How Silicon Valley Dealt With An Erlich-Free Season

As a fan of the HBO comedy hit, Silicon Valley, I’m always worried about the new seasons. But this year particularly for the show’s approach after losing one of its crucial characters, Erlich Bachman portrayed by T.J. Miller. But the show-runner, Mike Judge, handled this situation pretty well, and here is how.

First of all, I enjoyed the fifth season pretty much, although I have issues with the way the story is heading. The cast was incredible as always and the “dramatic comedy” feeling is still powerful throughout the season. This season has some quite remarkable episodes and some unique moments which shows the flexibility of the writers to change some of the main dynamics. As a matter of fact, removing Erlich from the show is a big sign. No one could picture Silicon Valley without him but look how flawless this transition has been, using this few tricks:

[Spoliers ahead]

Character Development

In the fifth season, we are facing some kind of new approach toward characters. We finally see Richard as a leader, Dinesh as a stupid and naive dummy, Monica as friend and Laurie as a revenge-seeking psychopath! These changes in characters are surprisingly well taken and believable. On the other hand, we have Jian-Yang who takes over Erlich’s property and forms his own little China in Palo Alto. As we can see, writers chose to develop the rest of the characters instead of adding new ones. This is one of the techniques used by the writing staff.

Good Old Plot

Another one is to bring back the old Good vs. Evil scenario in which Gavin Belson is vowed to destroy Richard’s work. They have used this one throughout the show almost all the time, except for a short period at the end of the season 4. This helped the show to be concentrated on the classic conflict which formed the show in the first place. This is actually a popular technique among the TV writers, especially in comedy. That is the structure of almost all the great sitcoms: the original conflict is always the same.

Tech As A Dramatic Tool

This one is a known Silicon Valley gag. In almost every season of this series, there has been at least one aspect of technology which was used as a dramatic tool or at least dramatic booster. But this time, not only they are present, such as VR technology and AI, but they are also playing important roles in storytelling. For example, the rise of cryptocurrency is a key factor in Richard’s decision in two episodes and also the usage of electric cars suddenly becomes an interesting recurring element, which surprisingly turns out to be the key to the gang’s final problem.

Adding Some Romance? Maybe?

I’ll be honest with you, I’m one of those people who always looks for a romantic storyline in TV shows and movies. Call me outdated but I recognize it as a strong classic method. Nowadays we are seeing less and less romantic involvements in characters of TV shows. I think that’s both good and bad. Silicon Valley is one of those TV shows which never relied on such method, which worked out just fine, until now. Lack of a romantic relationship, especially between the main characters, is just a negative point. Because as the show continues to their fifth season, there is no new challenge whatsoever.

We have already seen many of these conflicts in earlier seasons just in a different form. The basics are all the same. I guess the writers finally acknowledged this matter and they were smart enough not to act quickly on it. So they just created a little spark between two main characters to test this new approach for their show. I think it was interesting and actually quite right for Gilfoyle and Monica to start liking each other, as they share a lot of mutual qualities. So I hope we could see more of this in the next season.

Martin Starr and Amanda Crew in Silicon Valley - S5E08 "Fifty-One Percent" - Courtesy of HBO

Martin Starr and Amanda Crew in Silicon Valley – S5E08 “Fifty-One Percent” – Courtesy of HBO

In conclusion, I enjoyed this season very much. It was funny, bright and flawless and also had a fantastic ending. I hardly felt the absence of Erlich in this season. This is a successful example that shows how a strong writing staff can save a show from falling apart, just because an actor is not available anymore. And let’s not forget, this is not the first time that happens for Silicon Valley. They lost another actor between season 1 and two, Christopher Evan Welch who was playing as Peter Gregory. His uncalled death, lead to a great change of season plot and also a hilarious scene which in Monica tries to describe how exactly Peter died.

I think this might be the first time I’m not that worried about the next season.

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