TV Review: ‘Silicon Valley’ Season 5 Reboots Without T.J. Miller

The end of Erlich Bachman (T.J. Miller) on “Silicon Valley” is still one of the odder, more sudden events for TV this decade. For years Miller was praised as one of the standouts on “Silicon Valley,” a show which follows a tech company on the rise. However, as the relationships between Miller and the showrunners deteriorated, it was best that every go their separate ways. Miller was a very strong fit on this show, regardless of how things ended. The question now is what will the writers do to move forward in “Silicon Valley” Season 5?

The “Silicon Valley” Season 5 premiere (“Grow Fast or Die Slow”) gave us an idea of where the show is heading moving forward. We pick up at the end of last season, with Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch) ready to expand Pied Piper. His team is still antagonistic as ever, especially Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) and Gilfoyle (Martin Starr). Jared (Zach Woods) is still surprisingly depressing given the opportunity. Emerging as a potential comedy goldmine is Jian-Yang (Jimmy O. Yang), Erlich’s former adversary. Meanwhile, Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) is up to more shenanigans, delivering one of the funniest characters on the show. Meanwhile, a new pizza company “Sliceline” is starting up, making Richard jealous of their coders. Turns out, revenge is a dish best delivered.

Through the episode, it’s clear the cast is in lockstep. They recognize their talent and play off each other extremely well. Yang probably has the highest ceiling this season as his character spins into a dark storyline. The single funniest line in the episode is undeniably his, and he owns several scenes. Hopefully adding to his usage will keep the character feeling fresh. Nanjiani and Starr are perfect as always and continue to showcase their extreme talent. Should “Silicon Valley” ever spin-off, the show should be about them.

Woods is killer and really deserves praise for how funny he is here. He delivers so many one-liners that get lost in these episodes, he might have the best reel of jokes for anyone in the show. Ross should step into the role that Erlich played, and may potentially get his due for an Emmy nomination should his screentime increase. The cast is so deep that Amanda Crew and Suzanne Cryer barely get a scene in the first episode this season. Hopefully, that will change moving forward because they’re two of the most reliable parts of the show. In the meantime, their one scene is spectacular. The two play off each other so well, they should also get a spinoff.

Finally, the writing is superb once again. It’s tough to write out of a corner, which is where the staff was left after Miller left the show. Erlich’s ending was incredibly unceremonious, which really left a lot to be desired. However, the ghost of Erlich looms large over the season, which the show chooses to meet head-on. Rather than “yadda yadda” his ending, the series is choosing to engage with it in a funny storyline for Jian-Yang. There are callback jokes, dick jokes, and tech humor sprinkled throughout. Perhaps the best thing that Mike Judge and his team do is continue to show Richard’s flaws. He’s not a good guy, and the series seems to be aware of this. Hopefully, they’ll continue down the road with Richard until he’s gone too far to recover. It feels like that’s where this is heading, but only time will tell. In the meantime, the way in which the writers use these characters is simply perfect.

“Silicon Valley” remains one of the funniest shows on TV. It’s missing something without Miller, but it may benefit the show by using more of the resources it had in-house. With some character’s getting larger roles, this seems to be the case. Hopefully, Judge can keep this show rolling through the season at the level of the premiere. While it’s not an all-timer, it’s certainly a very strong start to the season.

What do you think? How is “Silicon Valley” Season 5 shaping up? Let us know in the comments below!

“Silicon Valley” airs on HBO on Sunday Nights. You can catch up on HBO GO or HBO NOW. 

GRADE: (★★★½)