Sunday night on HBO, a group of unkempt, unruly men hellbent on world domination will make their eagerly awaited return to action. Oh, and Game of Thrones will be back for season 5 as well. Yes, Silicon Valley, that clever David-versus-Goliath comedy about a ragtag-yet-inspired start-up that will make or break the men behind it is about to unveil 10 new episodes of tech-tweaking laughs. How will Pied Piper expand its reach through the magic of data compression? How will these dudes one-up the most elaborate dick joke in the history of TV? Before you tune in Sunday at 10 p.m. to Silicon’s season 2 premiere, check out these 20 hints about what kinds of fortunes and follies are in store for the Pied Piper crew.
1. By besting Hooli to win the $50,000 TechCrunch Disrupt prize, Pied Piper CEO Richard (Thomas Middleditch) and his crew are peaking in the Valley. “They’re the belle of the ball and everybody wants a piece of them,” says co-creator/executive producer Mike Judge. “They have this compression algorithm that could be this game-changing thing, and everybody wants in on it—initially. “
2. He says “initially” because more money begets more problems. “You don’t want it to all be too easy, like, ‘Oh, he gets rich and lives happily ever after,’” says Judge. “Luckily in this world, there’s just constant, constant fluctuation—one minute you’re worth hundreds of millions, and the next minute, one thing happens, and you’re worthless.” Any specifics? “The money and the financial backing that they took for granted is not as easy to get, and they’re scrambling,” hints fellow executive producer Alec Berg, also noting that “there’s a bombshell at the end of the first episode that defines a lot of what the arc of the season is.” Zach Woods, who plays meek-voiced head of business development Jared, describes their treacherous journey through the Valley this season with a mountainous analogy: “Season 1, it was always difficult. The Pied Piper guys were always climbing up a slope over the course of the season and then they reached the summit at the end. “This one, they keep getting knocked back down to base camp all the time.”
3. After that beatdown at TechCrunch Disrupt, Hooli CEO Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) is even more determined to crush Pied Piper. “He’s someone who will spend millions just to annoy somebody that pissed him off,” hints Judge. And he’s maniacally driving his team to bring the Hooli rival service Nucleus to market first. “He stakes an enormous amount of financial resources on the success of Nucleus,” says Ross. “And his job becomes at stake on some level. Not only his job but his reputation.” Notes Berg: “There’s a line that sums up who and what Gavin is. He’s trying to inspire his group to compete again and he says, ‘I don’t want to live in a world where somebody else makes the world a better place better than we do.’ It is this weird competitive altruism of, ‘No one’s going to be f—ing better at helping humanity than we are, and if they are, we’re going to crush them.’”
4. In need of additional cash, Piped Piper will take a bunch of meetings that put the “fun” in funding. “There is a bit of sort of speed dating with venture capitalists,” says Middleditch. “And if we’re likening it to speed dating, I don’t think you could ever call speed dating not awkward and I bet the people who speed date are pretty weird.” One of those scenes “might have been the hardest Thomas has made me laugh,” notes Judge.
5. One potential colorful investor is Russ (Chris Diamantopoulos), a cocksure, orange sports car-driving d-bag billionaire Valley outside, who might prove savior or nightmare for Pied Piper. “There is this weird thing with tech insiders,” says Berg. “You can buy a boat, but you can’t drive a Ferrari, because that’s ostentatious. You have to drive a Prius. There are certain things you can’t do, but this guy is not afraid to drive the fancy car, wear the tight pants, and date the model.” Adds Martin Starr (acerbic systems architect Gilfoyle): “It’s fun to see this guy who really embodied the douchebag, unaware, crazy guy who just is so up his own ass and doesn’t think it smells. He’s just really enjoying his own everything.”
6. The season premiere will address the Peter Gregory situation. (The actor who played him, Christopher Evan Welch, passed away from lung cancer in the middle of filming last season.) “When we came in the first day of the second season, we were like, ‘How do we deal with this?’ It was difficult,” shares Judge. “I talked to his mom and wife and sister, and they said, ‘I hope you make it funny.’ That’s what we tried to do—find a balance but also pay tribute.” The actors were relieved that it turned out okay. “I know they considered a lot of different ways of handling it,” says Kumail Nanjiani (Dinesh). “And I think the way they did is ultimately very smart and respectful.”
