[7.4/10] There’s a weird recurring thing with Veep for me, where we’ll be rolling along, most of the material will come off as perfectly good but not awe-inspiring for me, and then there will be one scene that just knocks it out of the park.
This episode, that was very clearly the scene between Selina and Gary. The way that Selina dresses down poor, subservient, endlessly pliable Gary, calling him unimportant and useless and chastising him for believing anything else is horrible and heartbreaking. By the same token, Gary standing up for himself, demonstrating how vital he is to her, was encouraging and even a little inspiring. Seeing the normally spineless if lovable sycophant standing up to his boss was worth a fistpump. The aftermath, where Selina remembers what Gary did for her (is it something we already know about from Labor Day or a cryptic hint?) is interesting for the human drama of coming down from that sort of fire fight as well.
It’s funny, when we finished the episode, I mentioned that I thought Selina was a pretty terrible person, and Mrs. Bloom brought up the many worse people we’d seen -- Tony Soprano, Walter White, Al Swearingen -- and argued that Selina hadn’t done anything near as bad as them but seemed worse because she was less affable. I think she’s dead on. Selina doesn’t do anything that much worse than anyone else on this show or any other, but she is just so consistently awful to everyone around her, including poor poor Gary, that you can’t help but resent her treatment of her (generally similarly awful) subordinates and her self-interested demeanor, even as her crimes are much milder compared to her counterparts.
As I’ve said before, I often think about Veep in terms of The Office, with Selina as Michael Scott, Dan and Amy as Jim and Pam, and Jonah filling the role of Dwight. And when Greg Daniels was adapting the American series from its British counterpart, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant supposedly told him that their eventual plan was to soften the boss -- keep him self-centered and incompetent, but give the audience something to find him endearing and not just hate him. To that end, Selina feels like an unsoftened David Brent much more than she does a difficult but mildly sympathetic Michael Scott, and that can be a lot when you’re hitting 50+ episodes instead of 12.
There were some other entertaining things in the episode. Speaking of The Office, Dan and Jonah pitching a bill to Congressman felt like Jim and Dwight going on sales calls together and had some of the same mismatched fun. Jonah getting Amy’s old assistant and loving it was an amusing touch in the aftermath.
We got more terribleness from Selina in her willingness to throw her daughter under the bus in terms of likability and send Kent to do her dirty work on breaking the news. By the same token, Selina was in top form by brushing everyone in the world off in the name of her solving the Middle East crisis. And the missing Native American painting and ensuing hubbub lead to some amusing terribleness from the whole staff.
Overall, this was an episode that hovered around “perfectly good” for most of its run, but really struck a nerve in the engrossing and well-acted confrontation between Selina and Gary.
The last scene between Selina and Gary was the best!
When Selina is the sanest character in the episode, something is wrong.