Silicon Valley: Season Four Review
Silicon Valley exists entirely in Square One. Just when its main troupe of wannabe millionaires seems to have found the key to success, something -- whether it's a new enemy or the wrath of a mistake made two seasons prior -- knocks them back down. But the endeavors of Pied Piper never feel completely hopeless, because on the brink of Pied Piper's utter ruin, the universe shifts its tune, and suddenly, the future looks a little brighter.
This never-ending balancing act between triumph and failure is the foundation upon which Silicon Valley operates. The show's biggest, longest joke is that just like many tech companies in the real Silicon Valley, Pied Piper will spend all its time, energy, and investment money getting absolutely nowhere. Viewers hoping for a change of pace in the HBO comedy's fourth season were likely a little disappointed: although the stakes are upped considerably and conflicts appear and disappear at unprecedented speeds, the show is, for the most part, the same as it ever was.
As cyclical as the plot is, things do change in Silicon Valley, mainly regarding the core ensemble: Richard, Jared, Dinesh, Gilfoyle, and Erlich (unfortunately, Monica's role substantially declines in this season). Like the best ensemble comedies, this isn't focused on permanently changing the dynamics. Instead, situations arise that test the characters in interesting new ways. This particular comedy happens to have some of the greatest comedic underdogs in the business, and all of them get to flex their considerable (metaphorical) muscles.
Most impressive is Thomas Middleditch's performance as Richard. This season is all about Richard's quest to create what is basically the next evolution of the Internet, and as the stakes get considerably higher, the character's demeanor begins to change from the socially awkward, nerve-wracked nerd to something far more interesting. Middleditch makes the most of this new material, and the final few episodes of the season contain his best performances in the show's run.
The other major standout is TJ Miller, who announced about halfway through the season that it would be his last as perpetual asshole Erlich Bachman. Although the decision to remove such a fan-favorite character was certainly unexpected, Erlich's relevance to the series's actual plot has been in question for a while. Having pretty much nothing to do with Pied Piper, his final escapades were some very meta attempts to find his place in both Silicon Valley and Silicon Valley, and like most everything else in the show, he doesn't really find what he's looking for.
As we prepare for the next season, Silicon Valley's future is up for grabs. Now that Erlich is gone for good (and in a very fitting fashion, I might add), will the character dynamics be forever changed? Will bigger risks be taken? Will major revelations alter events for longer than an episode or two?
Do we even want these big changes? Perhaps it would be best for Silicon Valley to stay as it is, consistently comic and comically consistent, until it inevitably loses all of its spark. This season was not really a decline in quality -- it is still a must-watch HBO show -- but it does cause me to look towards the next chapter with wary eyes.