7:32pm PT by Bryn Sandberg
'Silicon Valley' Creator Mike Judge on Finale Inspiration, Dream Cameos and Season 3 Plans
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the Silicon Valley season two finale, "Two Days of the Condor."]
Spoiler alert: Pied Piper lives on.
There may not have been any elaborate dick jokes in Silicon Valley’s season two finale, but the HBO comedy brought plenty of other laughs, and suspenseful drama, on Sunday night. The drawn-out legal battle brought on by tech giant Hooli ended in an arbitration hearing, and thanks to a technicality with the some of the guys' former contracts, the fictitious startup emerged victorious.
But the gang’s celebration in their tech incubator house, now complete with a partially scorched and punched-in wall, was cut short when Pied Piper creator Richard (Thomas Middleditch) received a shocking phone call from Raviga's Monica (Amanda Crew) informing him that the VC firm was removing him as CEO of his own company.
“I read that in the script, and I was like, ‘Just to be clear, are you guys writing me out of the show?’ ” Middleditch joked to The Hollywood Reporter, adding that the writers assured him that they, of course, had no plans to drop their main character.
Series creator Mike Judge acknowledged that the reveal in the last few seconds of the episode sets up what is likely to be the central conflict of the next season. THR caught up with Judge to discuss giving his female characters better storylines, dream cameos and season three plans.
By the end of the penultimate episode, it seemed like Richard was going to lose the lawsuit because he used Hooli’s laptop to work on his compression algorithm. Where did the idea for the contract technicality that ended up saving him initiate?
It was something that happened with me on Beavis and Butt-head and other MTV people where the contract was so aggressive that it actually violated labor laws — a slave labor law, I think. Our tech consultant Jonathan Dotan has a team of legal people that tell us stories, so we also met with a lawyer that does arbitration. A lot of it is just research. Once we knew that was the thing that was going to save them, we worked backwards from that in the writing phase. This is something that has actually happened, where lawyers just get so aggressive with these contracts that they throw things in that are illegal. They are just arrogant enough that they don’t care. It happened to Dan Cortese, too, the sports guy. The way I heard it was that his contract was so harsh that it said something like, “You can’t seek work anywhere else for six years,” or something crazy.
Executive producer Alec Berg has said that the conceit of the show essentially requires the guys to always be underdogs. How difficult is it to keep them failing over and over again?
When we first started to write the show, it seemed like it was going to be very difficult to keep them underdogs. But then we started really going into the tech world — interviewing people, hearing their stories — and there were so many instances of people that almost became billionaires and now they’ve got nothing. It just happens every day up there. So there are plenty of failure stories to draw from because it’s the norm. I don’t want to frustrate the audience, but as long as we keep it interesting and funny, I think it’s going to be fine. I kind of liken it to Charlie Brown. If he ever met up with the red-haired girl or Lucy let him kick the football, it’d just be kind of over. It’s good that in the last episode they are victorious for a little while before it’s left hanging. They have to have small victories to keep them going.
But then Richard gets that awful call telling him that he’s no longer going to be CEO of his own company. Is that the central conflict we can expect to see played out in season three?
Yeah, that’s the setup of next season. There’s this thing that just happened at Twitter actually with Dick Costolo stepping down. That sort of thing happens a lot. It was interesting when we first did the thing where Russ Hanneman (Chris Diamantopoulos) has the two board seats. People started going, “Oh, now I see. There’s three board seats out there…” It was interesting to see them try to predict what they thought we were going to do, but I didn’t see anybody predict what we really did — so hopefully we weren’t predictable.
Have you actually discussed where you’re headed next year with the other writers?
No, we were so swamped with getting through season two. Alec and I have had, like, one 45-second discussion about season three — about whether or not it’s over for someone when they’re fired as CEO. There’s different ways that plays out, but we were just like, “Let’s deal with that when we start up again.” (Laughs.)
Speaking of CEOs losing their jobs, is this the end of Gavin Belson’s reign at Hooli?
It seems like it’s the beginning of a downfall, possibly. There were a lot of ideas we talked about in the very beginning of the show regarding some of those big moves. But when Alec started on the show and we actually started writing it, we very much found the smaller moves more interesting. Originally, we had talked about that whole thing with Gavin being at the end of season one. But we’ve never really took it past that or discussed where it would really go. Seeing somebody else run Hooli could be interesting, though. We hinted at Big Head, but we’ll see. It’s funny because we realized we had to do something different with Josh’s character. We wrote most of the first season before we started shooting and without knowing how good Josh is at playing a guy who doesn’t have anything going on. We just really like the way he plays that, and we just kept wanting more. I think we have to keep him in there somehow.
One character we didn’t get to see as much of this year was Monica — and same with her quirky new boss, Laurie. But the end of the finale seemed to suggest a brewing rivalry between the two. Does that mean you plan on making them a more significant part of next season?
Yeah, I think so. I really like the two of them together. I’m a big fan of Suzanne and how she plays that character. We tried to work some more of it in this season, but we just had painted ourselves into this corner with the arbitration. It’s hard to service everybody when you’re doing these short half-hours. But I definitely want to see more of them. I think there’s a lot that we could do with the Laurie Bream character. A woman in the tech world is interesting. I like hearing her talk about someone like the Russ Hanneman character because her interacting with those type of people is really interesting.
Did you get advice from real people in the tech world when you were writing this past season?
I’ve been corresponding with Mark Cuban. That has been going on since after the first season. I’ve kind of gotten to know these people a little more this time around, like Jeremy Stoppelman of Yelp. I went up there and I met him after the first season.
Do you think any of them will want to make an appearance in the show at some point, the way you’ve done with Evan Spiegel, Michael Arrington and others?
The thing about the tech world is that there aren’t that many people who viewers can recognize. It’s a handful of people — Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Elon Musk. Also, they’re billionaires. They don’t need the money, so why would they do it? Just for fun? We’ve reached out to a lot of these people and sometimes they are interested, but ultimately they just say that there are too many downsides to it.
Who’s your dream cameo?
It’s a tie between Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. It would be really cool to get Zuckerberg, just because he’s sort of a quintessential tech guy. He’s created something that everybody on Earth uses, a movie was made about him. It would just be cool to get him in the show. But we did have the Winklevoss twins, so maybe he’ll hate us and never be in the show now. (Laughs.)