I’ll fully admit it. I was not a fan of Silicon Valley Season 3. The brilliance of the series in its first two seasons fell to the talented cast, the rag-tag bunch of coders who couldn’t live without each other. They shared a dream, and, against all odds, managed to avoid disaster at each turn. After a while, the manner in which series creator Mike Judge slams a door only to open 65 windows becomes completely unbelievable. But that really isn’t the point. Silicon Valley lives in the camaraderie and constant ribbing of the main cast. Season 3 forgot this and focused too much on star Thomas Middleditch. He received an Emmy nomination, sure, but only at the expense of the full cast. Now, Silicon Valley Season 4 premieres and restores that balance, giving the show sorely needed life.
Silicon Valley Season 4 opens with a rift amongst the main cast. Richard (Middleditch) leaves PiperChat, the video chat company they started on a whim at the end of Season 3, because he doesn’t believe in the product. He has bigger, grander ideas, and that fits the character. Richard always delivered the big ideas but largely tripped on the follow-through. Luck largely propelled him into minor success in Silicon Valley, not talent. The remainder of the group stays with Dinesh’s (Kumail Nanjiani) video app as it builds daily active users. This being Silicon Valley, success doesn’t last, but it at least gives Nanjiani one really great episode to show off his considerable comic chops.
And that’s what Season 3 completely failed to do. The supporting cast became just that – badly outfitted window dressing that lived in the corners as Middleditch became the star. Silicon Valley Season 4 corrects that, giving nearly everyone a solid amount of screen time. Sure, Gilfoyle (Martin Starr) remains in the background, relishing Dinesh’s persistent failures, but that’s where he best fits. He’s not a lead. He’s the guy you go to for cutting sarcasm. Erlich Bachman (T.J. Miller) remains Erlich Bachman, and I’m OK with that. Aside from Dinesh, Zach Woods’ Jared becomes biggest recipient from the broadened focus. As his loyalty becomes split between the two companies, Woods becomes the child of divorce who must choose between parents. As an actor, Woods perfected the beaten puppy dog look. It likely won’t win him Emmys, but his presence is welcome and always amusing.
Silicon Valley Season 4 feels much stronger than Season 3. It still has a problem with female characters, but I suspect that’s never going to change although a female love interest for Dinesh is introduced in Episode 3. If it persists, the lack of a female perspective becomes a flaw that will always keep a good comedy from greatness. Still, Season 4 improves thanks to a broader focus on the cast. As a result, we have more to chew on, greater opportunities for comedy. Toss in Matt Ross’s great Gavin Belson, and you have a tech comedy that finally deserves the recent awards attention.
Plus, they’ve finally found a way to use Big Head (Josh Brener). He’s still a tossed aside entity, but it works because he’s integrated with the group. Don’t worry, he’s still the Forrest Gump of the tech world. It’s just nice to see him interact with the main cast consistently. That interaction gives Silicon Valley its beating heart. Season 4 feels like a shot of adrenaline by Episode 3.
Silicon Valley Season 4 premieres Sunday night on HBO at 10pm ET.