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‘Silicon Valley’ still fascinates with tech world rivalries

By: - Writing Editor
/ 12:30 AM May 15, 2018

From left: Zach Woods, Kumail Nanjiani, Martin Starr and Thomas Middleditch

Still a consistently funny and scathing look at the tech world, “Silicon Valley” continues to offer a balance of highbrow and lowbrow comedy, even with the departure of a key player.

Now that actor TJ Miller, who used to play foul-mouthed entrepreneur Erlich Bachman, is out of the show, situations are written to address the disappearance of the startup incubator character.

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As with the unexpected demise of an actor in an earlier season, the series (currently streaming on HBO Go) is able to deal with the loss, and presents consequential storylines accordingly.

The fifth season kicks off with former “incubee” Jian-Yang (Jimmy O. Yang), whom Erlich used to bully, fighting to acquire the latter’s estate and lying to a judge about his “mentor’s” supposed death. (Erlich is actually marooned in another part of the world.)

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The other characters that started as incubees continue to pursue a new venture, the “new internet” project conceived by genius algorithm developer Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch).

Richard and his core team—the glib Gilfoyle (Martin Starr), insecure Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) and loyal Jared (Zach Woods)—adapt to the hiring of new employees for their new office. But, as with most businesses, rivals closely watch the company’s every step and misstep. And one “frenemy,” a longtime source of unexpected challenges, is Gavin Belson (Matt Ross). His mission has always been to profit from Richard’s dreams—or crush them.

But even with a spy in their midst, Richard and company have tricks up their sleeve, and won’t go down in this increasingly cutthroat business without a fight.

“Silicon Valley,” cocreated by “Beavis and Butthead’s” Mike Judge, is smartly written, a quintessentially quirky guide to an otherworldly realm, but with universal conflicts.

With Erlich out of the picture, Jared gets to shine more with his detailed, deadpan delivery—he’s mild-mannered and poised, so it’s especially hilarious when he talks, unmindful that he doesn’t think or speak like everybody else.

There’s still the silly rivalry between Dinesh and Gilfoyle, episode-long shenanigans that depict the show’s more nonsensical side. And there’s Richard, who still gets into pretty much the same scrapes, but dealing with all his problems in a new capacity.

The nerdy underdogs have gone far with talent, determination and luck, but continue to face unrelenting Goliaths in a dog-eat-dog business.

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That time-tested formula doesn’t get old and is still a pleasure to watch, giving an immersing depiction of a fascinating world that could stand in for other competitive industries, as well.

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