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How ‘Silicon Valley’ Swapped Its Hero and Its Villain And Saved the Show’s Future

Season 4 saw different sides of Richard and Gavin, something the show will need more than ever as it goes forward.

[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for the “Silicon Valley” Season 4 finale, Episode 10, “Server Error.”]

After a season of departures, setbacks and the central team of aspiring tech moguls ending up way farther away from their goals than they had expected, Season 4 of “Silicon Valley” could really only have ended one way. In a mirror of a Season 2 cliffhanger, newly shaven Gavin Belson sat across from Richard Hendricks, the former offering a sweetheart acquisition deal to the person he gifted a industry-changing patent to just a few weeks before.

Rather than accept the offer from the newly reinstated Hooli chairman, Richard declined, even after being reminded that the only reason his company is still viable is by a rare bit of Gavin Belson altruism. Richard began the series as a lovable pushover, an unlikely CEO in the Silicon Valley world, where tech bros play pickup basketball games on the same court as the NBA champions. But whether it was a gradually built up thicker skin or a legitimate change of heart, Richard capped off his refusal of Gavin’s deal with an extra dose of the less-than-humble persona he’s been cultivating all season long.

READ MORE: ‘Silicon Valley’ Finale Review: An International Incident Gives Everyone a Hard Reset, Which Is What The Show Does Best

When Gavin rescinds his offer and acknowledges that Richard denying him would put the two right back into their natural feuding state, their respective reactions are a flip of what they would have been in the same spot a few years ago. ”I shall look forward to the fight,” Gavin says, with a half smile. Richard’s response is far more antagonistic, saying “I think, perhaps, in the end, I will be the one devouring you.” It’s a jarring change, but one that will help the show succeed in Season 5, especially now that T.J. Miller, one of its biggest, most charismatic stars has left the show for good.

In this season’s episode reviews, we’ve talked a lot about how, even though Gavin’s reputation among the Hooli board came to be overshadowed by the wanton deaths of endangered species, the proof of his success became obvious when things began to collapse after he left. Gavin has often been ruthless in his acquisitions, running roughshod over companies with a fraction of his buying power. But the trust he placed in his closest confidants, including his security guard Hoover, not only helped secure a spot back in his company’s good graces, but engineered a bit of goodwill that also helped keep Pied Piper alive. Matt Ross has brought an oddly sympathetic streak to the character, while still retaining the self-importance simmering under Gavin’s reformed exterior.

“Silicon Valley”

John P. Johnson

On the flip side, nearly all of Pied Piper’s setbacks this year can be traced to a momentary bit of Richard’s ineptitude, hubris or both. The same kind of things that used to come back to bite Gavin are now being visited upon Richard. (Credit Thomas Middleditch for being able to shoulder the episode-to-episode build-up of Richard’s unsavory business side. The rant outside the Stanford campus, aimed at Dinesh and Gilfoyle is a fitting culmination of that stress and anxiety, one that would seem overly self-centered had Middleditch not shown the progressive wear and tear on Richard’s soul.)

Nevertheless, through Hooli-con, a mostly disastrous reunion with Dan Melcher and Erlich’s departure, Richard’s souring ambition has gotten in the way of the more pragmatic and sensible side that helped the team get to this point in the first place. He’s now the beneficiary of someone else’s good intentions, rather than watching his own go to help line someone else’s pockets.

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

Compare Richard’s final expression — as the mariachi band crawls away from what they assumed would be a celebratory performance — with a crestfallen, truly humbled Gavin as he flew off in his private jet towards a new life nested deep in the Himalayas at the end of “The Blood Boy.” Richard has certainly been through a lot the past few seasons, but “Silicon Valley” has a way of giving the upper hand to the entrenched institutional powers, the people whose seasoned experience help them oust newcomers. In order to ensure the survival of his tech, he’s had to absorb some aspects of the very thing he’s despised from the outset.

Continued on the next page: More on Richard vs. Gavin, including some insight from Zach Woods.

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