In Silicon Valley season 4’s penultimate episode, the season’s story problems became more glaring. The more Richard Hendricks compromises for his goal, the more it’s hard to stop thinking about how ill-defined his goal is. Yes, he wants to keep Pied Piper afloat but what does that mean at this point? He wants to give people free Internet, which seems like an inherently unsustainable goal. How does he plan on turning this into a business? What do Dinesh Chugtai and Bertram Gilfoyle have to gain from continuing to stick around? Of course, not everyone’s goal needs to be monetary. But he’s obsessed with his business without any thought to what defines a successful business. In other words, he’s not working towards a concrete goal. Which makes his achieving-it-at-all-costs attitude perplexing and unsympathetic.
Similarly, the characters never remotely discussed the consequences of Erlich Bachman leaving. Who’s the landlord at the incubator now? How will the terms of everyone’s agreements change? Will they live in the house indefinitely in exchange for Erlich owning 10% of this company that seems like it has no plans of being profitable? This episode highlighted the kinds of questions I wouldn’t be asking in a more engaging, entertaining episode. It’s a bad sign for a sitcom when you start thinking about the characters’ rental agreements.
One set piece in “Hooli-Con” really worked. I’m referring to the scene in which Richard revealed that he allowed them all to get caught simply so he could change someone’s screensaver from “Peace Fare” to “Poop Fare.” In the middle of this tense moment, Dinesh and Gilfoyle immediately offered up significantly better puns. Then, Jared Dunn confronted Richard in the one truly great dramatic moment of the latter half of this season. It was a scene powerful enough to make you forget how meandering everything up to that point had been.
But, there were also many cringe-inducing scenes in this episode. In particular, the drawn out scene in which Richard was giving Dinesh instructions and it sounded like he was talking to a suicide bomber was painful. So was Dinesh visiting Mia in prison. While these characters have never been likable per se, they’ve always been understandable. And, yes, to an extent that’s the point. But, keeping a character interesting as they disintegrate morally is a very careful line to walk and the plotting of this season isn’t strong enough to pull it off.