Culture of Pop

Silicon Valley Season 4 Review: 4.5: The Blood Boy

This week’s episode of Silicon Valley season 4 was without a doubt the weirdest episode of the show so far. Early on, the episode introduced Bryce, played by Quantico‘s Graham Rogers. He’s Gavin Belson’s “blood boy.” This means he’s a young, fit man who Gavin gets blood transfusions from. Gavin believes this will slow down his aging. What seemed like a quick joke turned out to be the main plot of the episode. Gavin insisted that Richard Hendricks learn to get along with Bryce. Meanwhile, Dinesh Chugtai worried about how to break up with Mia. Eventually, he decided to report her to the FBI.

With these strange, almost surreal plot points this felt like an episode of a show like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It worked on that level, but it was striking how much it didn’t feel like Silicon Valley.

The best and most grounded plot played into the friendship between Monica Hall and Erlich Bachman. Their friendship’s been quietly blossoming since season 2 and it was nice seeing it on full display. Monica attended a baby shower for Laurie Bream, which Erlich realized was actually Ed Chen’s attempt at making Laurie look weak to push her out of the company. The scenes of Monica talking things out with Erlich, as well as the final scene in this plot line in which Laurie asked Monica to jump ship with her, had what the rest of the episode desperately lacked. They had a real sense of organic relationships.

Richard’s sudden devotion to Gavin, to the point of publicly aligning himself with him for no other reason than his ego– and without asking what secrets about him Bryce was about to expose– was a little too far even for Richard. Yes, he has a history of blindly following whoever happens to be halfway nice to him, but this quality was exaggerated without being leveraged for drama or comedy. Both in-universe and from a narrative perspective, it was hard to understand the route of Richard fully aligning himself with Gavin at all costs. It seems they formed deep bonds offscreen, in which case it would’ve been nice to actually see that.

It was especially weak narratively because no one was opposing him. Jared Dunn’s deep distrust of Gavin wasn’t on display. There was no protest from engineering purist Bertram Gilfoyle when Richard claimed they need Gavin’s brain. Because there was no narrative strength to Richard’s trust of Gavin, the end when Gavin took off didn’t have any dramatic punch.

If it weren’t for Gilfoyle calling Gavin a dick, it would be hard to even gather that it’s a bad thing that Gavin left. Having the patent without Gavin’s interference seems ideal. Yes, it means they no longer have access to his money, but by now they’re used to searching for funding and there’s been no discussion of why they need any at this point. Richard was pursuing the idea purely on his own just a couple weeks ago and hadn’t said anything about needing to find money for it at this stage.

“The Blood Boy” also dropped the ball thematically. Early on, Bryce called Richard out on typical nerd snobbery and judgment. This nicely tapped into the main themes of the show. But, then the episode didn’t do anything with those themes. Bryce was almost immediately revealed to be a bully with no skills, just like Richard assumed he was. There was no surprise punch like you’d expect from a satire of nerd culture. The subplot with Ed using Laurie’s pregnancy as an opportunity to turn the all-male board against her actually did have some substance to it, but was sadly under-explored.

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