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Veep lets Selina dream big, before awakening to a nightmare

Illustration for article titled Veep lets Selina dream big, before awakening to a nightmare
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Selina has spent the season searching for what the next phase of her life will be. “Omaha” and “Library” showed her rocky attempts at championing the increasingly nebulous Meyer Fund; Selina is clearly not suited to charity work. “Georgia” gave her another path to pursue, becoming involved in international politics and diplomacy. While she’s no Minna Häkkinen, this is at least a better fit for Selina than do-gooding. “Justice” presents two more potential futures for Selina, one glittering and the other terrifyingly mundane, and the contrast between these makes for one of the quieter, more interesting episodes of Veep in a while.

Selina and Gary’s relationship is a cornerstone of the series. Through thick and thin, Gary has always been there for Selina, his love for and obsession with her a reliable source of comedy. “Justice” turns the dynamic on its head, having Selina care—in her own, very limited way—for Gary while they both recover after having heart attacks. This is one of the few glimpses the series has given of Selina taking on a nurturing role, and unsurprisingly, she’s not very good at it. What’s interesting, though, is that the core desire to check on Gary is in fact there. She hovers near his bed in the hospital, wanting him to unlock her phone, yes, but also wanting his company. Selina could easily have spent the episode sequestered in her own space, demanding Richard and Amy juggle Gary’s usual responsibilities. Instead, she’s never far from Gary, even coming down to where he’s staying in the brownstone to bring him a tray of horrid-looking food. It’s easy to imagine that this is how Selina parented. Catherine undoubtedly had au pairs and other caregivers, but based on how she interacts with Gary here and her own strained relationship with her mother, Selina would not have been happy sending Catherine off to be entirely raised by others. A sense of obligation wriggles at the edges of Selina’s self-involvement, not allowing her to entirely ignore how Gary’s doing, if only because to do so would attack her perception of herself as an at least decent person. Selina is the lead character in what she perceives as her plucky underdog story, and it’s not a one-woman show.

None of this negates Selina’s characteristic scheming. When it looks like she might actually have a shot at being nominated to the Supreme Court, Selina’s all too happy to abandon her library, drop her book (and the obligation to reimburse Mike for his weeks of work), and ignore her potential benefactor Sherman Tanz. She may care about Gary, but she keeps him working until he literally collapses. Selina is both incredibly narcissistic and fleetingly considerate, and seeing how these contradictory instincts interplay gives the character and the episode depth. It would be out of character for Selina to ask her chef to prepare a delicious dinner for Gary, and if she ignored him completely while he convalesced in her Catherine’s home, that wouldn’t be particularly interesting. But Selina bringing down that tray treads the middle ground nicely and allows for the episode’s most memorable scene: Having fallen asleep while visiting a dozing Gary, Selina ends up in bed next to him. Gary awakens to this fantasy of his realized and carefully stretches his arm over her sleeping body, savoring every moment of this closeness. As soon as Selina wakes up, though, she starts cautiously squirming away from Gary and out of the room, eager to leave him sleeping and pretend this never happened. Director Dale Stern takes his time with this scene, sitting with the intensity of Tony Hale’s performance as Gary. It’s heavy and real, and played entirely straight. Selina could have gotten tangled in Gary’s arm as she left or tripped on her way upstairs, but going for the joke would have diminished the power of the scene. As it stands, it’s a potent addition to the canon of terrific Selina and Gary scenes throughout the series, up there with their giddy bathroom moment in “Crate” and their shouting match in “East Wing.”

While Selina swings from the high of potentially spending the rest of her life on the Supreme Court, and the low of potentially growing old with only Gary to keep her company, Amy is back working for Selina, Dan has finally wormed his way into his cohost Jane’s good graces, and Catherine and Marjorie run into a hiccup in their attempts to conceive using Dan’s sperm. It’s great to have Anna Chlumsky back with the rest of the ensemble, though Selina is now laughably overstaffed. She may only get a few lines, but Amy works much better trading quips with Richard and reacting to Selina than she did as a fish out of water in Nevada. As for Dan, his inability to leave well enough alone looks poised to bite him, and the sight gag of his increasingly ridiculous layers of bronzer makes for a fun runner. It’s notable how much more successful this arc has been than previous attempts to keep cast members on the show after they’ve left Selina’s staff. Dan is perfectly suited to being a TV talking head, with just the right blend of cockiness, sleaze, and, when he needs it, believable gravitas. Watching him explore this new environment, studiously avoiding certain pitfalls while walking straight into others, is a true delight. It’s almost disappointing he won’t be fathering Catherine and Marjorie’s child; their scene together here is pure gold. Hopefully the writers will find more excuses to bring them back into each other’s orbit.

“Georgia” still holds the title of season six’s funniest episode yet, but “Justice” is just as entertaining. Its blend of character work with pointed political satire, represented by the much anticipated introduction of the aforementioned Sherman Tanz, makes for a consistent, thoughtful entry, and a reassuring sign that Veep is solidly back on track.

Stray observations

  • This is the most pointed and opinionated Selina’s been all season, and it’s wonderful to have that specificity back. Her line about Justice Tenny is great, as is her “Noooope” when Mike tries to start his first question for book with, “As a female…”.
  • Selina’s hat as she’s leaving the funeral is a fabulous callback to her various hats in “Special Relationship.”
  • Of course Kent feels strongly about Daylight Saving Time.
  • In case I wasn’t clear enough above, Tony Hale is terrific throughout “Justice,” nailing everything from his subtle reaction to the sleeping Selina to his beautifully big, “I’m sorry Momma, bunny’s late for middle school.”
  • Also terrific are Sarah Sutherland and Clea DuVall. The smile on Sutherland’s face as Marjorie clears up Dan’s confusion over her and Catherine’s sexual dynamic is perfection, and the line and delivery of the episode is Marjorie’s earnest reassuring of Catherine, re:her uterus: “No, Catherine. It’s porcelain and perfect.”