The Arrested Development of "Silicon Valley"

June 29, 2017

 

 

The series "Silicon Valley" is a lot like its protagonist Richard Hendricks: on to a great formula and rife with potential, but moving in starts and fits, often falling short when the big moment should arrive. 

 

The finale of the HBO show's fourth season had its gags and laughs. And one of the most brilliant lines of the season as, in a painfully reductive moment, a jaded Jared described what Pied Piper actually does to a woman he is interviewing to be his replacement: “Even setting aside our CEO’s sexual extortion, adultery, and lowbrow scatological vandalism, we’re still essentially a criminal operation whose only real product is dangerous malware."

 

For a show that has been running four seasons now, each seeing more and more narrative progress for the Pied Piper lads across their 10 episodes, a little more than table-talk with Peter Gregory was expected in the closing scene of Season Four's "Server Error," an episode that brought its protagonist to the brink of irredeemability. 

 

In a similarly anti-climactic moment, Hendrick's foil, and consummate ass-of-every-joke, Erlich Bachman was deposed in as fitting a position as we can imagine — an opium den in Tibet for an indefinite period of time, though two episodes ago there was nary a hint that the character would even be leaving (minus leaks that TJ Miller wasn't returning for season 5 of course). And the final shot of him sleeping off a heavy smoking session was hardly enough for a character who was the arguable lead of the cast. 

 

 

Compared to its sunday night forerunners "Entourage" and" Ballers," HBO shows built for and centered around millennial men, Silicon Valley attacks the industry it is set in with much more tenacity, never glamming up the ensemble or their environs. However, it fell short in the climactic moment this season, failing to deliver anything like the middle-out Weissman score blowout they earned in season three. All this despite a set up at HooliCon in Episode 9 that looked keen to deliver the same kind of laugh-first cheer-later material that has endeared the show to audiences. Instead, episode nine, and the pace of the whole season, ended with the guys looking on and grunting as the phones they hacked unintentionally exploded.

 

This has been the formula for some seasons now: the guys, usually Richard, spring upon an idea and draw up the plan to turn it into an innovation, but some unforeseen, and usually trite, circumstance comes into play (hacked phones explode; Richard hacks a guys computer for a poop joke; Jian Yang makes a hot dog app; the servers fall out of the back of the truck; the guys trip over a cord in an office and spill their mutiny documents in front of their new boss) which keeps them, and the show, in arrested development.

 

Then perhaps this is a more fitting comparison for the show: Arrested Development — the ingenious sitcom, now stationed on Netflix, where each season ends with the characters in more or less the same standing as when it began. But "Silicon Valley" always seemed to promise more than single-episode arcs as a lens into the fastest growing industry and county in the country. 

 

At its best, the show scathes with satire. In many ways, the guys' bumbling, dick-first foray into the tech world and accompanied commentary on how the most incompetent men often make it first (Big Head, Keenan Feldspar, Russ Hanneman, Peter Gregory) are the clearest critiques of modern industry one can offer, even outside of Silicon Valley.

 

Yet, for a season that promised to give us a "new internet," and finished with the guys scrapping to find anything, including smart-refrigerators, to store their only client's data on, it seems the potential of the group and the series fall short simultaneously. 

 

Over the seasons, the show has taken us through the Valley with brands like Aviato, Bream-Hall, Hooli, apps like Nipple Hunter and Not Hot Dog, and plenty eccentric CEOs to measure the tech industry beside. For the unparalleled look into this burgeoning land of metal and plastic, we thank you, "Silicon Valley." Yet, after 20 hours of television, the show has remained, like its focal business Pied Piper, in the living-room (or incubator, so to speak), but is there genius in that choice?

 

Perhaps in the fifth season, with the humor of Erlich gone, we will see the show follow the guys higher and higher as they go head to head with Hooli (for the fifth time), or maybe they'll all fall off a cliff. Either way, we're plugged in. 

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