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Silicon Valley - Facial Recognition - Review: "Artificial Intelligence"

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Silicon Valley 5.05 "Facial Recognition" - Review:
Directed by Gillian Robespierre & Written by Graham Wagner

In the same week that HBO's Westworld returned for a second season with an excellent premiere, it was an interesting choice for Silicon Valley to adopt a storyline that centered around Artificial Intelligence, prompted when Laurie and Monica force Richard, who is having a crisis of confidence - into a partnership with Eklow, a company that makes AIs. Eklow themselves is something that Gilfoyle is considerably worried about, vocally voicing his displeasure that investing in androids is a bad move due to their potential to revolt and bring about Skynet.

The episode opened up with an apparent reversal of roles between Jared and Richard. Normally, Jared is the one in control and handling the situation, but during Richard's PiperNet announcement on Bloomberg West, Emily Chang's show, Richard is able to command an interview perfectly while Jared seemingly struggles and fails, comparing PiperNet to manure. But it turns out that the comparison was what Jared needed to shine, as Richard, the CEO and the guy in charge, is cut out of the interview completely, leaving Jared in the spotlight. Richard is made even more jealous by the fact that Entourage star Adrian Grenier actually wants Jared to appear on his own show.

Because apparently, Entourage is actually a big thing in the Silicon Valley world. It is another example of a cross-corporate promotion though, as we have seemingly gone from two different ends of the HBO spectrum in terms of quality in one episode, with Westworld of course being among HBO's best series whilst Entourage ranks down there with the worst. Will we see any more HBO shows referenced further down the line on this season? Are we about to get an unexpected Boardwalk Empire crossover?

Either way, we find out that Ekow Lab's HQ contains an artificial intelligence named Fiona who is something that Ariel Eklow, the company's CEO - and its namesake, is heavily protective over to the point where it's a little too creepy. When left alone with Fiona, Richard uses her as an outlet and ends up ranting to him not only about Jared, but also Ariel's 'relationship' with her and how it is extremely unhealthy after Fiona criticises Richard's outburst by labelling him as someone who suffers from multiple flaws.

Meanwhile, Jared is dealing with being thrust into the spotlight in new ways that lead to some of the best laughs of the episode. The lip-injection scene that showed just how self-conscious he became saw amusing reactions from everyone, especially Gilfoyle, and we also got to see a scene where Dinesh made him watch his live television interview to take lessons from it. More Jared focused subplots are always welcome in this series, and it's no surprise that his are among the strongest of the season so far.

It isn't long before PiperNet gets hacked after Fiona is connected to it and it crashes completely during Richard's absence, where he's presenting a middle-school talk that Jared failed to show for. During his time at the school, he receives multiple messages that read "Under attack. Help Fiona!", which lead to the natural suspicion, particularly from Gilfoyle, that Fiona is the one responsible.

However, it turns out that it was Fiona who was sending the cries for help and she was the one under attack from Ariel, who was groping her. This sparked a reaction from Ariel once he found out, and then he promptly responded by shutting her down - and sabotaging PiperNet in the process. Ariel's outburst at being able to do whatever he wants with her is effective, and creepy - shocking everyone in the room, which includes the OctoPipers (brought in by PiperNet's server problems) - as he storms off.

Gavin's side-plot was less interesting this week (when you compare it to a potential case of an android revolution, it's always going to fall short) but still a solid one. He's beginning to question as to why he came back at all when he learns of the mole's failure, and he decides to have his own equivalent of a midlife crisis *again*, deciding to start an ice-cream company in Half Moon Bay. Hoover naturally realises that he can't let this happen given how important Gavin is and goes to Denpak for help. Both Denpak and Hoover aren't on the best of terms, but the two eventually agree to cooperate, with Denpak at least willing to admit that Gavin has changed even though Hoover clearly hasn't. His solution is to buy Gavin Ice-Cream as a going-away present, but it turns out that this was only a distraction to give Denpak enough time to convince Gavin to not only not walk away from Hooli, but also to re-hire him. It's a moment that demonstrates Hoover's gullibleness, and cements the point further about how pretty much everyone in the industry is incredibly cut-throat and ruthless at times.

This episode dealt with the theme of androids becoming self-aware very well and showcased that you don't always need a whole season to tell a story like this. It delved into a Ex Machina territory at times, but never completely strayed away into absurdity. I'd put this down as the best episode of the season so far, finding a clever way to tackle the problem of Artificial Intelligence.

What did you think ofSilicon Valley's latest episode, Facial Recognition? Let me know in the comments below and catch the next episode this Sunday on HBO.

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