Silicon Valley S5 E5: “Facial Recognition” review



Artificial intelligence and lip injections in the latest episode of Silicon Valley, “Facial Recognition.”

When Richard first envisioned his new internet, PiperNet, he never considered his dream could start us on the path to the AI robot apocalypse. And if Gilfoyle’s fears prove correct, that may just be what they’ve done when Pied Piper partners with Eklow Labs in this week’s episode, “Facial Recognition.”

Okay, there may still be a few more years before the robot revolution. But when Richard introduces Eklow’s pride and joy, Fiona, to PiperNet, “she” at least seems to jump at the opportunity to expose her creator for the dirty, dirty perv that he is and become the first AI to join the #MeToo movement. No wonder the robots are destined to rise up and turn on their creators. Thanks a lot, Arial Eklow!

Fortunately for Gilfoyle, he’ll likely survive Skynet’s rise of the machines because he’s familiar with Roko’s basilisk, a thought experiment that posits that, if an AI becomes all-powerful, it might decide to punish anyone who didn’t actively help its creation and spare those who did. So, not unlike The Simpsons‘ Kent Brockman openly declaring fealty to a theoretical alien race of super ants bent on world conquest, Gilfoyle has decided to become a helpful idiot — with a solid email trail attesting to this — to ensure his own long-term survival.

Thomas Middleditch, Suzanne Lenz. photo: HBO

But Artificial Intelligence isn’t the only lifeform dealing with existential crises; Gavin Belson just isn’t feeling it anymore. He’s uncharacteristically indifferent to the activities of his rivals at Pied Piper and ponders if there’s even a point in this endless competition. This worries Hoover, who reluctantly enlists the help of Gavin’s long-time spiritual guru whom Hoover has battled with in the past.

Meanwhile, Jared finds him suddenly thrust into the spotlight when he becomes an unlikely hit on the interview circuit, sidelining Richard. But he becomes too self-conscious, buying lip injections that freak everyone out.

The Verdict

This is the first episode of Season 5 that hasn’t featured Jian Yang, and I think the episode is better for that. I’m starting to grow frustrated with how Jian Yang has been handled this season.

Erlich was always a dick, but he had his uses. Sure, he’d outwardly present himself as a self-important, egotistical blowhard who didn’t care about anyone, but he was the only true showman on the team and could come through in a pinch when you least suspected it. Erlich also proved that he truly cared about his fellow Pipers on at least one occasion when he sacrificed his own stake in the company in order to save it.

In past seasons, Jian Yang was Erlich’s foil, the only guy in the house who openly expressed how much he hated Erlich. And because Erlich was an a-----e, we could identify with that. But, while I didn’t want Jian Yang to just become some form of replacement Erlich on the show, he’s fast become his own unique brand of a-----e to the Pied Piper gang, and for no discernable reason. While I could initially picture some version of the story where his hostility is explained as him deep down wanting to be part of the Pied Piper family, now that he’s starting a rival company, he’s kind of declared open war on the central characters on the show. That makes developing future sympathy for him more of an uphill battle.

Back to this week’s episode, this was a strong entry in the season. The AI stuff was wonderfully strange, and this has been the best material the writers have given Gilfoyle all season. It’s nice to see him get stuff to do besides the standard sibling rivalry with Dinesh. Also, we didn’t get a third week in a row of the traditional narrative of Richard having to choose between backstabbing someone or saving the company. Even Gavin was in rare form. And I’m always up for more Jared-centric plots. So this is my favorite episode of the season so far.

Silicon Valley S5 E5: "Facial Recognition" review
Is it good?
My favorite episode of the season. This is a nice change of pace that didn't fall back on the show's regular tropes. The zany AI plot was a pleasant surprise, and Jared stealing Richard's spotlight was another highlight. And it was refreshing to take a week off from Jian Yang's side story.
9
Great