Last we heard from Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch) and his team at Pied Piper, the little-tech-company-that-could’s latest ambitious pivot to pioneer a whole new, decentralized internet was saved by a last minute solution involving an illegal hacking of smart fridges while arch-nemesis Gavin Belson abandoned Pied Piper pal Erlich Bachman in an opium den.
Well, it should come to no surprise to those who have been following the show’s behind-the-scenes controversies that TJ Miller’s Erlich didn’t turn up anywhere in the Season 5 premiere. And, assuming the whole mess isn’t just one grand, Andy-Kaufman-like publicity stunt, Miller is not likely to turn up in the rest of the new season.
The good news, however, is Erlich is not forgotten, much to his long-time foil Jian Yang’s (Jimmy O. Yang) chagrin. Also, amidst the constant rollercoaster ride of Pied Piper soaring to new heights one moment only to approach near certain doom the next keeps you from missing the old Bachman bravado.
Season 5 immediately reminds viewers that, while we last left off with a triumphant Pied Piper embarking on a project that could change the world, the road to actually following through on the promise of the new decentralized internet is fraught with a whole new set of challenges, including purchasing new offices and hiring a much larger staff of coders while outflanking rivals in the cutthroat world of the tech industry.
In Erlich’s absence, it opens up new possibilities for Jian Yang to take on a bigger role in Season 5. Big Head (Josh Brener) doesn’t appear in the first episode, though he’s prone to disappearing for large blocks of time before eventually turning up again sooner or later. And Monica (Amanda Crew) and Laurie (Suzanne Cryer) only make brief appearances so far.
But otherwise, all the elements you’ve come to expect are present in the new season, such as the endless rivalry between Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani fresh off his Oscar nomination) and Gilfoyle (Martin Starr).
And over at corporate giant Hooli, CEO Gavin Belson finds himself suddenly in dire straits on the eve of launching the latest “Box” technology they took from Jack Barker that’s already likely to become almost immediately obsolete because of the one project he absolutely can’t legally work on because he gave the patent to Richard.
The episode ends with a reminder that, though Richard can employ brilliant lateral thinking under extreme pressure to solve a crisis, he’s still terrible at just about everything else his job requires and is in way over his head. Even without Erlich, Silicon Valley pulled off a great premiere that provides me with confidence that this will be another wonderful season.
This episode met the high bar that the series has consistently maintained. TJ Miller’s absence is surprisingly not missed.