“Blood Boy” is okay as a transitional episode — and as a pretty funny riff on the Peter Thiel-style vampiric efforts at life extension. But as with last week’s episode, it’s also an illustration that the series’ general commitment to making Richard and Pied Piper the A plot every time out can be a little bit limiting.
Take Monica’s (Amanda Crew) plot in this episode. With Erlich’s (T.J. Miller) help, she realizes that her rival, Ed Chen (Tim Chiou), is planning to coup Laurie Bream (Suzanne Cryer) and take over Raviga with a crew of his bros. The conclusion of that plot, Laurie’s revelation that she was planning to strike out on her own and wants Monica to come with her, is dryly funny. “You are, after all, my best friend,” Laurie tells an exceedingly surprised Monica (after also revealing that she has three other kids she never mentions).
It’s amusing to think that Laurie, who has an extremely flat affect and has most recently been annoyed enough with Monica to exile her to the basement, considers the younger woman her best friend. But because these two have always been solidly bit, if strong, players in this ensemble, the declaration doesn’t land nearly as hard as it might have if we had some sense of what this affirmation meant to Monica. Is she touched by the affection of a more powerful woman in the industry? Does she think Laurie’s a weirdo? Is she excited to leave Raviga? Or does she have an attachment to the place where she worked with Peter Gregory? In short, what does Monica want other than to not get fired, for Richard to succeed and maybe for Ed Chen to die in a snowboarding accident? It hasn’t been clear for a while now, and though I love “Silicon Valley,” it’s both a bummer and a bad bit of writing that this is true for the show’s most significant female character.
In a similar way, it seems like “Silicon Valley” burned through Dinesh’s (Kumail Nanjiani) relationship with Mia (Phoebe Neidhardt) a little bit fast. Since the only significant relationship any of the main characters on “Silicon Valley” have had over the course of the series is Gilfoyle’s (Martin Starr) long-distance girlfriend, it would have been nice to see how that affected both the house in general and Pied Piper in particular. Mia’s hacking could have been more than just a source of worry that she would spy on Dinesh and the company: What if she was better than he was? What if she had political feelings about the sort of decentralized Internet that Richard wanted to build?
I say all of this not because I have some major beef with “Silicon Valley”: I obviously don’t, or I wouldn’t be recapping it. But I do think that the show is a step off from being one of the all-time greats, despite how funny and penetrating it is, because of some of these little failures. It says something that Bryce, Gavin’s “blood boy,” gets a more daring arc in half an hour than Monica has had since she defied Laurie and voted against Jack Barker’s (Stephen Tobolowsky) storage box last season. Bryce’s journey from blood donor to tell-all author, and his rant to Richard about how tough his life is, would have been funny if they were actually a true reflection of the distorted society of the Valley, and they’re even funnier for being completely dishonest.
“You listen to me, you muscle-bound, handsome Adonis!” Richard spluttered at Bryce once he figured out the truth. “Tech is reserved for people like me, okay? The freaks, the weirdos, the misfits, the geeks, the dweebs, the dorks. Not you!”
Thank God it is. Now if only “Silicon Valley” was interested in letting its characters be even more specific and weird as people.