It’s time for Season 3 and this time there is no Martin Freeman or Phil Rask. There isn’t even a mention of him and I’m holding out hope that if there is a Season 4, he will return because he was the best part of this show. Since there is no Martin Freeman this time around I’ll admit that I found it hard to get through Season 3 but I’m glad I did because the ending is surprising and does set the stage for Season 4, if there is one. All in good time.
So in the few months since the last season, Araknet is flourishing and has become a fabulous, successful, money making company. Ronald has moved out of Little Haiti and has bought a lovely house in a middle-to-upper-class neighbourhood and Tamara is pregnant. Nick is living with Mara and is very much in love, whilst Izzy is living on her Grandmother’s farm and shacking up with a boxing tutor.
But this is Startup so something has to go wrong and this time it’s the arrival of NSA agent, Rebecca Stroud (Mira Sorvino) who seems to be the new Phil Rask with tonnes more corruption and not even the slightest piece of interest. It’s clear that she’s raving mad and the new bad guy but her appearance means trouble for Araknet and the inevitable backstabbing among the CEO’s.
The one thing that I do appreciate in this season is the level of moral quandaries that the main characters are left with.
You are the CEO of a company that prides itself on protecting the identities of it’s users and also what they get up to on the internet. As far as you’re concerned, whatever your customers decide to buy or sell or masturbate to is their concern and theirs alone BUT when an NSA agent shows up and tells you that a few of your users are planning a terrorist attack that has been predicted as another 9/11 and they need the details of such users so they can be stopped, what would you do? Risk alienation and consequent departure of your loyal customers by preventing a lot of innocent people from being killed in a horrible way in a horrific and disastrous event OR keep making loads of money off of your loyal customers and getting more loyal customers and money under the guise of complete privacy all the while living with the knowledge that a lot of people are now dead and it could have been avoided and when the media eventually get hold of the story that your company could have prevented this attack then your stocks won’t be worth shit and you’ll be shamed into bankruptcy. Decisions, decisions.
This is exactly the choice that the 4 CEO’s of Araknet are faced with. Except, this is not really a difficult choice and really just a show of who is the most selfish therefore the four characters are split down the middle where the inevitable bickering begins. Ronald and Mara (the sensible characters) are all for giving the NSA complete control in the interest of preventing deaths whilst Nick and Wes (the complete, money-hungry, fuck-scoffs) want to keep their company afloat albeit inevitably temporarily.
Here’s the thing. If your company prides itself on offering complete privacy, in my mind, there has to be a line. Have as much privacy as you want, download all the shows, movies and music in the world and have fun with it but the very second that you start planning mass murder which is a real crime that causes genuine damage, that’s when the authorities will have to step in and I’d let them in with a fucking red carpet event if it meant that I wouldn’t have to live with the knowledge that I loved money and success over the lives of my fellow man AND I know that my users would understand if it meant Mummy and Daddy would come home.
Sadly, it’s all for nothing. When the CEO’s take a vote, Wes gets two votes for some reason or another so his two votes and Nick’s one vote overthrow Ronald and Mara.
Hush falls over the crowd however when a truly terrible and catastrophic chemical attack occurs and further arguments and scuffles befall our characters.
Although, I’m not sure why anyone’s surprised. If you put a community on an Island together and then turn all the cameras off, it’s inevitable that the several bad eggs in the basket will do something bad. It’s easy to get away with something when you know that no one is watching. That’s why I had to laugh when Ronald does some digging and comes to the horror that people were using Araknet to put out hits on their spouses. How can Ronald be surprised that people are using Araknet to do bad things when the company was founded on the prospect of LH7 dealing drugs without getting caught? That’s funny.
Ronald is understandably miffed but he’s got problems of his own. Even though he doesn’t live there anymore, Ronald still visits his old gang members in Little Haiti and in this case it’s to warn them that the NSA are sniffing around but they get into some trouble with some Nazis and when Ronald makes it clear that he wants a meeting for peace to go over peacefully, his friends weren’t listening and so it’s ‘contrived gun massacre to ramp up inevitable conflict’ away! I’ve just realised that I’m using the word ‘inevitable’ a lot and that’s precisely the word. Inevitable. The writing is getting a bit questionable in this season to which I mean that after everything the characters have been through together, in this season, they don’t seem to trust each other very much.
