It would be very easy not to be excited about the return of Silicon Valley. It’s been off the air for almost a year and a half, which meant it has faded from the conversation a little in its downtime. Executive producer Alec Berg has shifted focus to the darker and more exciting Barry. The cast has been waylaid, either by Oscar success (Kumail Nanjiani), career-ending allegations (TJ Miller) or unexpected interviews about their open relationship (Thomas Middleditch). Add to that the fact that the plot of Silicon Valley has been stuck in a pattern of thwarted success for what feels like years and, well, expectations aren’t high.
But my god, we need Silicon Valley more than ever right now. Its final season, which begins in the UK tonight, sees the show as strong as it has ever been, perhaps even stronger. The series opens with Richard Hendricks (Middleditch) facing a Senate committee about the ethics of big tech. There is no possible way that the timing could have been better; to see Hendricks facing the government – sweating and stuttering and gulping like a misprogrammed android – is to immediately recall Mark Zuckerberg’s systematic dismantling at the hands of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez last week. It’s so uncanny that you could be forgiven for thinking it was a last-minute rewrite. The fact that it wasn’t only speaks to how necessary Silicon Valley is.
Better still, the show seems emboldened by its proximity to the finish line. Where before it always seemed to be playing a cute game of cat and mouse with the tech industry, this time Silicon Valley comes out with murder in its eyes. Time after time it takes big, explicit swings at the moral decay at the heart of big tech. Promises about data privacy are waved awaywith knowing references to Google and Facebook’s corporate spiel.
So aggressively anti-monopoly is Silicon Valley this year that it even manages to evoke some level of sympathy for Gavin Belson, the crazed billionaire antagonist of the series, who finds himself outgunned by a larger real-life competitor. But the core of the show is still Hendricks, an awkward man with a grand vision, whose dream to build a more democratic version of the internet is slowly eaten away by all the moral and ethical compromises he has to make along the way. Now that he has finally reached the exalted position he has always longed for, those compromises are far bigger, and their consequences reach much further.
Not that this is perfect. Even in its last stretch, Silicon Valley has a Dinesh/Gilfoyle problem, where they’re forced into an insignificant and easily resolved B-story just because the creators can’t think of anything better to do with them. And this is a shame, because Martin Starr and Kumail Nanjiani could easily handle something with more weight.
But that’s a minor concern because – thrillingly – this is the most Mike Judge the show has ever felt. In its final race to the end, Silicon Valley has become as scathing about its subject matter as Office Space was about employment and Idiocracy was about the decline of society. You can smell the blood in Judge’s nose this time around. Silicon Valley’s weakest aspect has always been its unwillingness to race ahead, often meekly resetting itself after every big plot point. But this time, if the show can keep up the pace of the premiere, then nobody will be left alive. I can’t wait.