The events of “White Hat/Black Hat” leave the Pied Piper team at a standstill, grappling once again with money woes and competition, and unfortunately, subsequently, the episode felt like season 2’s most benign episode thus far. With Pied Piper’s deal with a major porn company seemingly in the bag, most of the team is cooled out, with the notable exception of Richard, who suddenly gets intensely paranoid over the safety of their network and Gilfoyle’s security measures. This is, more or less, the central focus of the episode, tied intrinsically to Richard’s attempts to make good with End Frame’s former head of security, Seth (Joshua Chang), who got fired for the breach that gave Pied Piper the edge on the porn deal. One of the show’s more irrefutable faults is the repetitive surprise problems that keep Pied Piper from moving forward in the narrative, like Russ’s eleventh-hour slip-up that looks to lose them the porn business that they were counting on.
If the happenings of “White Hat/Black Hat” were underlined with the same reliable wit and thematic focus that the rest of the episodes brandish, there wasn’t that same hum of progression and personal growth underneath every interaction that has made the first half of the season such a consistent delight. Richard’s interactions with Seth once again roused an inability in these men to separate the personal from the professional, as Richard’s constant wanting to be honest and friendly with the wronged, bitter ex-employee who only threatens action when his hacking abilities are called into question. It’s a fine scene that writer Dan Lyons plays twice, to severely diminishing effect, and the interplay between the Pied Piper team members seemed far less fluid and playful than usual.
Part of the problem was a limp attempt to satirize the militant non-smoking vibe in the titular tech hub, which paired Erlich with Monica at Raviga’s offices to pitch a new app that could either help parents or, alternatively, pedophiles. Like Richard’s storyline, there’s a meandering, decidedly anti-climactic tone to all of this, a vaguely amusing idea that’s stretched thin and only given intermittent life by the performers, with Amanda Crew and T.J. Miller doing the heavy lifting. The scenes at Hooli, with Matt Ross’s Gavin Belson seeking heedlessly for someone to pin the Nucleus disaster on, are similarly only enlivened by the level of comical, thinly veiled desperation that Ross so perfectly modulates. It’s the same reason it’s easy to write off the inert turns of “White Hat/Black Hat” as a set-up for more substantial doings in next week’s episode of Silicon Valley, but the austere monotony of last night’s episode is troubling, to say the least.
★★ Fair — Only for the dedicated