[This is a review of the Silicon Valley season 3 finale. There will be SPOILERS.]
Besides remaining one of television's most consistently funny comedies in its third season, Silicon Valley has continued to impress with its ability to garner sympathy and even empathy for its protagonist. Because let's face it: Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch) is not always the easiest person to like. Driven by ego, he's often narcissistic, shortsighted, and socially inept. Yet, by having him unwittingly fall into nearly every tech-business pitfall while presenting him with seemingly impossible challenges, he's become a little easier to root for. Amazingly, even after all the strides they've made, Richard and Pied Piper are still the little company that could -- the underdog that many viewers can relate to in one way or another.
Of course, rooting for the underdog can often be painful. On the one hand, the show's ability to raise the stakes with tense narrative conflict has only made it more interesting and more appealing (things certainly took an intriguing turn last week with the reveal of Jared using unethical tactics to boost Pied Piper's user numbers). But for fans of the show, the series' penchant for piling on conflict after conflict has become exhausting at times, making some wonder: Will these guys ever catch a break? And since victories are usually short-lived in Pied Piper's world, in the season 3 finale, 'The Uptick,' it was especially satisfying to see Richard get rewarded for doing the right thing.
Of course, coming clean about falsifying the platform's user statistics came with its consequences. The most obvious and immediately impactful was losing the round two funding Richard was about to secure from an investor, but the decision to suddenly reveal his secret also damaged trust with Erlich (T.J. Miller). Worst of all, though, was that the news also forced Laurie (Suzanne Cryer) to distance herself from Pied Piper, as she prepared to sell the company to the highest bidder, which, oh by the way, appeared to be Pied Piper's arch nemesis, Gavin Belson (Matt Ross).
But just when all appeared to be lost, the series made a brilliant move by having Erlich and Big Head (Josh Brener) swoop in to bail Richard out and rescue Pied Piper from Hooli's clutches. On a purely emotional level, the surprise turn was a relief for fans holding their collective breath; on a narrative level, it seemed to confirm the pivot Pied Piper will be making from data compression to developing a video conferencing application; and on an even more interesting character level, it flipped the balance of power at Pied Piper, essentially putting Erlich in charge. Of course, the latter is a change that will assuredly create a new dynamic between Erlich and Richard, which could easily be the generator of much of season 4's comedy and conflict.
Over the course of the series, Silicon Valley's characters have often discussed the option to pivot their business model whenever they were to encounter a roadblock too large to overcome, and funnily enough, the time has come for the series to do just that itself. Even though it would have been interesting to see how Pied Piper handled the fame and fortune that comes with financial success, it's exciting not knowing exactly where things are headed from here (kinda like we felt when season 3 began just a few month ago).
The series' new direction might seem like a reset, but it's really more of a retooling or recalibration. Considering it appears season 4 will return all of the show's main players (possibly with the exception of Laurie), Silicon Valley and Pied Piper certainly aren't going back to square one, but rather seem to be refreshing the series with a renewed energy. And that's certainly something to celebrate, perhaps with a glass of Martinelli's and a game of "Always Blue".
As a whole, Silicon Valley season 3 was another journey worth taking, one that tested its characters more than ever before. Like the show's previous season, it had its narrative ups and downs, but seldom lagged, humming along smoothly on its clever story turns, great character moments, wry humor and a spot-on skewering of today's tech world. As long as season 4 continues with that formula, we're likely to see an uptick in quality, especially if the series continues to take us in unexpected narrative directions.
Silicon Valley will return with season 4 in 2017 on HBO.