But where’s Izzy in all this. In Cuba, she tries to re-enact her hacking ways but she’s captured by the government and straight into the custody of Rebecca Stroud. Izzy is given an ultimatum. She can make friends with Nick and Ronald again so she can infiltrate Araknet and input a virus that will bring it down OR she can spend forever in prison. After landing in Miami, Izzy works her way back in and begins to struggle with her morality. Is she prepared to lose another brainchild and betray her friends who have been raising her brainchild whilst she’s been sexing a hunky boxing tutor in exchange for staying out of prison? It doesn’t really matter because Rebecca has recruited another Araknet employee to input the virus anyway.
The staff can barely celebrate the 100,000,000 user milestone as the virus decimates nearly 60,000,000 users in a few minutes until Izzy locates the virus and neutralises it. Naturally, this puts Izzy in the firing line and Nick starts throwing wild accusations but in fairness, Nick’s been a naughty boy.
Remember Daewon? The hacker from Season 1 who helped Phil Rask be all corrupt and then metaphorically stabbed him in the back? Well he returns when Nick emails him and then pays him $80,000 to hack into another company, ‘Broken Egg’, and as news breaks of a massive data leak emerges, there’s a rush of users fleeing to Araknet.
Nick’s also being a devious bastard. When the police show up to question the employees about Ronald’s whereabouts on the day when Nazis were murdered. Nick realises that Ronald was there and so hands him over to the police in the hopes that Ronald will be relieved from the company and won’t go through with handing over the company to the NSA. I think. I can’t really remember but that makes the most sense.
The arrest causes havoc as Tamara is sacked from her job teaching soccer to school kids because her former gang-member husband has been arrested for multiple murders. Ronald’s only way away from prison is to give up his gang but Ronald stays quiet due to the age-old gang motto of ‘no-snitching’ until his lawyer reminds him of the good life that he has and so Ronald signs the papers and his gang are arrested.
Ronald then enacts revenge and kicks the shit out of Nick and tells Nick not to go to the police because then he will tell the police about Nick’s involvement in the Broken Egg scandal. More annoyingly, because Nick’s face looks like he’s had several plums inserted just under the surface of the skin, Ronald is chosen to take his place in the meeting with a company that Mara was responsible for blackmailing into submission.
But that’s when they get a phone call from Izzy.
It’s already been established that Rebecca Stroud is nothing to do with the NSA as the real NSA have already shown up and so the big question is ‘just who the hell is this lady?’. Well in the last scene of the last episode, we find out. She’s black-ops and former CIA and a ‘cleaner’ for some group or another. How she got the clout and the authority to freeze the Araknet bank account so they couldn’t pay their employees, nobody knows.
Now is when the surprising twist happens. Izzy has beaten up Rebecca Stroud and she’s tied up in her flat. She calls over Ronald and Nick to their annoyance and now they have another moral quandary. Do they kill her or do they let her go? Both have their problems. Both morally and practically. Whilst Izzy and Ronald argue it out, Nick, probably subconsciously tired of both the other characters and the audience calling him a coward and a devious bastard and a pussy, gets his hands dirty and shoots Rebecca dead before the eyes of his stunned colleagues. Now they have an even bigger problem. What with them all being accessories to murder, they know that the dark and shadowy group that employ Rebecca are going to come looking for her and also they have a body to get rid of.
The last shot of the season is the three carrying Rebecca’s wrapped body to a secluded area whilst being worried about Nick’s mental state. That to me is a good place to end a season. It’s left me with a genuine interest in carrying on with the show and given that surprising ending, I’m again willing to forgive a lot of things that are wrong with it, mostly listed above.
At time of writing, it’s unknown whether or not Startup has been renewed for another season. I hope it does. This season was left on a genuinely interesting note and kept me motivated without Martin Freeman to see it through and although it has some problems (what show doesn’t) it doesn’t deserve cancellation. Then again, ending a season on an interesting note doesn’t make it invulnerable to cancellation. Look what happened to ‘Salvation’.
Need a good read for Christmas? How about my new book? It’s really good and it’s a reasonable price and it’s written by me.