A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Elections in America are the stuff of nightmares, an endless parade of vapidity and self-indulgence cloaked in the faux righteousness of popular democracy. There is something to be said for watching people make utter fools of themselves on screen. There is little mirth to be had, however, when those people are politely trying to throw each other off of the stage they inhabit for the sake of leading the nation towards their inevitable speeches and memoirs. Selina is indicative of those self-serving politicians Americans loathe, but there’s the semblance of tragedy from the past, where she at least embodied some semblance of genuine populism before taking on the job Vice President John Nance Garner most famously noted as being “not worth a bucket of warm spit.” The opening shot above is one of the best shots in Veep and a fitting beginning to creator and show runner Armando Ianucci’s swan song. It’s a lone Selina staring out the window, dressed in a dark color on an evening upon which she rested her shoulders, the horizon for which she had sacrificed so much of her integrity looming beyond the dark Washington skyline. The evening ends on a predictable note of absolute frustration from Selina, but there’s an underlying sense go hope that this perhaps can convince her to go back to the Selina she was, the one who had aspirations to garner a more prestigious office but had yet to sacrifice her integrity for it.
Election Night is one of the best episodes Veep has ever done. Certainly it’s one of the most emotional ones, zeroing in on Selina’s humanity and finding a veritable gold mine of unguarded emotions. Julia-Louis Dreyfus as expected is simply sublime here, grasping that humanity and making the audience connect with her on a basic human level, even if we may remember the plethora of moments where she had let her smallness and hunger for power guide her decisions. Every time her face lights up as she wins a state, there’s a part of me that cheers for her unconsciously and every time she loses a state, her despair is evocative. The emotional range Dreyfus has to exhibit is tremendous here and it’s completely understandable. For one, she’s still surrounded by people who are a loud warning to anyone with blood pressure issues, people like Mike, for example. His fairly loud proclamations of the names of states without adding “win” or “lose” in front of them is perfect, but not as perfect as him dropping a ton of Cokes onto the ground and running to Selina, yelling for her not to make the concession call. Bill Ericsson is still around and Kent and Ben are great for political support, but emotionally they’re about as hefty as a feather.
That Selina is even thinking of approaching a concession, let alone actually picking up the phone to do so is an indicator of how utterly exhausted she feels. It’s quite understandable as to why. Politics is never easy and it is never clean. In a way it’s like the neat, immaculate images of food in a cookbook that you stare forlornly at after taking something out of the oven. You see the photograph, become excited, plan everything to the minute and somehow you find a dirty, burnt dish stuck to a tray whose “non-stick” sticker was most certainly an elaborate fabrication. The office of the Presidency operates in such a manner, at least for some. There is this elaborate dream of seeing one’s self in a position of power and a joy at seeing all of the ingredients come together. Then there’s a realization of how utterly filthy the office is and one is left wondering where everything went wrong. I don’t know to what depth Selina is feeling melancholic about the degree of filth around her or even how much of it she sees, but the closer the moment of the inevitable decision arrives, the more her stuffed demeanor speaks volumes about where she finds herself. She wants to lash out and scream at the prohibitively fucked-up American political system, but the conflagration of guilt and ambition is holding her back.
Amy herself is feeling that isolation in equivalence and despite killing it as a lobbyist because Amy is the biggest BAMF in Washington (she’s my idol, possibly), it doesn’t stick with her. As she sits with Dan and other political pundits who definitely know less than Jon Snow but pretend they’re Tywin Lannister (I stand by those references), the emotional conflict is spread across her visage and Anna Chlumsky’s expression at her breaking point was perfect. The skewering of the political media, the political process, and the stupidity of the Electoral College is all spot-on (Ben’s great attack on the validity of the existence of numbers comes to mind), but the moment that captured me the most was when Selina rushes to an awkwardly standing Amy, eager to have the one person on whom she knows she can rely by her side. It’s a rare moment of camaraderie and companionship for Veep and it comes at just the right time. It is a fair point to make, the complete foolishness of the Electoral College coming out to an even number and for the fourth season of the show to end on with Selina’s future at a tie is perfect. Maybe the Selina who has awoken to the realization that her job has indeed made her daughter’s life quite difficult and embraced Amy is the Selina who deserves the win. Armando Ianucci leaves the show he’s so intricately crafted with that intricately crafted dilemma and he deserves all the credit in the world for making us care if Selina wins and if so, if she disappears in the murky depths of Washington once more.
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“Then again, they said the Rapture was close.”
+“You know, marginally.”
+“… a lack of self-worth and narcissism.”; “I like her.”
+James wanting to be Treasury Secretary as well as the VP. And they thought he www squeaky clean. But could he become President?
+Amy and Sue as a buddy spin-off team taking control of Washington, Watch out, Olivia Pope.
+“Check ‘em, don’t neglect ‘em.” Of course Jonah goes one step too far when he’s ahead and ruins it.
+Word of the night: “Insanity.”
Title: Election Night
Story By: Simon Blackwell & Armando Iannucci & Tony Roche
Teleplay By: Simon Blackwell & Tony Roche
Directed By: Chris Addison
Image Courtesy: Couch Tuner EU