Welcome to the big leagues, Pied Piper.
After five seasons of seeming to achieve a little success, only to immediately get knocked back down, the Pied Piper crew came out on top in Sunday’s season 5 finale, taking the company to the next level (four levels of offices to be exact).
But it wasn’t easy; with the initial launch a failure, things were looking dire upon a two-month time jump (see: bearded Richard and Dinesh). Then finally came a sign of user growth, which was discovered to be the result of Laurie (Suzanne Cryer) and Yao’s (Tzi Ma) 51 percent attack. This sent Richard (Thomas Middleditch) looking for help in an unlikely place: Gavin (Matt Ross). First appearing to provide assistance, Gavin predictably attempted to backstab Richard and partner up with Laurie and Yao to delete Pied Piper. Richard begs him not to, instead offering to hand the company over. But wait! It was all a stall tactic to give Jared (Zach Woods) and Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) enough time to get Colin (Neil Casey) and his new game and users on the network. Kiss that piss, Gavin! The result is even more business for Pied Piper, leading to the season ending like it began, with the guys (and now Monica, too) checking out a bigger office, causing Richard to start puking.
To recap the finale and look ahead to season 6, EW chatted with co-showrunner Alec Berg (who serves the same role on Barry) about Monica’s (Amanda Crew) new role, avoiding “champagne problems,” and how long the show could keep going.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s go back an episode. Why was this finally the time to fully bring Monica into the Pied Piper fold?
ALEC BERG: Just narratively it made sense. The guys launched this ICO and in theory what that means is that they had to make this decision to turn their back on VC funding for the run of the company. And we sort of felt like, on the one hand, they needed somebody who knew how to run that side of things, and on the other hand, Monica has kind of been their champion over on the VC side and if we’re saying their VC involvement is over, then in theory her involvement in the company would be over and it seemed like the wrong move for us to send her off into the sunset. So it seemed like the timing was perfect.
And you didn’t waste any time seamlessly integrating her into the group as her and Gilfoyle (Martin Starr) made for a fun match.
That’s one of my favorite little scenes in the finale. It’s the closest Gilfoyle has ever come to expressing any emotion to anyone. And it’s just this super clumsy, awkward, regrettable moment at the end and they both just sort of walk off feeling unclean.
So with Monica no longer as her partner, where does this leave Laurie? Is she now a Gavin-type foil for the Piper crew?
Exactly; she’s obviously thrown in with their direct competition. The way that we left it at the end of the finale, they didn’t do this deal with Gavin but it doesn’t mean they can’t keep building their competing version. They certainly have more resources and Yao has a whole factory of people building these devices which are going to directly compete with Pied Piper going forward. And we haven’t started writing the next season yet, but I don’t think you can count Gavin out either. He’s out at Hooli, at least for the time being, but he still has a vested interest in being thought of as a formidable businessman.
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Speaking of Gavin, Richard is able to get the best of Gavin. Is it always nice to just give Richard a win, especially when it can come at the expense of Gavin?
Definitely. The show is inherently about outsiders and I think as soon as they become billionaires it just becomes about champagne problems, which I think is less interesting. So the trick with this show is that you have to give them victories along the way to make it feel like they’ve accomplished something and to think these guys are capable and not morons or failures. But I think if you give them too much success too quickly there’s kind of nowhere to go from there. Every season or so we try to write an episode where they have a big win and it’s an episode where they’re sort of like basking in the glory of their win. And I’m not saying it’s impossible, but we’ve just never found a way to write compelling stories about people who are just kicking back and enjoying victory. There’s nothing super compelling comedically or dramatically about people who are in the cat bird’s seat. So it was nice to kind of give them a win at the end, but again, with Richard it’s like, “Oh sh—, things just got much harder. With the victory comes a growth in scale, and man, this is going to be a hell of a lot more work and more daunting and I’m going to have a lot more responsibility.”
The season ends where you began it with Pied Piper looking at new, bigger offices, which suggests a certain level of success, so how will you make sure to avoid “champagne problems?”
That’s the journey of the show from a writing standpoint. I do think it’s funny; we were nervous about where this season was taking us. If you were doing Cheers, like, what if they expanded and the bar was in a different place and was four times the size; is it still Cheers? Or does it become something new? And that was a little bit of our fear. Like, wait, isn’t this a show about a group of guys who live together and work together in a house? What if the show becomes about them working in these nicer offices, will it just not feel like the show anymore? And I think what we learned this year is that there was a nice energy to getting them out of the house. It felt like they were moving and there was progress and being in a bigger office you have a lot more opportunities for stories that come from other people and interacting with other people and making these guys managers of other people; now they have more responsibility and people in their charge and how do they handle that? We were all a little nervous about how that would play out, but I do feel like there’s a really good energy to the show this season with them being in this new situation. And because it’s the same characters and tone and issues, it felt to me like the exact same show, we just had more tools to play with.
[Co-creator] Mike Judge had often said he envisioned this as a six-season series, but when I chatted with him ahead of the premiere, he also mentioned the new energy and how it now had him thinking past six. What are you thinking? Could you go past next season?
I feel like it definitely could. That’s not to say it will. But also, the flip of that is that writing wise I always treat every season like it’s the last season. Like there’s nothing that we had that we held back. If we have a great idea, it goes in the show. It’s not as if we have outlines written for season 6 or season 6 and 7 depending; we kind of figure it out a bit as we go. So we’ll just see. I think what’s going to happen is we’re going to start writing season 6 and see how we feel and what we’re coming up with, and if we come up with a sort of great way to put the show to bed in season 6 then that might be it, and if the show is still giving us ideas and feeling fresh and like it still has legs then we might do more.
Is an endgame already something that has been discussed?
We kind of have an idea of where we want to end up. And it may change depending on how long it takes us to get there and what’s going on in the world when we actually do get around to doing it. Every once in a while you come up with something while you’re working, like, “You know what, that’s kind of a cool place to end the series.”
You said that the writing hasn’t even begun yet, but what can you tease of what we should expect in season 6?
I would imagine now that Yao is building this network of handheld devices, that’s going to directly compete. Also, what’s going to have to happen next for these guys is they need to get this thing up and running and out in the world on mobile devices and that will potentially require partnerships with hardware manufacturers, then you bring the FCC into it, you probably have the NSA talking to you about creating backdoors in case they need to track people. It brings different things into play, because they are playing at a different level and on a different scale.
With both Barry and Silicon Valley renewed, do you anticipate being able to still be as centrally involved with both moving forward?
Absolutely. I love working on both shows and the fact that I get to think about two different things… to have that gear change, it does give you a certain amount of an energy boost to go back and forth. I feel like if I was doing the same number of episodes but of just one show it would actually be harder in a weird way. But because I have two sets of characters that I can think about and I can bounce back and forth, it makes it a little bit more engaging. I can’t say it makes it any easier; it’s a ridiculous amount of work.
Silicon Valley has already been renewed for a sixth season, which is expected to premiere in 2019.