Culture of Pop

Silicon Valley Season 4 Premiere Review: 4.1: Success Failure


There have always been two things that make Silicon Valley a great story. First, Richard Hendricks’ paradoxical ability to be both an underdog and a satire of entitlement. Second, the surprising yet character-driven plot turns. Both of these aspects were on full display in the Silicon Valley season 4 premiere.

In the premiere, the Pied Piper team focused on PiperChat. That’s the video chat service developed by Dinesh Chugtai last season. Although they’re struggling with funding, they’re rapidly growing their user base. But, in this episode, Richard was still discontent. As he told Monica Hall, he couldn’t bring himself to code for the chat.

Each character had their turn pointing out Richard’s stubbornness in refusing to work on someone else’s thing. And it undoubtedly showed a frustrating level of entitlement. But, it’s hard to fault him for wanting to do something that actually makes him happy. He’s essentially back in the position he was in when we first met him at Hooli. He had a promising job, but he was miserable. It’s the situation that sucked us into caring about Richard in the first place.

But, now he’s dealing with other characters we care about. So, moments like the one where he informs Monica that he’s going to demand Pied Piper pivot because these guys are his employees are extra eye roll inducing. The situation in the premiere also brought out the worst in Dinesh, who was strutting around in tracksuits comparing himself to Picasso. The season seemed to be introducing a battle between Richard and Dinesh’s egos.

But, then came the episode’s surprise. Just when the team at Pied Piper was going to force Richard out, he stepped down and endorsed Dinesh for CEO. This was different from previous plot twists in Silicon Valley. It didn’t make me gasp or bring me to the edge of my seat. It made me smile and feel a quiet sort of pride. On the one hand, they’re really cutting the tension by having Richard do what’s best for everyone. But, we’re now on Silicon Valley season 4 and I do think it was the right call to put Richard having some sort of positive character development ahead of keep conflict high.

While Richard’s character development certainly drove the episode, Dinesh stole every scene he was in. I hope the rest of Silicon Valley season 4 follows through on giving him a larger role in the story. The moment where he begged Bertram Gilfoyle to let him be CEO was not just something for daddy, it also set up an exciting thread about what Dinesh technically having power over Gilfoyle could mean for their relationship. It’s pretty much a guarantee that this dynamic will be a delight to watch.

The Silicon Valley season 4 premiere also set up a new status quo for Pied Piper’s Board of Directors. Erlich Bachman is being forced to work with Big Head’s protective father, who hates him and is willing to tank the company if it means spiting Erlich. So far, he’s a great addition to the show who fits right in.

The episode saw the return of Russ Hanneman. A little Russ goes a long way and his speech about Richard metaphorically wanting to bang a guy went on a big long. But, he provided a couple great moments, including blasting “Last Resort” by Papa Roach from his car. Plus, his presence served as a reminder that Richard will never, ever realize when someone shouldn’t be in his life.

Speaking of egotistical billionaires, the Silicon Valley season 4 premiere also boasted a subplot about Gavin Belson’s newfound rivalry with Jack Barker. The two passive-aggressively battled it out over private jet flights and office space. I’m always down to watch Gavin be petty, but I hope he becomes involved in the main plot sooner rather than later. One of the weaknesses last season was that it felt like Gavin was off in his own, more cartoonish world. Pulling him into the main story would not only make his scenes feel more relevant, they would also help to ground him. Sometimes he becomes so exaggerated that he’s almost in Mr. Burns territory on what is otherwise a fairly realistic show.

Speaking of cartoonish characters, I am begging this show to let Jared Dunn do something besides be worryingly devoted to Richard and have one-liners about his tragic past. Let me feel like he’s a three-dimensional character I can be invested in again. Please.

Laurie Bream was sadly absent from the Silicon Valley season 4 premiere. It’s unclear how she’ll be involved in the season. Monica is a close enough confidant to Richard that she has a role even without Raviga being involved in Pied Piper, but Laurie’s role in the story at this point is less clear.

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