Showrunners: Mike Judge, Alec Berg, Clay Tarver
Main Cast: Thomas Middleditch, Kumail Nanjiani, Martin Starr, Josh Brener, Zach Woods, Matt Ross, Amanda Crew, Suzanne Cryer
Notable Guest Star: Chris Diamantopolous
Episode Length: 28-30 Minutes
The following review contains some spoilers
As Silicon Valley headed into its fifth season, there were some concerns to be had about the direction it was going towards. The days of all the guys coding at the Bachman house are far behind us, and Pied Piper has evolved into something much bigger than the compression app it was founded as. But I’d argue the bigger issue was the loss of T.J. Miller, who I’d argue is likely the funniest actor on the show. Despite these concerns, I’m happy to say that Silicon Valley has delivered a season that’s different than what came before but that has also retained some of the elements that made it successful in the first place.
Following the end of season four, Pied Piper finally moved to a real office and needed to hire a full group of engineers. This created a change of scenery that was not only needed but almost felt required at this point. Throughout the season, it was interesting to see character dynamics play out in a different setting while the company continued to grow, and despite Erlich Bachman’s absence, the show’s humor mostly survived.
Speaking of Bachman, the show doesn’t dwell on his absence for long. There’s a subplot at the beginning of the season about who owns his house after he leaves, but after that, there’s not many references to him. While I miss Miller’s wacky performance, his absence doesn’t break the show, and it still relies on other styles of humor (e.g., Richard’s general awkwardness and Jared’s odd persona) to generate a hearty amount of laughs. The show gives off the impression that Miller likely won’t be back again, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Otherwise, the show’s usual strengths remained. Gilfoyle and Dinesh still bicker constantly, Jared is still awkward and occasionally darkly comic, and Gavin Belson still doesn’t realize how much of a sociopath he is. Much of the heart and soul of this show relies on these caricatures that are present in almost every moment, and still make up a significant amount of humor.
As Pied Piper grows, Richard is taking on a bigger role with the company as the CEO, and it is interesting to see him act like one. There are times this season when Richard acts like a dick as a boss, and it almost feels like watching a younger version of Gavin Belson. But Richard is still the awkward doofus he’s been since day one, and watching him operate in a position of power is interesting.
After five seasons, it does appear as if the show is having some trouble when it comes to keeping things fresh when it comes to conflict. For the most part, conflict on the show has gone like this: Pied Piper starts in a promising new trend or direction. Then as things look bright, something stupid happens that threatens the future of the company, and it looks like it’s the end. But then finally, a deus ex machina moment happens, and the company is saved. It’s a model that most seasons have followed, and season five didn’t stray far from it.
I’ve also become a firm believer in the idea that Silicon Valley has absolutely no clue what to do with Big Head. At least during the first two seasons, he had value as an ex-Pied Piper member in Gavin’s hands while doing nothing. But this season, he amounts to no much more than sitting at home and really doing nothing. He has significantly less screen time as well, and now that Richard has control of his own company, this season is a missed opportunity to have Big Head assume at least some kind of job within the company.
Despite the fact that Silicon Valley has been renewed for another season, it seems as if it is getting close to its endgame, which isn’t exactly clear. How far down the line will we see Pied Piper go? The company has pivoted a handful of times already, and it doesn’t seem like it can go in another direction after the decentralized Internet. Ultimately, the end of the show may be something along the lines of Hooli becoming an inferior company to Pied Piper, but that isn’t 100% clear yet.
Overall, season five is arguably the most unique one that the show’s had so far, and the results are mostly good. While I don’t think there’s too much left in the tank (I’m betting that season six will be the last), the show has had a strong run and has never failed to be achingly funny. Whatever the future of Pied Piper is, I’ll be there for it.
How Does it Compare to Previous Seasons?: I’d argue that this season of Silicon Valley is about on par with the high quality of previous seasons, if not just a step or so below it.
Best Episodes: “Reorientation,” “Chief Operating Officer”
Silicon Valley is Recommended if You Like: The Social Network, Mike Judge, Nerds talking about nerdy things
Where to Watch: You can watch every episode of the show on HBO Go provided you have a subscription to the network.
Grade: 3.8 out of 5 Lines of Computer Code
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