‘Silicon Valley’ Caps off Funniest Season Yet, Says Goodbye to T.J. Miller

Sandwiched between cut-throat satire “Veep” and sophisticated weekly news recap “Last Week Tonight,” “Silicon Valley” serves as the middle portion of perhaps the most off-the-wall comedy lineup in quite some time. Just last week the show caused quite a stir when Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch) convinced Pakistani Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) to lug a backpack full of fancy Wifi-corrupting hardware in a scene designed to set off suicide bomber red flags.

The show’s fourth season ended its penultimate episode on a cliffhanger that might hit too close to home for those who owned a Samsung Galaxy Note 7. After Richard and company decided to hack the WiFi at Hooli-Con, everything seemed to be going swimmingly; the network seemed to be holding up nicely and all was well with the boys at Pied Piper. But as is wont to happen on this show, nothing stays rosy for long, as Jack Barker (Stephen Tobolowsky) and Keenan Feldspar (Haley Joel Osment) ran a VR demo that ended with everyone in attendance and 17 people around the country having their phones explode. As if things couldn’t get worse, all of those phones had Pied Piper’s code on them, making it pretty hard for anyone to deny fault. Richard sure does try, though, forcing Jared (Zach Woods) to reprise his role as the voice of reason and remind Richard that “these are real people with real crotches, and they’re burning.”

Zach Woods nailed a range of performances last week as Jared, from making viewers slightly weary of his upbringing with his demeanor when invoking memories of the past to his full-on meltdown at the end of the episode, and he continues to shine here, handing Richard a letter. “I write three letters every time I start a job,” Jared says. “A personal action plan, a letter to my 40-year-old self and a resignation letter.” For those that didn’t figure it out, this was the third one, although it would be great to read what Jared has to say to his 40-year-old self.

This season of “Silicon Valley” has been all over the place and sometimes downright frustrating. Once the scrappy go-getter who you couldn’t help but root for, Richard has quickly become the target for so much ire. His rash of irresponsible and sometimes idiotic decisions in the name of success serve only to irritate rather than accentuate passion, whether he’s forcing Jared to observe a two week notice before he can leave or he’s lying to his friends all over again just to sneak a giant server into Stanford. Richard’s metamorphosis into jaded CEO seems to take its final form when he snaps at a well-intentioned Jared, waiving his two week notice and sending him packing.

Meanwhile, Jack flies to China to talk to Hooli’s factory workers about working faster and better, since he just issued a reckless press release promising to replace 9 million phones. That plan right there already makes the entirety of last week’s episode totally pointless, as Richard’s struggle to sneak his code onto all those phones has been rendered fruitless. And that’s another big problem with this show. Yes, it’s well-written and clever, but the show’s stories seem to take one step forward and two steps back, and eventually we’re just right back where we started.

While Richard continues to sink further into his delusional little world, we start to see all of the ways in which Jared was essential to the whole Pied Piper operation, from keeping tabs on the internet bill to remembering to close the back door to the truck housing the server with all of their data before hitting the road. After a huge argument between Richard, Dinesh and Gilfoyle (Martin Starr), where Richard attacks the duo for being “hypocrites” and “pussies,” they realize their server has been scattered all over the road. There goes all their client’s data.

Remember Jack’s bid to make the Chinese workers do faster work? Well, that quickly evolved into a full-on hostage situation, with the workers demanding fair wages and humane working conditions. They don’t get it though as a still salty Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) swoops in to save Jack and oust him from Hooli, moving back in to reclaim his territory. Who needs the path to enlightenment anyway? Apparently Erlich (T.J. Miller) might, as the last we see of him is becoming an opium fiend. He won’t be a part of the fifth season, so that’s an interesting way of writing off one of the funniest characters in the series.

After Richard interrupts Jared’s sexual escapades with multiple women — go Jared — he wins back Jared’s loyalty by promising to come clean to Dan Melcher (Jake Broder), the guy whose data Pied Piper just irretrievably lost. Except, because this show just loves to pull twists out of nowhere, they didn’t lose it. It all got saved on a network of smart fridges, meaning not only is the data safe, but it proves Richard’s network works. So then why has Dan been sending Richard so many angry text messages?

Oh yeah, because he slept with his fiancé. An enraged Dan jumps on Richard and gives him the beating he has been asking for since midway through the season. We’re still supposed to be rooting for Richard, but that beating he got at Dan’s hands was so cathartic.

Finally, Richard meets with Gavin, who offers to acquire Pied Piper once again, an offer Richard flat out denies. “I look forward to the fight,” Gavin says, and with that, a hard reset to before season four even started, making us wonder what the point of the season was.

With Richard cementing that his crazy open internet idea works, he has set a course to render Hooli’s business obsolete, something bound to play a huge role in the next season. All frustrating faults aside, Richard is sitting on some pretty major technology, and next season could mean all out war.

In terms of telling a story, this season really fell flat, but in terms of acting and comedy, “Silicon Valley” continues to meet and at times even raise the bar.

Silicon Valley” season 4 is available on the HBO Now.