Veep: “Mother” Season 5 Episode 4 Review

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A darkly comic episode of Veep is anchored by Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ fantastic performance.

Veep has never made an attempt to soften its characters in order to make them more “likable” or “relatable.” The genius of its satire relies on the cynical; it only works because everyone is so jaded and cutthroat. “Mother” is an all-around excellent episode that pushes Selina to her lowest point. This certainly isn’t the episode I would show to someone as a primer for watching Veep. For longtime fans of the show, however, it’s absolutely engrossing to watch.

The ensemble cast is typically top-notch, but this episode really belongs to Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The actress truly shines this week, adding layers of humanity to Selina’s obvious contempt for her mother. The process of grieving is different for everyone—as evidenced by Catherine’s heave-sobbing—but it’s especially dubious for Selina since it’s clear that she never got along with her mom. A lot of interesting backstory can be inferred from the few moments in which Selina talks about their relationship. True to form, it seems that Selina’s relationship with her mother has now been transferred to Selina and Catherine.

What’s most intriguing, however, are the brief scenes in which the President is alone with her mother. On a surface level, it appears as though Selina is only concerned with the Nevada recount, and will use any minor update from her team to get out of having to stare death in the face. Yet, there are brief moments when she’s alone in the hospital room that tell more. Louis-Dreyfus keeps her face mostly restrained, but her eyes are expressive, showing a hidden sadness. When Selina obsessive over the state of her mother’s nails, it’s surprisingly poignant, because it’s clear that this is about so much more.

“Mother” is also very, very funny, using the darkest of situations to mine for laughs. The glimpses we’ve gotten into Selina’s home life over the past few seasons have always been enjoyable, and that trend continues here. David Pasquesi returns as her ex-husband Andrew and is just as scummy as ever. His new beau Monica and her relationship with Catherine is great, particularly in how it instantly irritates Selina—the fact that Catherine calls her Monni, is a really terrific touch.

The actual scene of Selina’s mother’s death is expertly orchestrated, with Selina relying on her work family for support, the constant buzzing of phones disrupting the moment, and Catherine being totally forgotten about until it’s too late. Louis-Dreyfus’ psychotic laughter as a response to both securing a recount in Nevada and her daughter’s sadness is amazing.

Everything comes to a head at the actual funeral service, during which Team Meyer learns that they’e officially lost Nevada. Again, on a surface level, it seems that Selina’s breakdown on the podium is all about her political loss and not her familial one, and I’m sure that it mostly is. Yet, when Louis-Dreyfus delivers the line “It’s all just now hitting me,” it’s believable. Veep doesn’t attempt to make it’s characters even remotely likable. Yet, with a cast of comedic all-stars in its ensemble, it’s easy for some genuine emotions to seep through. Who knew that a dark political satire could also be heartwarming? Grade: A

 

Some Other Notes:

  • There wasn’t much in the way of subplots this week, but I did enjoy the Nevada State Official’s stark reaction to Amy’s dirty White House mouth. It’s so great whenever these foul-talking characters are put outside of their DC bubble.
  • The best Andrew moment arrives when he realizes that Selina won’t be getting the bulk of her mother’s inheritance, and he immediately switches his focus to Catherine (who is getting the bulk of the inheritance).
  • Speaking of Catherine, major props to Sarah Sutherland this week. If there was an Emmy for best ugly cry, she would win.
  • I was hesitant about Tom James’ sudden switch to being Selina’s ally, but I’m fully on-board now. His “I hated my father” line was strangely sweet.
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus has so many great moments in this episode, but I think my favorite is her delivery of “maybe I’ll get assassinated….”
  • Did Selina secure a major international victory with her tweet coverup? I can’t wait to see how this plays out.
  • “Now what I need a quiet place to think that doesn’t have Mike’s stupid face in it.” “I can turn around, Ma’am.”

 

By Mike Papirmeister

 

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