7. The interpersonal skills of Laurie Bream, the new managing partner at Gregory’s firm Raviga could some polishing. A lot of polishing. Actually she doesn’t really have any. “Where Peter was kooky but also brilliant and a sage and ultimately affirming of innovation and sticking by your guns, Laurie is pragmatic to a fault and hyper-analytical, and it’s really about numbers and systems and logic,” explains Berg. Adds Suzanne Cryer, who plays Laurie: “It would be accurate to say that she does not lead with her emotions. And it’s more than one of her qualities. It is a defining characteristic of her. She is logical to the point of alienating everyone around her. And whereas it might have been endearing in Data on Star Trek, it’s less endearing in Laurie.” And how does she interface with the Pied Piper crew? “She looks at Pied Piper as a set of numbers as opposed to a set of people,” Cryer says. “There’s no altruism. This is either going to be something that works or does not work and everything will be evaluated from that standpoint. So that can be brutal. There’s fallout from that.”
As for criticisms about the show’s lack of women? “One of the questions we keep getting is, ‘Why aren’t there more women on the show?’ and one of the answers is, ‘This is a show about software engineers in Palo Alto and the reality is 87 percent of the time that job is done by a man. These are the statistics. If we just gender-balanced our show, we give up on a tremendous opportunity to take shots and satirize the imbalance of the real place. One of my favorite running jokes is every time Gavin walks into a room full of executives he says, ‘Gentlemen. And lady.’ That is constantly pointing out the fact that there are way more men than women. Which is not to say that we don’t want women on the show—that’s not at all true—but the reality is, four percent of senior partners in VC firms are women and 13 percent of software developers in Silicon Valley are women. The numbers are crazy, and I think the way to satirize that and to actually turn it into a talking point is to depict it and comment on it—not to shy away from depicting it.”
8. Another new female character won’t just be joining the show—she’ll join the Pied Piper team. “At a certain point they need to start hiring people if they’re going to make this company work, and Carla [Alice Wetterlund] is one of the first people they hire,” says Berg. And it sounds like she’s more than able to hang with the boys. “She’s not a pushover,” says Berg. “Let’s say that she can hold her own against Dinesh and Gilofyle.”
9. Meet Pete. The Pied Piper guys “find themselves in a situation where they need a litigator and they don’t have an enormous amount of money to spend, so they hire someone who may for as yet undisclosed reasons not be at the top of his game—or charging the highest rate,” says Berg. What else to expect from Pete, who is played by Matt McCoy? “He’s desperately need in redemption,” answers Berg. “He relates some of his experiences which are shocking and surprising and maybe a little terrifying at times, but ultimately he’s a guy who’s been to the edge of hell and is coming back.”
10. Season 2 will not be much sexier. “This show will never be Entourage,” says Berg. “None of them will ever drive a Ferrari and take themselves seriously and will ever get the girl that way. I can’t say that they won’t have relationships or there won’t be intercourse here or there, but this show is never going to be about cool guys who get laid. It’s just not.”
11. This season, it was a snap(chat) to get real-life Silicon Valley powerplayers to drop(box) by for a cameo. Last season, the producers had some difficulty in scoring industry heavyweights to appear on the show, as they were leery of being skewered in a satire. But now that many have seen the show and the lengths to which it goes to get its tech right (there are currently 65 lawyers, engineers, systems architects, and professors serving as consultants), that task became easier. As Judge notes: “This season, the tricky thing was trying to figure out how to work in the number of people that wanted to be in it.” Look for guest spots by such Silicon Valley celebrities as Bitcoin bigwigs Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston, Asana co-founder Justin Rosenstein and Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel.
12. Richard’s leadership skills will be challenged. “He’s now in the position of having to be a boss and not only that, but a boss to his friends,” says Middleditch. So, there is a bit of tightrope walking for him, and he may not be the best at that…. He’s slowly putting on his big boy pants.” And how are they fitting? “They’re a little baggy.”
