I have not particularly enjoyed this season of HBO’s Silicon Valley, although the show itself continues to be fine. Mike Judge and Alec Berg haven’t lost a step when it comes to satirizing and skewering Big Tech and its culture, and there hasn’t been anything wrong with either the characters or the writing this season (in fact, Gilfoyle and Dinesh have had some very funny storylines). It’s just that, now in its sixth and final season, much of the novelty of the series has worn off, and the groove that the characters are in is precariously close to a rut.
We know these characters so well that there’s not a lot of surprise left. Dinesh and Gilfoyle are going to bicker and scheme against each other; Richard is going to become untethered and alienate Jared, which will exacerbate Richard’s worst impulses until he realizes that Jared’s moral center is necessary to prevent Richard from becoming just like the very companies Pied Piper was ostensibly created to counter. It’s not an indictment of the characters, either, that they behave in ways we expect them to. It’s been six seasons. We know them too well. It would be weird to fundamentally change their natures this late in the run. But it does feel a little like the characters are acting, not according to the story, but according to their own finely tuned algorithms, except for Belson, who has become the show’s unexpected underdog. Even Belson, however, continues to act in character, putting spite ahead of his own self-interests in refusing to merge with Pied Piper.
It all just feels vaguely workmanlike, an obligation that must be fulfilled before Alec Berg can go back to working on the next season of Barry, before Kumail Nanjiani can continue pursuing his big-screen movie career, and before Thomas Middleditch can continue pursuing partners in his open marriage. It feels like some of the actors have outgrown the series, while the show is also missing the energy of T.J. Miller’s Ehrlich, a wild card who could occasionally shake up the narrative.
It’s still a very good show — and I look forward to watching the last three episodes of the season — but it’s also a show that’s very ready to end.
That said, this week’s storyline with Jared was spectacular in its meanness, finding that happy/dark place between laughing at Jared’s expense — an old Silicon Valley pastime — and almost wanting to cry on his behalf. In the episode, Jared finds his biological parents after some genetic testing and decides to pay them a visit in Santa Cruz. They’re a very normal and amiable middle-class family, and they’re happy to sit down with Jared and talk about their decision to give him up for adoption.
“There’s not a lot of the story,” Jared’s biological father says. “Susan and I realized that the timing wasn’t right and we had to give you up.”
“It’s one of the hardest decisions we ever had to make,” his biological mother, Susan says.
Jared is very understanding and tells his biological parents that he doesn’t hold the decision against them in the least, before he notices a family photo with several kids in it. “Oh, you had kids after me?”
“One was after,” Susan says happily. “Pete and Lisa were before you.”
“I don’t understand,” Jared says. “I was your third child and you gave me up?”
“Yeah, it just got way too difficult for us,” his father says. “We couldn’t go on as many flights.”
“So, you gave me up to simplify your first-class air travel?” Jared asks.
“Oh, it’s more complicated than that,” his father says. “We had car travel. And taxis.”
“Anyway, when we gave you up, we realized we made a huge mistake,” his father says.
“You did?” Jared asks hopefully.
“Yes, we realized we did want a third child,” Susan says. “And we started trying almost immediately, and we lucked out. And Donald is the best of the bunch,” she says, revealing that they gave their second third child the same name as their first third child (Jared’s real name is Donald). “We just love that name!”
At this point, Jared’s biological siblings walk in, and Jared — once again hopeful — believes that his biological parents have arranged a get-together between him and his brothers and sisters, but even that is thwarted. “This is Ken. He’s here to tell us about the solar situation for the house,” Jared’s father says to his siblings before shuffling Jared out of the house. “This has been really great, but we have a family dinner every night and Thursdays we have Italian.” Ouch.
It is brutal, to the point where it was almost too much. I love a good pile-on, but Jared’s sad-sack face in this episode nearly broke my heart. His parents gave him away and then immediately had another child and gave him the same name! The series found that very thin line between heartbreaking and hilarious, although by the end of the episode, Jared’s defense mechanisms went so into overdrive that he’d convinced himself that he rejected his parents. “Even as a baby, I must have somehow rejected them, and every subsequent foster family I have had.”
Poor Jared. At this point, I don’t know whether to root for him to come out on top at the end of the series or for them to finish the job and break Jared once and for all.
Header Image Source: HBO