A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Hiring lobbyists to kill your own bill doesn’t look good, regardless of the administration and bill in question. The optics alone are a resounding nightmare, but more importantly it only feeds into the austere apathy with which voters treat Washington to begin with. The exceedingly dubious morality (or lack thereof) of the Meyer administration is nothing new, nothing groundbreaking and that perhaps is the most depressing thing about it. Every four years there is a new cycle that in reality begins as soon as one election is over. There’s no emphasis on actual governance, there’s only the focus on whether the current occupier of a chair can hold it onto it the next time around. It’s almost a circus if you think about it, except the acrobatics have real, profound impacts on the lives of millions of actual individuals and their families. Each testimony to an unfazed and unsympathetic Congressional panel is as true to its respective character could be but underneath all the comedy is an underlying sense of tragedy that people like this are in charge of government. If that seems hyperbolic, just take our current Congress’s actions into account.
Testimony is a half hour that takes the C-SPAN format to judge its protagonists, equivalently making expert use of the sheer amount of jokes that are made at the network’s expense while using its camera gaze to shine the sharpest light yet on the duplicitous nature of the show’s characters. The sharpness of judgment is helped significantly by the sheer “don’t bull**** me” attitude from the Congressional panel, nearly all of whom have little to no reason to care for anyone standing before them and they make that lack of giving a damn quite apparent. For quite some time, we have seen the characters of Veep and far more so we have seen them bumble and trip as they lose control of the situation(s) around them. But rarely have we seen them be publicly called out for their crap without any opportunity to refute or rebut. Sliminess only works up to an extent, when you become so toxic that no one is willing to listen to your verbiage and fish an ounce of truth out of it. No one exemplifies this better than Dan, who has put his entire stock into building something out of his ambition purely for the sake of ambition. Mike may have had the boat troubles, but Dan has had no harbor for honesty, loyalty, or even an ounce of human empathy. Sitting in a Congressional panel on lobbying, he tries to coat himself in the paint of patriotism, a new low and an attempt so naked the expression of the panel reads with nothing except a mixture of disgust and more disgust.
Political trickery in and of itself can only you get so far, as Amy learns when she tries to twist her words around and create an answer that essentially says nothing. But unlike Dan, she doesn’t make her entire existence out of being crafty and twisty to the point where deception just oozes out of her face. Her dressing up in a conservative, almost Puritan dress is a trick of wonders, a strategic defense move upon which any offense simply looks desperate. Ben’s testimony is fantastic, arduously proving his competency as he destroys the panel’s questioning with just the right amount of wit while keeping as straight of a face as expected. Bill Ericsson’s introduction to the show was as a formidable campaign manager, one of such strategic wit that he had the upper echelons of American government running after him. In some ways, he was too good to be true and everyone has a weakness. Ericsson’s weakness turns out to be complete incompetence in public when he feels threatened in any way, which is as rich with irony as it could possibly be. Gary, who knows basically nothing about political trickery, boasts himself up as a key to Selina’s routine before he is told that he needs to push himself down even further. Mike is Mike, so it’s quite difficult to see him as truly devious in well, anything. Sue, perhaps, comes off across as the most human here as she slips up once but otherwise sticks true to her no nonsense rule.
The stakes of this Congressional investigation are drawn out throughout this episode and it works wonders for selling the seriousness of the enterprise amidst the humor. At every moment, whether the sequence in question focuses on Selina or otherwise, there is an understated urgency that if this investigation goes south, Selina’s already rumored eight-month presidency is basically a goner. But increasingly the cost of keeping Selina within the boundaries of the Oval Office are going beyond what would generally be considered reasonable. Catherine for one, arguably the closest person to Selina alive, had previously severed her relationship with her boyfriend Raheem because of a completely random moment and here her relationship was severed because of the technical differences between consultants and lobbyists. Plenty of sacrificial lambs have been offered on the alter of the Meyer presidency and Bill Ericsson just happens to be the latest one. But at some point, and one would assume that Selina to some extent understands this, there’s no lambs left to sacrifice upon the altar of power.
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“I would never, ever let that happen.”
+“Rain gonna fall, bar’s gonna close, bill’s gonna fail.”
+“You’re not telling me the difference, you’re just turning nouns into verbs.”
+“That shoehorned stab at nobility will not fly here.”
+“Well, this mouse will roar.”
+“Your judgment, ma’am, is unimpeachable.”
+“Well, though it may appear that nothing was going on, I can assure you that there was, there was lots going on underneath. Like a sawn or Professor Hawking.”
+“So you’re just a prompter?”
+Sue is so efficient that she could land on D-day and have time for Iwo Jima
+“It’s like a bell. It can’t be unrung.”
+“I don’t know who that is.”
Story By: Sean Gray & Armando Iannucci & Will Smith
Teleplay By: Sean Gray & Will Smith
Directed By: Armando Iannucci
Image Courtesy: Hitfix