13. Erlich will serve up moments both sweet and sour. “There are some great scenes where Erlich really shows the extent he can be an asshole, and that was fun to play—look for a repurposed Brazilian Koa wood table,” says the man who makes him weird, T.J. Miller. “But it was also fun to play the moments that, for him, were sentimental or sweet, as he becomes emotional about some pretty ridiculous stuff. But what do you expect from a tender-hearted, ambitiously minded, marijuana enthusiast?” Judge throws in another issue facing the Pied Piper boardmember and self-appointed guru. “Are they going to outgrow him? Are they going to get too big for him?
14. Gilfoyle gets darker, if that’s possible. “There is a running theme this season of, How much do you have to get your hands dirty to compete?” says Berg. “It’s like doping in cycling. It’s very easy to say, ‘I would never do that,’ and then when everyone’s faster than you, you have to think about it. Gilfoyle is a little bit of the instrument of temptation. Pardon the pun, but because he’s a Satanist, he’s the devil on Richard’s shoulder.” Starr hints that his faith in himself may pose some problems. “The confidence that he has that most of his cohorts don’t have is part of what causes the most trouble for him,” he says. “If ever his talents fail him, then he’s really dug himself a hole, which is kind of what happens in this season, especially later on in the season.”
15. Jared gets weirder, if that’s possible. “There will be some new layers to him revealed this season,” chuckles Judge. Explains Woods of the Hooli defector: “Now that he has found his nest, he can show off his peculiar plumage.” That apparently extends to his subconscious state. “There’s an episode later where he has some sleep issues,” Woods continues. “He ends up sharing a room with Richard and he’s a very gentle person when he’s awake but in his dreams he has a somewhat more volatile dream life.”
16. Dinesh will “bro” down. Things do not quite go smoothly for the programmer, whose biggest obstacles are Gilfoyle and, yes, himself. “He’s the guy who is very very ambitious, very, very driven, very, very smart, but his own worst enemy,” says Nanjiani. “So he gets himself into these situations and then you kind of want him to not get out.” For example? “He’s got a cousin who he’s always wanted to impress who’s got a new app called ‘Bro,’ which just sends the word ‘bro’ to other people that have the app,” says Nanjiani. “But to impress him, Dinesh makes a huge investment—and it turns out he doesn’t have the money for it.” Oh, no, bro.
17. Monica (Amanda Crew) is torn between allegiances. The associate partner at Ravigna “has a vested interest in Pied Piper’s success, but she also works for a company that may have different best interests, and treating Pied Piper in a hostile or slightly aloof manner may be better for her boss,” hints Berg. Seconds Crew: “Monica believes in these guys and may do things that she could be fired for if her company found out.” And for those of you still rooting for a Richard-Monica romance, there’s a revealing moment in the premiere that addresses how the writers are feeling about that possibility.
18. Big Head gets a big break. “His fortunes at Hooli rise and fall—mostly rise,” teases Berg. Adds Josh Brener, who plays the resident rooftop slacker: “In season 2, Big Head continues to disrupt the tech landscape by proving that intellect and talent are not requirements for success. You might say they get in the way, really.” But don’t worry, Big Head won’t exactly become a hard worker in upcoming episodes. “In season 1, Big Head discovers the draws of doing absolutely nothing,” continues Brener. “And in season 2, he becomes almost rabid in his need to do nothing. It becomes an art for him, something that he excels at, but also takes very seriously.”
19. Jian (Jimmy O. Yang) meets Monica for the first time. “Business? Romance? Betrayal? Sabotage?” teases Yang. “We will find out.” And he and Erlich will expand their relationship beyond unproductive conversations about fish guts in the kitchen sink. “The adventures of Jian Yang and Erlich begin,” hintes Yang. “It’s kind of like Jaime Lannister and Lady Brienne.”
20. One of the season’s best comedic moments involves something… simian. Behold Starr’s cryptic tease: “Technology. Monkey. And science. And maybe a slight reference to last season.”
Watch the trailer for season 2 of Silicon Valley below: