The success of any “Silicon Valley” episode has always started and ended with its characters. When the characters are connecting, the show’s jokes seem to build off of each other and produce a constant stream of laughs, à la the earlier Season Four episode “Intellectual Property.” Conversely, when the characters are out of sync, the show’s gags struggle to land, as shown in another Season Four episode, “The Patent Troll.”
Fortunately for “Silicon Valley,” it has an outstanding cast that almost always appears to be in concert with one another to create on-screen hilarity, and the show’s Season Four finale “Server Error” is no exception. The episode fittingly concludes the series’s exceptional fourth season that featured an effective balance between low-brow humor and critical character and plot progressions.
One of “Silicon Valley”’s more shocking developments this season has been the extent of Richard Hendricks’s (Thomas Middleditch, “The Final Girls”) transition to a shrewd entrepreneur at the expense of his moral code. Over the course of the season, Hendricks has turned from a somewhat naïve executive of a fledgling video chat company to the visionary CEO of a bold start-up seeking to revolutionize the internet. Hendricks’s turn has been characterized by deceitful and cutthroat business maneuvers, which are highlighted in “Server Error” when Hendricks coldly rejects Gavin Belsam’s (Matt Ross, “American Psycho”) partnership proposal by telling Belsam, “I think basically you’re just a server company now, and we intend to make servers obsolete, so… in the end, I’ll be the one devouring you.”
“Silicon Valley”’s stunning finale also sees Hendricks’s affair with Dan Melcher’s (Jake Broder, “In a Day”) wife come to light. The series has teased a revelation of Hendricks’s short-lived sex romp with Liz (Leisha Haley, “The L Word”) in previous episodes, so its emergence in the finale isn’t unexpected. Rather, what was unexpected was the affair itself, which always seemed to be too outrageous for Hendricks, to the point it infringed on believability of the affair. Instead, the real function of Hendricks’s cuckoldry was to serve as a barometer of his personal transformation to an unscrupulous entrepreneur.
Hendricks’s newfound persona takes center stage in “Server Error” and figures to be a significant piece of the show’s storyline next season, too. However, “Silicon Valley”’s fifth season will test the series, as it tries to recover from the exit of Erlich Bachman (T.J. Miller, “Office Christmas Party”), which was bungled in “Server Error.”
As the crass, pot-smoking landlord of Pied Piper, Bachman has become the source of much of the series’s ridiculous style of humor. His constant schemes against Jian Yang (Jimmy O. Yang, “Patriot’s Day”) throughout Season Four provided “Silicon Valley” with utterly hilarious scenes, including Yang’s hilarious impression of Bachman in “Intellectual Property.” Despite being such a crucial character, Bachman’s exit was rushed and poorly executed even in the little amount of time it was given. While it was funny to watch Belsam negotiate for Bachman to smoke opium in Tibet for five years, it was an underwhelming finish for such an integral character on the show.
While Bachman’s exit will profoundly disrupt “Silicon Valley,” the series has such a stellar cast of veteran comedians that it should be able to sustain its overwhelming success. The show’s main stars — Middleditch, Kumail Nanjiani (“The Big Sick”), Martin Starr (“Freaks and Geeks”), Josh Brener (“In the Loop”) and Zach Woods (“The Internship”) — continue to shine due to their superb chemistry. “Silicon Valley” is also boosted by the expanding roles occupied by Hoover (Chris Williams, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) and Ed Chen (Tim Chiou, “Love Is All You Need?”). Williams especially emerged in this fourth season because of his eccentric blend of naïve obedience to Hooli. With more scenes of Williams and Chiou on the series, “Silicon Valley” will make viewers accept, albeit not forget, Bachman’s departure.