This article contains spoilers through Season 6 Episode 1 of Silicon Valley.
Throughout most of Silicon Valley’s run, Richard Hendricks (played by Thomas Middleditch) and his band of programmers endured a seemingly never-ending series of compromises and close calls to make their start-up, Pied Piper, succeed—until last season’s finale, when Richard finally gained control of his own company. As the sixth and final season began last night, Richard continued relishing his hard-won victory. While delivering testimony before the Senate on data privacy, he launched into an uncharacteristically confident speech that doubled as a verbal middle finger to Big Tech.
“These people up here, you want to rein them in, but you can’t,” he said, citing Facebook, Google, and Amazon as monopolies taking advantage of their users. “They track our every move, they monitor every moment in our lives, and they exploit our data for profit.” Pacing back and forth, he positioned Pied Piper as a company doing good in a corrupt industry: “I promise you, I will help you end this tyranny, by building an internet that is of the people, by the people, and for the people, so help me God.”
But that’s a promise Richard won’t be able to keep. Back at the Pied Piper headquarters after the hearing, the game developer Colin (Neil Casey) revealed that he does collect user data on PiperNet, a network that allows users to control their own data rather than storing it on a centralized server, to improve game-play. Though Richard had previously directed him to stop, Colin refused—he has the upper hand, given that his players make up PiperNet’s largest user base. “Don’t beat yourself up about it,” Colin told a frazzled Richard. “But going forward, maybe stop saying, ‘Pied Piper won’t mine user data’... Or do say it—I don’t care. Maybe it’ll be like Google saying, ‘Don’t be evil,’ or Facebook saying, ‘I’m sorry. We’ll do better.’” He left Richard in a difficult position: If Richard fires Colin, PiperNet will be at risk of shutting down.