After a pair of fast and very plot heavy openers to season four, SILICON VALLEY has slowed back down to its sweet spot with “Intellectual Property.” The strength of the show has never really rested on its narrative and plot, so it actually works better and is funnier when it has time to breathe and give its characters room to play. It seems that we are heading towards a Richard and Gavin partnership, and that’s exciting not because of Richard’s prospect of succeeding at creating a new internet, but because of how funny Thomas Middleditch and Matt Ross are with each other. The relationships are all that matter in this show, and the plot really is secondary and serves only to provide the canvas for them.
Four seasons in the show is very confident with its characters and relationships, and so they could do a re-set without batting an eye or losing any interest. Episode three doesn’t have the most going on, but it’s one of the funniest and I found myself re-watching scenes just for the character banter. I’m all in on any episode that begins with Andy Daley saying, “Are these my favorite nailbeds I’ve ever seen? No, but they’re fine.”
From episode to episode it’s hard to pick a character or relationship I like the most, but so far this season I’ve been most entertained by the Erlich and Jian Yang partnership, and really want to keep seeing more of that. Jimmy O Yang really nails the character and he always feels authentic in his choices and reactions to Erlich’s pomp. The pitch scene when Erlich pretends to speak Mandarin is comedy gold and Miller always knows how to keep Erlich looking as if he’s still in control while things blatantly unravel on him.
The focus of their relationship has taken away valuable screen time from others like Jared or Gilfoyle, but the beauty of the show is that it always finds a way to even things out so I don’t worry about them being forgotten. I’m sure that as Richard’s endeavor takes off Jared will be thrust back into the center. And I’m pretty sure Dinesh’s girlfriend is going to involve Gilfoyle one way or another. Still, even with their smaller parts for the moment, both characters have gotten their jokes in, and that applies to everyone who hasn’t been heavily featured.
On paper Thomas Middleditch is the star of the show, but in practice everyone plays sort of a bench role with the ability to start and star games. The lack of rigid parameters on its actors and characters makes the show always feel fresh and lets us move on the second a storyline gets tired. Take Dinesh for example, who was the focus the previous two episodes, but is now back to being a guy who bickers with his co worker and worries about women. He hasn’t changed, and in any other show that would be a problem, but it never feels inauthentic here. Maybe it’s the casting, and maybe it’s just the level of joke writing, but whatever the reason is, the effect is that character is never sacrificed for plot. Dinesh is the kind of guy who superficially lets things get to his head without thinking about the downside. The second he felt the weight of responsibility he let go of any delusions of grandeur, and back to being someone who says things like “I did sex on her.” He’s ultimately an awkward coward, and that resonates through every situation he’s put in.
And the same treatment of characters applies to our villains and foes. The scene with Gavin leaving Hooli is genuinely sad. He’s been an interesting and very classic villain in the sense that you always want him around as the foil. Now that he’s lost he’s effectively in the same boat as our guys, so it makes total sense for the show to set up a tenuous partnership between he and Richard. I’m sure that Gavin can’t be completely trusted, but I still want him involved with what the Pied Piper crew are doing as much as possible. I do wonder how they’ll play it out. The exciting part of Silicon Valley is how often it subverts my expectations, and I’m sure that’ll be the case with the rest of the season.
A couple of favorite lines/interactions:
Dinesh: I’m the exact same way, it being a movie, doesn’t mean I’m going to like it.
Jian Yang: I’m a big fat uh fucking asshole.
Erlich: Ok, now wait, that’s me, why would I call myself a big fat asshole? The liquor’s gotten to the little fella, and I wouldn’t listen to a word he has to say.
Season 4, Episode 3 (S04E03)
Silicon Valley airs Sunday at 10PM on HBO
Greg Brecher | Contributor