At the end of last season, Silicon Valley ended in a surprisingly good place for once; the guys at Pied Piper finally have an app that normal people actually want to use, and are no longer beholden to any corporate goons (except Bachman and Bighead, who are more like goofs, really) demanding they turn a profit. But success is a double-edged sword, as the saying goes, and the end of Season 4 premiere, CEO and founder Richard leaves Pied Piper for good — but not before once again resorting to fraudulent activity out of desperation.
Well, not exactly. After all, pretending to be a venture capitalist’s Uber driver so you can show him your video chatting app isn’t really kidnapping if you let him out of the car when he figures it out (and especially not if he gives you his card at the end of the ride). But nonetheless, Pied Piper is still in a bind. Their platform is so popular that their servers can’t keep up with demand, and they can’t find the money for more servers because no one wants to get in bed with Richard “Click Farm” Hendricks — who, in the meantime, can’t bring himself to do the coding work he’s supposed to be doing to help the team. What’s a beleaguered, out-of-his-element CEO supposed to do in this situation?
Ironically the best advice comes from everybody’s favorite awful billionaire (with a B, damn it!) Russ Hanneman, whom Richard seeks out as a last resort in Pied Piper’s hour of need. Hanneman might have all the grace and charm of an Axe Body Spray container come to life, but he correctly identifies what Richard’s problem is: he doesn’t believe in the product they’re selling because he thinks his compression algorithm has more to offer. To him, the video chatting platform might as well be another box stuck in a basement somewhere.
Instead, he imagines creating a “new internet” that runs on his algorithm, with none of the government interference, corporate pressure, or rules that currently apply to the current world wide web. Wanna know how I know I’ve been on Twitter too long? An internet with no rules sounds like the definition of hell to me. But it’s caught Hanneman’s attention — and more importantly, it’s something he actually wants to do.
The Richard of past seasons probably would have tried to force the rest of the guys to pivot again, and it’s a testament to the character’s growth over these past four years that he doesn’t try that (even though his friends are so convinced he will that they try to ambush him first). Instead, he believes it’s in everyone’s best interest that he leaves and Dinesh takes over as CEO of Piperchat, albeit with one condition: he gets to keep the rights to his compression algorithm, which he will allow Piperchat to use free of charge.
It sucks to see the team breaking up, and I imagine that handshake deal about the algorithm will come back to haunt someone, somehow. But on the other hand, as Gavin Belson and Jack Barker’s budding frenemy-ship also shows us, forcing everyone to do things your way while you cling to your own feeble scraps of power isn’t exactly a good move, either. So really, this is best for everyone, even if Richard's mature, responsible decision puts him right back where he started — stuck in Erlich Bachman’s incubator all on his own with a dumb idea and a dream. At this point the show is still clever enough that it doesn’t feel like it’s treading water, but I do wonder for how much longer the “here’s a new app instead of that other one!” shtick will be able to sustain itself into Season 4.
In the meantime, at least Richard will still have Jared, who is absolutely not going to be able to stay away despite all Harry and the Hendersons-style attempts to make him leave. Poor, sweet, beautiful baby Jared. Please tell Richard you love him already. Fans all know that's what you're thinking, Zach Woods said so in an AOL Build interview. Just let it out.