A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Veep, as noted, functions best when its characters are in some fashion competent at their jobs. They may screw up a lot, but that usually isn’t a direct consequence of them being utterly clueless. I can’t recall an episode of Veep where so many of the characters have been incompetent to this degree right after each other, as if they’ve all caught some sort of stupidity virus that is incurable to the last degree. Veep above all is a political comedy that functions on how selfish and incompetent the inhabitants of our nation’s government can be. It’s an absolute gold mine to dig comedy from and for a good chunk of its running time, Veep has done exactly that and to great effect. Yet to drive the narrative forward, these characters more often than not have to serve some sort of intellectual value because that is what inherently drives the imbued irony of their circumstances home. If idiots are around episode after episode, screwing things up, there’s no dramatic value left because you expect them to behave just as stupidly as they do without ever learning anything. If smart people are around episode after episode without screwing anything up, the end result is roughly the same in terms of dramatic heft. And there’s no dramatic heft in B/ill, most of it swatted away because somehow they needed to get the plot forward. The episode tries to cover the lack of drama up with hilarity, but that effort dies quicker than Congressman Pierce’s dreams of becoming the American ambassador to France.
The Families First bill on paper sounds like a great idea and in this dour economic climate that has fallen so hard upon working families, it almost seems nonsensical that it would fall under such vociferous attack. But it has fallen prey on two fronts, the sexist front with the “Mommy Meyer” providing one front and the selfishness with which welfare is discussed on the other. It’s a simple line spoken in the episode, but it’s a profound one: hardworking families don’t want to pick up the slack for lazy ones. There’s a disconnect in the national discourse when it comes to the poor and there has been for a while, but it escalates sharply in times of economic crises. The poor are generically cast with the aspersions of being lazy, as if everyone who is stuck in an economically depressed situation is responsible for their circumstances. Basic economics, inflation, housing policies, none of that is taken into account. The generic response is that people should work harder and they often do, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always enough. For parents working multiple jobs and trying to raise decent children, the Families First bill would at the very least be a help, if not a godsend.
Seeing Selina torpedo her bill likewise is demoralizing, if fitting perfectly within the cynical world of Veep. Afraid from the backlash the bill would sponsor, the Meyer team goes full blast on trying to defeat the bill. Selina, who has worked so hard on putting this bill together, finds herself at loggerheads with her own decision, confronting it in the episode’s best scene. Her bedside conversation with him was a poignant one, going a long way towards humanizing a character whose selfishness at times seems beyond ridiculous. “Am I doing the right thing?” she asks simply, her voice betraying a knowing sense that she knows she’s doing the opposite. So often Selina has betrayed her principle for the perceived realpolitik and to see her do so one more time isn’t surprising, but that undoubtedly is taking a toll on her. When she had set up her initial campaign to run, Selina had noted to Ben that she was inherently doubtful that she would be able to pass any piece of legislation that would actually make a meaningful difference in anyone’s life. There’s a nice callback to that when she acknowledges to Tom that this bill would actually make a difference in people’s lives and she was gutting it.
Besides giving Tom James his best material yet and Hugh Laurie knocking it out of the park, the typical humor of the show doesn’t rise above the logical fallacies that exist to only drive the plot forward, sensibility be damned. Ben paying Dan and Amy to kill the bill off the bat doesn’t make any sense because he should know better than to trust two people who were screwed over by his administration. Jonah and Richard, hilarious as always, just feel out of place here, as if they were written into the episode just because they needed to be there and not because they actually had anything to do. Dan and Amy, callous as they may be, are not idiots and to have them leave behind a cash trail that could incriminate the Meyer administration and potentially themselves is simply illogical. Gary giving Pierce the French ambassadorship even when Selina explicitly said not to three seconds earlier was a dumb moment, even for Gary. The bill is dead ultimately, with Selina’s promise of a new, reformed bill on the horizon. But Congressman Moyes’s investigation into the Meyer administration hiring lobbyists to kill its own bill and the Meyer team has no one to blame but their own bumbling ineptitude.
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“Cute, I imagine.”
+“She has gone full Colonel Kurtz.”
+“Can’t you just do this for Selina?”
+“I wish you had gotten this flu instead of me.”
+“Two giant children in their dad suits?”
+“I feel like I’m the captain of the Titanic and I carved out the iceberg myself.”
+Amy’s “bitch” was a perfect example of line reading done right
+Congressman Pierce’s alias is “dumb fucking elf”
+“Everyone, shut your fucking holes.”
+“You’re like an infestation of mediocrity.”
+In Tom James’s mind, Bill is a 1950s radio broadcaster, Mike is Fozzie Bear who’s been ripped up and used to smuggle heroin, Kent is a Nazi doctor, Gary is who knows what, and Ben isn’t even acknowledged
+“Okay, Congressman, time to exit through the giftshop.”
+“It doesn’t sit well with my policy of plausible deniability.”
+“For a moment, Gary was the most powerful person in the room.”
+“It’s your time to shine, you dim fucking bulb.”
+“I won by not winning.” Is that a thesis statement for Veep?
+Selina’s reading of “Fuck you, America.”
Story By: Armando Iannucci & Tony Roche & Andy Riley & Kevin Cecil
Teleplay By: Tony Roche & Andy Riley & Kevin Cecil
Directed By: Becky Martin
Image Courtesy: EW