Silicon Valley 4.1: “Success Failure” Review

NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Silicon Valley” are present in this review



Silicon Valley is kicking off its fourth season this week, and we’ve got plenty to catch up on, considering the huge developments that Season Three of HBO’s beloved comedy series ended with! “Success Failure” picks up after the latest last-minute save of Pied Piper at the end of the previous season, while also developing the new dynamic between a unified Gavin Belson and Jack Barker.

For the most part, this season premiere made for a strong kick-off to Season Four of Silicon Valley as well, with the episode amusingly hitting the ground running as Richard disguises himself as an Uber driver, to try and seek funding after the clickfarm PR disaster from the end of Season Three. Pied Piper’s video chat user base continues to grow, but no one in the Valley wants to deal with Richard, leaving the company in a state of palpably temporary success, which seems poised to already be creating another potent atmosphere of doom in the near future.

Further complicating matters is the new ownership of Pied Piper naturally not working out quite as smoothly as planned. Erlich is naturally butting heads with Big Head’s father, who is also on the new company board, and hilariously becomes faced with the same 10% ownership scenario he had at the start of the series. It would have been unsatisfying to have Erlich get busted right back to where he started though, and thankfully, the show doesn’t quite go this route, at least not entirely. This is thanks to a genuinely unexpected and clever conclusion to the episode that provides a strong anchor for the season, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Before the surprise conclusion, Richard also makes it obvious that he hates working on Dinesh’s video app, and doesn’t want Pied Piper to go that route. This prompts another hysterical meeting with Russ Hanneman, who helps Richard come to realize what he truly wants to do; Build an entirely different internet. Richard dismisses the idea as stupid, but Russ believes it has potential, and as we’ve seen earlier in the series, Russ is smarter with funding-worthy tech ideas than he has any right to be! To start though, Richard seemingly having no choice but to go along with the healthily growing user base of Dinesh’s video app.

Where the twists start rolling in is when Richard is finally motivated to truly pursue his idea, right as the other Pied Piper employees decide to get Richard fired, again. Fortunately, this is another instance of the show not quite playing to the expectation of a recycled plot arc, as Richard surprises the group by announcing that he’s quitting Pied Piper of his own will. This seemed drastic at first, but it genuinely provides a great hook for Season Four, while giving everyone what they want; Pied Piper gets to shed the PR-poisonous Richard, Pied Piper gets to work on Dinesh’s video chat app, Big Head’s father gets his financing demands placated, the rest of the guys finally get paid with Richard gone, and Dinesh gets to be the new Pied Piper CEO, after Big Head is amusingly suggested to start. Richard then gets to start his own company to build his new idea, with Erlich maintaining 10% in Richard’s new company, providing a perfect balance between old and new, while Pied Piper gets a perpetual license to Richard’s algorithm, which he now wholly owns. Like I said, everybody wins, and this was a fantastic way to end a strong season premiere!

Outside of Pied Piper, we got an amusing subplot over on Hooli’s end, as Gavin comes to discover that Jack is insufferable, even going as far as to overrule Gavin’s hospitality. Jack changing a flight path for Gavin’s jet around the start of the episode has Gavin hilariously trying to prove Jack’s flight plan wrong for the rest of the story, and the fact that he did so at the cost of tons of money, while simultaneously complaining about how much money Jack is losing Hooli on the box project, made for one of the episode’s best jokes! Once he’s proven right, Gavin then sticks Jack in a basement server office, with a complete view of the mens’ room. It might have been even funnier to put Jack on the roof, in reference to Big Head’s former station of uselessness, but maybe that would have been too on-the-nose.

The only weak point in this otherwise great season premiere for Silicon Valley was the Raviga storyline, which felt awkwardly crowbarred into the episode. We didn’t even get to see Laurie in this episode at all, which was a bummer. Not only that, but the show also seems to have bizarrely erased Monica being rather clearly fired at the end of last season. Somehow, Monica just got her job back off-screen, which isn’t even really explained, as if HBO is just hoping that viewers somehow forgot that Monica lost her job at Raviga in last year’s season finale. This was strange, and felt like a weird retcon rather than a true story turn, even if the gag of Monica getting a bad office where she gets to constantly see into the mens’ bathroom was funny, and nicely played into Jack’s fate at Hooli towards the end of the episode.

Beyond the distracting change in detail for Monica’s punishment after the Season Three finale’s events though, “Success Failure” nonetheless made for a great way to start the latest season of Silicon Valley. The payoff to the episode’s events was highly satisfying, presenting a very promising new story direction for the show overall, with Richard, Pied Piper and Hooli alike. Again, Raviga wasn’t quite so lucky, but hopefully, they get a better role in the season as soon as next week. There’s clearly another great helping of storylines and humour to come in Season Four, and with the characters’ new roles, along with two struggling upstarts for the price of one, here’s hoping that this is the best season of Silicon Valley yet!

Silicon Valley delivers a strong kick-off to Season Four this week, representing especially bold new shifts to the lead characters' dynamic.
Reader Rating0 Votes
Effectively builds on the wins and struggles of last season's finale
Gavin's pettiness and reprisal against Jack's annoying whims
Unexpected, yet logical new roles for Richard and Pied Piper at the end
Monica's firing is awkwardly retconned