Arts television review

The end is near

Silicon Valley season five closes off with a strong end

Silicon Valley
Season five: Episodes 6–8
Created by Mike Judge, John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky

The first half of Silicon Valley season five followed the typical season arc: a hilarious beginning, trouble brewing midseason, and a few filler jokes thrown in. Because we are in season five and closing off this eight-episode season, spoilers are inevitable. Proceed with caution.

The larger scheme doesn’t change: Richard grows into his role as CEO, and Gavin Belson struggles yet continues in his downward trajectory. But there is something different this time around: they are no longer a struggling start-up in someone’s garage. If anything, these three episodes are about shedding characters from the past four seasons and moving them around to where they can move the company forward. A great deal of plot occurs in these three episodes to place people where they want to be.

I didn’t discuss much about venture capital firms (VC) in my last review, but they play an important role in these episodes. Laurie Bream and Monica Hall are managers of Bream-Hall, a VC firm which funds Pied Piper. They are women with different philosophies. This difference becomes even clearer in these three episodes.

Episode six, “Artificial Emotional Intelligence,” shows the aftermath of episode five, which left Eklow Labs in disarray. Laurie takes over as temporary CEO of Eklow Labs, and in an amusing call back to Richard’s fumblings, runs into a room and vomits into her shirt. Even I was fooled into believing the usually monotone, emotionless Laurie was indeed a human being.

This episode acknowledges the difficulties of having emotions in a tech world. Richard struggles as he sympathizes with Laurie as a fellow CEO, helping her by offering Pied Piper credits, only for Laurie to sell them off for profit (to Richard’s indignance, Laurie remarks that the episode was merely a “temporary loss of composure”). Fiona disappears and reappears only for her face and parts to be torn apart for Laurie’s profit before a tearful Jared’s eyes. Although humorous, these characters only suggest the difficulty of compassion when money speaks louder.

Meanwhile, Monica, who originally inspired Richard to start his own company, is given her chance to shine in episode seven, “Initial Coin Offering.” The episode tackles the lucrative nature of cryptocurrency but also displays its promise. When Laurie expects Pied Piper to sell ads, violating Richard’s vision for the company, Pied Piper chooses to go crypto. Monica leaves Bream-Hall to join the Pied Piper team as their Chief Financial Officer to help oversee the cryptocurrency. The once-again emotionless Laurie offers Monica good wishes while being quite honest that there are no hard feelings, rather, no feelings whatsoever.

Meanwhile, you may ask, where is Gavin Belson this season? He’s one of the vultures now, struggling for the scraps this season. He loses again and again at every season finale, but he is finally put to rest here. When Laurie makes a deal with Yao, the manager of the Chinese manufacturer of Gavin Belson’s Box 3, the manufacturer pivots to producing phones running Pied Piper’s new internet thanks to Jian-Yang’s copycat Pied Piper. Three competitors are fighting over Pied Piper’s new internet. A few shenanigans involving a Tesla going on ludicrous mode, but the Pied Piper team manages to run their Pipernet patch just in time to prevent this from happening again. Congratulations, Pied Piper, you saved yourself again.

Pied Piper has flown out of its garage start-up days. The cryptocurrency move was, as Monica so eloquently says, a big “f*ck you to all VCs in the Valley.” The ending scene of two floors of an empty Hooli building are haunting. Gavin Belson seems to truly have lost. Will Pied Piper become the next Hooli? Will Richard Hendricks become the new Gavin Belson? As we end this season with Pied Piper Coin rising in price, I cannot help but feel the end is near.

Silicon Valley is available on HBO Go and HBO Now.