Silicon Valley Customer Service Review
Customer Service tries to make up for time lost in first half of Silicon Valley’s fourth season with too many coincidences and overused tropes.
by Graham Wagner, Shawn Boxe
Directed by Clay Tarver
Richard Hendricks: Thomas Middleditch
Gilfoyle: Martin Starr
Erlich Bachman: TJ Miller
Dinesh: Kumail Nanjiani
Jared: Zach Woods
Jian Yang: Jimmy O. Yang
Big Head: Josh Brener
Monica: Amanda Crew
Laurie: Suzanne Cryer
Gavin Belson: Matt Ross
Russ Hanneman: Chris Diamantopoulos
Dan Melcher: Jake Broder
Keenan Feldspar: Haley Joel Osment
Liz: Leisha Hailey
When news broke before the airing of Customer Service that TJ Miller would not be returning to Silicon Valley for its fifth season, I was surprised and taken aback. That bit of information planted itself in the back of my mind when he popped into frame early in the episode. Miller’s presence felt like the beginning of the end for his Erlich Bachman character. It didn’t help that every time he was pushed to the side made the news of his departure clearer. I can’t say if his absence will be written into the show by the end of this season but it sure points to that conclusion.
A So-So Season
Season four of Silicon Valley has been hit or miss. While the show remains just as funny and sharp as ever, due to the great cast of comedians, I can’t help but see the show as failing to back up a new story arc with fresh writing. This is really the first time I’ve watched Silicon Valley with a keen eye but I don’t remember many episodes relying too heavily on clunky writing to get the story moving forward.
Gavin Belson leaving spells trouble for Richard. No company wants to associate with a start-up where the most valuable name in tech left for undisclosed reasons. Tech doesn’t talk, it’s the money and face behind it that does.
With a tainted name, Richard’s luck with finding funding has run out and a confrontation with an upset Russ Hanneman put an end to that relationship. Deciding to move forward without the need for funding and capitalising on Pied Pipers glowing coverage in the media, Richard chooses to pre-sell Pied Piper service to build a customer base and get the money necessary to continue building the infrastructure.
Erlich Comes Out On Top
Catching a break, Richard and Erlich secure a meeting with FGI, the last chance both men have to pitch. Things go well until Dan Melcher walks through the door. At first, I didn’t recognize him but talks of the infamous TechCrunch incident in season one clued me. Reintroducing Dan Melcher was a great addition, showing that the show has a life outside of the main group.
Meanwhile, Gilfoyle and Dinesh engage in a game of chicken after the first alpha testing merges their personal data on each other’s phones.
Erlich, pushed to the side by Richard, and Monica and Laurie, accidentally nails a pitch meeting for Keenan Feldspar, the most talked about name in Silicon Valley. Throughout season four, Erlich was consistently beaten and bested by nearly all those around him, mainly by Jian Yang. At the end of his rope, and only affording day old muffins, impresses the one person who can help secure him a job at Monica and Laurie new firm.
Will his luck run out? Seeing as he won’t be seen next season, one could assume Bachman earns a commission for Feldspar’s VR tech (a tech he once thought Jian Yang had developed for), and goes off to live in a new home, leaving the incubator house to Richard, or Jared. Every season finale has ended positively for the group only for the happiness to get ripped away by the following season premiere.
Trying To Make Up For Lost Time
Customer Service isn’t the sloppiest written episodes but it does rely heavily on overused tropes and coincidences to force the story ahead. Take for example Richard and Erlich learning about Liz’s and Melcher’s relationship with one another. It’s unprofessional for Liz to barge into a meeting for a personal reason and was just a forceful ploy to blackmail Melcher and move Pied Piper forward.
Erlich’s impromptu meeting with Feldspar was another coincidence and Feldspar’s faux offended tone is an overused trope to (try) to surprise the audience. Once each story is forcefully pushed in the third act of the episode, things slowly begin unfolding naturally, though for a short period of time.
Season four took way too long to get started and the back half of the season feels forced to compensate for lost time.
However, Silicon Valley never ceases to rouse a belly laugh out of me and Customer Service is no exception. While story problems persist, Wagner and Boxe (with some improv on-set) write some great jokes, writing great one-liners to Jared.
Russ Hanneman’s inclusion could build to something bigger by the finale. I don’t see Hanneman suing Richard and repeating what happened in season two, but I do think Hanneman might cause a stir that may mean trouble for Pied Piper.
What’s On The Phone?!!?
Gilfoyle’s and Dinesh’s skirmish plays out a bit like a paranoid mystery. Does Gilfoyle, indeed, have something to hide? It’s hard to tell with Gilfoyle. Though he might be right and Dinesh will lose his mind wondering exactly was on Gilfoyle’s phone.
Four episodes remain for this season and I hope the quality goes up from here.
Favorite line of the episode: “Richard, this is no time for false humility. You’re a catch. Just deal with it.”