The following story contains spoilers about Silicon Valley‘s Season 4 finale — proceed at your own peril
Richard’s dream of booting up a new Internet moved closer to reality in Silicon Valley‘s Season 4 finale, setting the stage for a potentially game-changing fifth season. But obstacles await, and Pied Piper will be marching into what promises to be a messy battle down a soldier: As previously confirmed, Sunday’s season-ender marked the end of the road for T.J. Miller, whose stoner-ego Erlich Bachman embarked on a new life in Tibet. But is the scene-stealing dope-head gone for good? That’s one of several season-ending burning questions I lightly grilled exec producer Alec Berg about.
TVLINE | I feel like this is the most unhinged we’ve ever seen Richard. He’s been through comparable crises before, but he never reacted like this. Why did this one freak him out so much?
This is just a natural evolution. We’ve seen Richard face moral dilemmas [before]. This just seemed like an interesting exploration into, “What if Richard is not morally pure anymore?” The guys have always been pretty rough on him when has decided to be the voice of moral reason. Gilfoyle and Dinesh especially have been the ones who wanted him to use the fake users and walk on the dark side. It was an interesting opportunity for us to take Richard down a pretty dark hole.
TVLINE | It also allowed Thomas Middleditch to really shine. He gave an exceptional performance.
That’s the joy of series television. You’re constantly finding new areas and colors and shades for your characters. I think he and Zach [Woods] both found new gears this year. It was fun to watch them grapple with this stuff.
TVLINE | Should we just assume that Erlich will now just be happily smoking opium in a Tibetan hut for the next five years?
I don’t think it’s going to be that simple. We start writing the next season on Monday. But we’ve already had some discussions about some potential areas and I think we’ll have some fun with Erlich’s disappearance.
TVLINE | Is there a possibility that T.J. Miller could pop in next season as a guest star? Or is this it Erlich?
Never say never. There’s no plan for that right now.
TVLINE | How early in the process of writing Season 4 did you know that you’d be writing T.J. out?
The last few episodes you saw that there was a distinct path that Erlich was on. We kind of figured it out halfway or two-thirds of the way through… We didn’t want to do The Death of Erlich, like, that’s it, he’s done. It’s intentionally left a little open.
TVLINE | Any plans to fill that void with a new or existing character, like perhaps Haley Joel Osment’s Keenan Feldspar?
It’s too early in the process. Erlich brought an energy into the mix that I think will be sorely missed. So whether we bring in a de facto replacement or whether it’s just having more characters that add a different energy [remains to be seen]. But in terms of concrete plans, nothing’s been decided yet.
TVLINE | Pied Piper ends the season on fairly steady ground. Of course, we’ve seen that before. I know it’s early in the process, but any hints about what new obstacles they’ll face in Season 5?
If you look at the reality of this new decentralized Internet that they’re trying to get going, the companies that would be forcefully against that are Facebook, Google… any company that relies on trading on your identity online. In a decentralized, anonymous Internet, those companies become functionless. So the number of people that would want to stop a company like Pied Piper from becoming a massively successful company are pretty endless. [There’s also] Gavin Belson, who is pretty vested in a centralized Internet version of Hooli. Potentially there’s also the federal government that would want to stop them from creating something that could be a haven for pirates in the dark web…. There’s no shortage of barrels rolling down the ramp that they’re going to have to jump over.
TVLINE | Will we ever learn more about Jared’s intriguing and mysterious personal life?
[Laughs] I feel like the little glimpses we get are so dark and scary and so much more terrifying than [the potential reality]. There’s a term we use in the writers’ room called Chewing Your Seed Corn. Something may work in the moment, but what’s the ultimate cost of putting this information in the show? And that’s one where I feel like maybe less is more.
TVLINE | Have we seen the last of Jack Barker?
I don’t know. I thought Stephen [Tobolowsky] brought such a cool energy to the show. I have to imagine that guys like him don’t just fold up their tents and go home. I have to figure he will come back in some way.
TVLINE | Are you starting to think about writing toward an ending for the series?
I think we’re probably just getting to the point where we’re asking that question. I can’t say we have any [season] number in mind. But we definitely for the first time are starting to talk about, “How long do you think this will continue…?” There is no definitive plan [to conclude the series], but we’re starting to think that maybe there are less shows left than there are in the can.
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