“Silicon Valley” has returned for season four with a few surgical alterations, and, two episodes in, they’re working beautifully. Creators Mike Judge, John Altschuler, and Dave Krinsky have found a way to keep their five strongly established characters in play without resorting to that bane of TV — redoing earlier story lines with different names and places.
This time, the big little boys of the incubator are breaking up a bit, even while they still live together. Richard, as nervous as ever, his fingernails dipped in preventive iodine to no effect, has a modest mission in mind: to create a decentralized “new Internet” run off of everyone’s cellphones that will be without government or corporate interference. He has become a mad genius of sorts, yet another egomaniac on a show that chews them up and eats them for lunch, but with integrity, in that he only wants to work on a project he believes in. The other guys, meanwhile, got swept up in the Piperchat business — until that fell apart (and then blew up in Gavin’s face) — and next, with Erlich in charge, they will be chasing yet another Next Big Thing That Will Change the World and Make Them All Rich Bwahaha.
The pace and the crazy deal-making and -breaking are always amusing on “Silicon Valley,” and they have remained the same. The dream of success is always just beyond their fingertips, no matter how high they jump. At moments, as corporate decisions swing back and forth and high-tech hotshots and losers rise and fall, the show reminds me of “The Good Wife.” The characters are forever running from one place to the next, as the plots twist and turn and the landscapes — as seen in the opening title sequence — forever shift. It also reminds me of another HBO series, “Entourage,” but “Silicon Valley” is so much sharper and self-aware than that Hollywood male fantasy that I don’t like putting them in the same sentence.
Also still the same: a gang of five actors who have developed a sharp ensemble of pizza-eating geeks. Jared, played so elegantly by Zach Woods, is irresistible — so sweet and oversensitive, a guy who turns gender clichés upside down. Big Head, played by Josh Brener, has become the Chauncey Gardiner of the piece, a simple man forever failing upward. The bombastic and grandiose Erlich — the undeniable T.J. Miller — is the perfect foil for logic. Martin Starr’s Gilfoyle remains the ironic jester. And Dinesh, played by Kumail Nanjiani, has already had great moments this season, as his brief encounter with leadership crumbled. Like so many on the show, he reached for the golden ring, and it almost tore his finger off.