You don’t have to have seen Silicon Valley before to dive into the pleasure that awaits you in the third-season premiere Sunday night on HBO. That’s because the series undergoes something of a re-set. Yes, it begins exactly where the previous season left off, but that simply means Richard, the perennially anxious, dithering tech genius played by Thomas Middleditch, is still getting used to the idea that he’s now a mere employee of the start-up he started up. Due to a combination of over-thinking and being out-maneuvered, Richard has lost control over Pied Piper, and is coping with having his brilliant data-compression creation overseen and marketed by people he’s not sure he trusts — and with good reason.
The effect of this on the show is galvanizing. If there was a flaw to Silicon Valley, it was that the series could sometimes coast on the hilariously languid geek conversation between Richard and his team buddies Jared (Zach Woods), Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani), and Gilfoyle (Martin Starr), with the occasional choice, vulgar put-down from T.J. Miller’s Erlich. The talk was invariably funny, but it could also seem occasionally complacent.
It’s nothing like that now: Richard and the gang must come to terms with a new CEO, “Action” Jack Barker, played by typically blithe assurance by the wonderful Stephen Tobolowsky. It’s always good for the show’s heroes — so steeped in geek self-consciousness as to speak in monotone mutterings — to encounter a flamboyant personality, and that is what Action Jack is, a brilliant man with the soul of a hustler.
Very quickly in the three episodes made available for review, Valley turns into the story of a young company fighting for a soul its founders never realized it had. As a result, it gives Silicon Valley a bigger heart than it’s ever had before. Combine this with some running jokes that are bound to become favorites of the Valley audience — I won’t spoil it, but the acronym “RIGBY” is sure to catch on, as is Action Jack’s concept of the “Conjoined Triangles of Success” — and this series working at a faster, more efficient rate of speed than ever.
Silicon Valley airs Sunday nights at 10 p.m. on HBO.