SILICON VALLEY Review: “Server Error”

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“You only make that face if your dick is on fire” Dinesh announces as he watches video of yet another customer whose phone blew up from the secret Pied Piper app installation. This is the opening of season four’s finale of , and as with the rest of the season this episode is a series of ups and downs for the gang that ends on a familiar note, with Gavin and Richard in a Chinese restaurant getting ready to battle as foes. Yes, we’re back to square one again, and while the show has ultimately fallen off its pedestal this season, a re-set means Mike Judge has the room to take is somewhere if he chooses to, and that’s reason for optimism for season five. I still ultimately think season five will be the show’s last, but Richard’s attitude towards Gavin Belsen in their final scene makes me think we’ll finally see the rise of Pied Piper.

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Richard may fumble awkwardly with his words when he’s feeling confident (“Right back at you Gavy baby.”) but we’re seeing a Richard now who has the assurance of someone who has gone through hell and risked all his friendships for the sake of his company. Unlike in seasons past when the trials and tribulations were mostly external issues caused by inexperience, this season’s problems for Pied Piper have mostly been because of Richard’s character and his inability to lead correctly. He’s had multiple opportunities to make things right and only learns his lesson when it’s too late, garnering back the support of Jared, Dinesh and Gilfoyle with a heartfelt apology.

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And I know that that’s actually the set up of this episode again, but I think the stakes were higher when we lost Jared’s support and I expect that to pay off this time. Richard effectively knows that Dinesh and Gilfoyle respect him but are essentially there for the coding game. Jared on the other hand, is a devotee, someone who believes in Richard specifically and wants him to be the leader Gavin Belson stopped being. So the recent arc of having Jared lose faith in Richard should be especially instructive to Richard. Now that their company has been saved by Jian-Yang’s smart fridge, (a brilliantly funny turn by the way,) and Richard has Jared’s support again, he needs to learn and move forward. Fool me once shame on you Mike Judge, but fool me three or four times and I’m just going to stop watching because I’m too invested in your characters to watch them meander constantly through their same weaknesses.

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This show is not and cannot be Seinfeld, and if it’s positioning itself to be that in the next and possible future seasons, then I think I’m going to graciously bow out now. In a recent interview for the Hollywood Reporter, TJ Miller talks about his exit and he basically explains that despite the genius of the writers, he’s not into being a Kramer on a cyclical show. The difference is of course is that a show like Seinfeld was designed to operate at a certain monochromatic level. There were no character arcs, Jerry and crew never had any real desires or goals, they weren’t winners but they weren’t really complete losers either. Silicon Valley on the other hand is about something, it’s about the weak banding together and vanquishing the strong. It’s been funny to see them fail as they do it, but there’s too much plot and there’s too much character to let them fester in a one-dimensional space.

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Miller makes another point in his interview about how perhaps his exit will allow the show to do something different, and I hope he’s right. I liked the show letting him motivate the plot one last time in showing Gavin the Hooli-phone debacle, and if that’s the last thing he does for this show that’s alright by me. In hindsight now that the season is done, if the show wasn’t going to build his character anymore than it has been, then leaving him in an opium den in China is a merciful killing. If the show runners weren’t planning on letting Pied Piper grow next season, maybe they will now, and Miller will have sacrificed himself for the betterment of the show.

Going forward, Gavin and Richard will battle again but we’ll get the benefit of a new and improved Gavin. Perhaps one that is even more ruthless now that he has found some clarity for himself and his purpose. I know the writers are funny enough to show that fight in a funny way and to find ways to make the guys lose upwards as they struggle against the Hooli-Goliath. That has to be the direction of this show for it to pull out a few more seasons or make season five a compelling series finale. I love all the characters in this show and consistently it has the best joke writing on television. Details like Gilfoyle wearing cat contacts, or Big Head teaching the difference between Tron and Tron Legacy at his Stanford level CS class are things that set a very high bar of comedy for the show, and it just cannot afford to let its storyline sink beneath it.

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I’m willing to re-set one more time and take Silicon Valley season five at face value next season without making it carry the weight of this season. But I sincerely hope I’m repaid in kind for my patience and finally get to see the guys I’ve been rooting for do something great for themselves. Richard has been an interesting character from the get-go, and while he’s not always the most likable, the underlying belief has always been that he’s a good guy who wants to make the world a better place. It’s a line that gets used in the series premier as a joke about how all start-ups promise some idealistic vision to mask the momentous egos of their CEOs. But the reason we’re watching Richard, Dinesh, Gilfoyle and Jared, is because somewhere we actually believe they might be able to do it genuinely. We care about these guys, the show has done a lot to earn that care, and now it’s time to pay it off.

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Silicon Valley airs Sunday at 9PM on HBO

Read all of our reviews of Silicon Valley here. 
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Follow Greg on Twitter: @brechergreg
Keep up with all of Greg’s reviews here.

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