Spoilers for the season finale of the HBO comedies.
The only problem with living in a streaming world these days is that we see so many fewer promos, which often means we miss things like, “Tune in for next week’s season finale,” or (*dramatic voice*) “Only three more episodes until the explosive finale.”
I had no idea that Silicon Valley and Barry were ending their seasons last night, and I had not prepared myself for it. They came too quickly. I like short episode orders, but 8 episodes of two of the best comedies on television are not enough. Alec Berg (the showrunner behind both Silicon Valley and Barry) used time jumps to short-change us out of what I assume should have been episodes 8 and 9.
In the case of Silicon Valley, Berg pieced together what I thought was kind of a harried cryptocurrency storyline that emerged in episode six, when Gilfoyle came up with the idea of abandoning venture capital and supporting Pied Piper’s efforts to fund a decentralized effort with their own currency. The seeds were planted in episode six, it was executed in episode seven, and in episode 8, Berg skipped past the cryptocurrency’s initial failure and straight to the rock bottom, whence Pied Piper would have to dig itself out of a hole.
Granted, the episode did an excellent job of tying up the season’s running jokes — Richard’s new assistant, Dinesh’s Tesla, Jian Yang’s efforts to clone Pied Piper, and Gavin Belson’s efforts to outflank Richard with The Box 3.0. However, I thought that — with only eight episodes — a lot of the characters weren’t given enough material this season. It was a very Richard-centric season, which meant that the series’ best characters were relegated to bit roles. Dinesh’s only real storyline, for instance, was the Tesla running joke, while Jared — the show’s scene-stealing MVP — acted mostly to enable a punchline for Richard’s overzealous new assistant. I also dug the platonic bond that sprang up between Monica and Gilfoyle, but I would have loved it more if they’d spent more time laying the foundation for that. Plus, Monica finally got a central role within Pied Piper, and they time-jumped over most of it.
Meanwhile, over on Barry, the show was really starting to find its rhythm, and yet in the course of 15 minutes, the episode hastily wrapped up the season’s main storyline: Barry sent Fuchs away, killed the Chechens, and left the late Ryan Madison holding the bag after police incorrectly fingered him as the mastermind. The second half of the episode, meanwhile, pulled it all apart to set up next season. It was very well executed, but I wouldn’t have objected to something more than what basically amounted to a montage to tie it all up before the time jump. It was like spending three days setting up a Rube Goldberg machine and three minutes watching it unfold.
The issues I had with both Barry and Silicon Valley, however, were not really in the execution of their finales, or even with the lazy convenience of the time jumps. The quibbles are more of a backhanded way of saying: I wasn’t ready. They ended too soon. That’s obviously much better than overstaying one’s welcome, but in the case of both shows, I felt like I had just started to get immersed into the seasons, only to have them abruptly taken away from me. In the era of Peak TV, good half-hour comedies are crucial for maintaining our sanity, for providing a break from heavy drama, theorizing, character deaths, and plot twists and turns. Silicon Valley and Barry were my rewards for enduring Westworld and Homeland. They provided my DVR with some much-needed comic relief, palate cleansers at the end of the night. It’s good to leave viewers wanting more, but there’s also something to be said for delivering a full meal before skipping straight to the dessert.