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‘Silicon Valley’ Review: ‘The Keenan Vortex’ Shows Why These Guys Might Never Really Be Happy

An episode of dashed dreams for Richard and Erlich showed how the one thing keeping these characters going might also be the thing that's holding them back.

"Silicon Valley" TJ Miller

John P. Johnson/HBO

With Keenan’s deep pockets — and for Dinesh and Guilfoyle an assorted mix of matching bathrobes — an end was finally in sight. Pied Piper would finally have a practical implementation for middle-out and a capital platform from which to develop Richard’s globe-changing neural network.

As the champagne flowed and all finally seemed to get solved with two episodes left in the season, the tiny bit of hesitation in Richard’s eye was a quiet and telling summation of what the season has been building to. It’s the latest proof of the idea that this group will never be fully happy if the man leading them into battle (or as Jared puts it in another fitting analogy, out onto the waves), doesn’t have full control. Richard isn’t necessarily a selfish character, but the search for true independence that’s gone on for much of the series is getting complicated by the idea that Richard wants support with no strings attached. That preciousness unearthed his darker side last week, but it’s a credit to Thomas Middleditch’s performance that Richard’s alternating persistence and trepidation hasn’t yet curdled into something that would derail the whole show.

READ MORE: ‘Silicon Valley’ and T.J. Miller Part Ways: How Season 5 Can Survive Without Him

With that feeling of full control so close to Richard’s grasp, it’s Monica that brings him back down to earth with the revelation that Keenan’s demo might not be the world-beating tech that Richard and the gang should sign onto, no matter the massive, impulsive payouts that would come along with it. And so, in a season that’s been mostly two steps forward, 1.9 steps back, Richard abdicates the deal before learning that Keenan had already betrayed both him and Erlich and brought the episode’s Hooli arc full circle.

John P. Johnson

Distraught, Erlich takes a depression-fueled trip to the backyard with disastrous consequences. (RIP The Palapa. We hardly had a chance to sit under your cooling shade.) Unlike the last time we saw someone in the aftermath of setting fire to a structure in a Mike Judge property, Erlich is decidedly not sipping mai tais by the beach. Going on the Hoolicon excursion that Richard teases at the end of the episode will probably end up being Ehrlich’s proper sendoff, but this might have been the final straw that sends him away from “Silicon Valley” for good.

READ MORE: Zach Woods Compares His ‘Silicon Valley’ Character to a ‘New England Mom,’ and Here’s Why That’s Hysterically Tragic

Maybe the show has become predictably volatile at this point, but when Feldspar comes to finalize Richard’s counteroffer, as soon as Erlich says the phrase “handshake deal” in recounting his potential Raviga payday, that should have set off a billion bong-shaped sirens in his brain. We’ve seen him burned before by verbal agreements, and the idea that he couldn’t see past the dangers of this one shows that maybe his luck really has run out, if he ever really had any to begin with.

If that ends up being the last major Erlich moment that we get, him surrounded by the charred remains of his beloved leafy gazebo, there’s comfort in knowing that legacies on “Silicon Valley” don’t always have a recency bias. Even if the remainder of Season 4 is spent exclusively with the other Pied Piper gents, Gavin Belson, Peter Gregory, Big Head and even the lowly Dan Melcher have shown that it doesn’t matter what you did last, but what you did biggest.

Grade: B+

“Silicon Valley” Season 4 releases new episodes Sundays at 10:00 p.m. on HBO, HBO NOW, and HBO Go. 

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