‘Silicon Valley’ Season 6 Review: The HBO Comedy Starts Strong with the End in Sight

     October 27, 2019

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Silicon Valley is back for its sixth and final season on Sunday. Heading into this season, it’s clear there are some things Silicon Valley wants to get off its chest, especially when it comes to the continuing conversation around the ethical relationship between big corporations and the average folks that use their services. But it’s also clear that this show is ending at the perfect time as old faults quickly rise up to the surface and have to be furiously beaten back by even wilder twists of fate. But hey, it wouldn’t be Silicon Valley if things didn’t go a little off the rails at regular intervals, right?

Six seasons may not sound like a lot, but viewers have been on a long journey with the fictional Pied Piper gang — Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch), Jared Dunn (Zach Woods), Bertram Gilfoyle (Martin Starr), and Dinesh Chugtai (Kumail Nanjiani) — and the truly absurd roundup of supporting characters including shifty incubator resident Jian Yang (Jimmy O. Yang) and obtuse Hooli CEO Gavin Belson (Matt Ross).  Silicon Valley premiered in 2014, two years after Veep and, just like that comedy, offered viewers the chance to mock another set of charming blowhards who’ve somehow stumbled into power while also exposing the dodgy world they operate within. It’s been a fun ride as we’ve watch the Pied Piper boys evolve from sweaty little dudes with a solid algorithm that could change the world and absolutely zero skills in effectively bringing it to market, resulting in lots of catastrophic turns and last-minute moments of divine intervention. But now, as we enter Season 6, shit’s getting very real.

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Image via Ali Page Goldstein/HBO

Season 5 ended with an optimistic glimpse into the promising future of Pied Piper. Longtime ally Monica (Amanda Crew) was seen bringing Richard, Jared, Gilfoyle, and Dinesh into an empty, bright office space that she revealed was all for the company. Expansion and a fresh start; what could be better. Silicon Valley makes the smart and very funny choice to then open Season 6 with a bit of a red herring: Richard, sitting next to Gavin, in front of a Congressional hearing on the matter of security and user data mined by major corporations. It would be morbidly hilarious to imagine that somehow Pied Piper had truly, massively, and irreparably shit the bed this time, huh?

But, even though Richard may look like Mark Zuckerberg and has some of the public social graces of the Facebook founder and yes, he might even be testifying in front of Congress like Zucky, the buck stops there. Through Richard, it becomes evident Silicon Valley wants to expose the absurdity of big companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook and their stranglehold of various information systems permeating our lives, for better but almost always for worse. Richard’s rousing cold open speech to Congress on how Pied Piper remains committed to democratizing the internet is, arguably, the mission statement and potential big arc of this final season. And, like, hell yeah, fist bumps all around, etc. I’m not opposed to seeing Silicon Valley spit in some eyes as it rides out of the HBO building in a blaze of glory.

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Image via Ali Page Goldstein/HBO

But if you think Silicon Valley has done away with the shenanigans, you’d be sorely mistaken. Because while Season 6 is going to be taking aim in a very direct way at the world it is satirizing (and again, bully for them), it’s also very much committed to the hijinks. I was able to watch the first three episodes of Season 6 and never once was I given a reason to worry that the antagonistic, Waiting For Godot-esque comedy that serves as the foundation for Gilfoyle and Dinesh’s working relationship had subsided or that Jared had stopped being a haunted Victorian boy stretched into a human shape and given the capacity to feel every feeling at once while lavishing attention on his BFF Richard.

Like Middleditch, co-stars Woods, Starr, and Nanjiani are very comfortable in the skin of the characters they’ve played now for years and wear them well. What’s slightly weird is these first few episodes really make them background players, with Starr and Nanjiani in particular suffering from very limited screentime. This becomes especially evident when a storyline involving the chance for Pied Piper to get a $1 billion investment comes into focus and, right on schedule, Richard messes it up while Gilfoyle and Dinesh freak out at him in the aftermath. Yes, these two have alway been particularly focused on the superficial side of Pied Piper’s success (lest we forget Dinesh’s terrible Tesla investment). Yet it feels wrong somehow that the final season hasn’t put all four main characters on equal footing with equal screentime and consideration.

Then again, that screentime is being put to very good use elsewhere as the Silicon Valley writers set up some terrific arcs that will help spin this season into another dizzying affair. Gavin is now facing the demise of Hooli as he blunders his way through the worst merger with Amazon; Jian Yang is hard at work taking down the rest of Silicon Valley with his “new new” companies; Jared looks to finally chart his own path, leading to some hilarious tiffs between him and his now-frenemy Richard; Guardians of Galloo creator Colin (Neil Casey) threatens to bring Pied Piper down not just with his general dickishness but also the company’s active practice of data mining, which leads to some big reactionary moves from Richard in an attempt to force him out, including creating a new AI that Colin co-opts for more evil; and a new investor arrives with that aforementioned $1 billion goodie bag only to be quickly revealed as a threat. Disaster is everywhere in Season 6 and Silicon Valley wastes no time getting into it.

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Image via Ali Page Goldstein/HBO

But even with the strong start in Silicon Valley‘s first few episodes, it feels like the show is in danger of trying to squeeze comedy blood from the proverbial stone. The persistent threats to the livelihood of Pied Piper continue to come in at all sides, leaving Richard’s blood pressure at what I’m guessing are through-the-roof levels. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, then Silicon Valley is living in the city center of Clown Town as Gavin remains increasingly delusional in his commitment to destroying Richard, and Jian Yang and the incubator are still around like the Ghost of Christmas Past but for what reason, I can’t quite tell. You’d also have hoped that maybe, I don’t know, Richard and the boys would have pulled their heads out of the sand and acquired some skills or business know-how over the years in order to make actually good decisions for the company. Alas, the writing on Silicon Valley Season 6’s first three episodes indicates that it’s still leaning hard on old tricks and worn-out dynamics to keep the show chugging along.

All things considered, fans of Silicon Valley will be pleased to see where the pieces are beginning on the show’s chess board this season. Even with a reliance on the familiar, the show seems more actively poised to tackle social commentary this season (why not go out swinging?) as it attempts to wrap up the Pied Piper story. Richard, Jared, Gilfoyle, and Dinesh have been and are still the heart of the show, so even if they mess up, we know them well enough to forgive them and keep truckin’. This season will be messy, yes, but there is lots of promise here for solid emotional payoff and satisfying returns for dedicated viewers of the show.

Silicon Valley Season 6 premieres on October 27th at 10pm/9c on HBO.

Rating: ★★★

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Image via HBO

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