself CEO of Ecklow after Ariel ran off with Fiona, she finds the work to be overwhelming, showing a moment of weakness in front of Richard. Richard then, as Jared puts it, lets his compassion get the better of his business instincts by offering Lori PiperNet credits, which she then sells to the highest bidder, proving Richard wrong that showing compassion would strengthen their business relationship.

Ironically, this was one of the few times that Richard seems to be selfless, and it ended up biting him in the ass, a harsh lesson of the tech business world that even Jared, emotionally needy sidekick that he is, tried to warn him about. Eventually, Richard finds himself in the possession of Ecklow’s most valuable asset, Fiona, who Ubered to him, strangely enough (the driver didn’t ask questions), and he uses the robot as leverage to get what he wanted from Lori in the first place, funding to move faster and beat the Chinese knockoff of his company to market. This, once again, fails and, with it, so too does the emotional and moral core of the episode.

What is the moral of the story? Well… That’s not exactly clear, which is what makes these moments fall flat, there is no centralizing direction that Richard, as well as the other characters, are avoiding, leading them to trouble. Instead, the character take all the paths, some immature, some caring, some business savvy, but all of them either lead to trouble for Pied Piper or an empty victory of sorts. These moments were funny and still kept things interesting, but because of the lack of a moral compass, the episode as a whole felt, as it was with some of the previous episodes of the fifth season, scattered.

This notion can be seen in the other emotionally immature plot of the episode, which was another entry in the ongoing dick-measuring contest between Dinesh and Gilfoyle. After finishing up a code sprint, Dinesh and Gilfoyle’s work are going to be reviewed and double checked privately, but Dinesh wants to know the results so he can rub it in Gilfoyles face. While trying to one-up each other is not out of character for these two, this was just another example of Dinesh’s character being depicted as needy, whiny and far more immature than he actually is.

But, the episode still gets some credit for giving to the B plot what the A plot lacked, a moral to the story. When Dinesh learns that he “won” by having less mistakes in his coding, he starts making horrible jokes at Gilfoyle’s expense, and when he makes the 200th one, Gilfoyle humiliates him, saying he knew that if he let Dinesh think he won, he would, in less than 24 hours, come up with 200 horrible insults. However, Gilfoyle himself is humiliated by the employees who tell him they knew exactly how he would insult Dinesh after bursting his bubble, and, wether they learned it or not, the moral of the story was don’t be competitive showboat, or something along those lines.

Throughout all of this, Gavin Belson finally finds a way to compete with the PiperNet, by pursuing Jian Yang’s knockoff, which surprisingly works. Surprising both because it works well enough to compete with Richard and because it does so without violating the patent on a decentralized internet. Unfortunately, while Gavin attempts to acquire this version of the new internet, the Chinese CEO he strongarms into helping him ends up taking the company for himself, ending his contract with Gavin (to produce the Box 3) so he can be both Hooli and Pied Piper’s biggest competitor.

This was an interesting plot and the foreshadowing means that the final two episodes of the season are going to be just as compelling. However, as far as I can see, there wasn’t much connecting this subplot to the larger theme at hand, except for, perhaps, Gavin’s hubris being a sign of his lack of emotional intelligence, but that’s just how the character is in general. In short, the episode was a bit scattered, but as with similar episodes, the separate pieces each had their own merits, but the episode would have been stronger had everything been more neatly connected.

Catch Silicon Valley on HBO, Sundays @10

S5, E6
  • Artificial Emotional Intelligence
3.5

Summary

Richard’s emotional shortcomings (as well as everyone else’s) end up having major consequences on this week’s Silicon Valley


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