Veep: “Judge” Season 6 Episode 8 Review

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It’s Gary’s 40th birthday, so of course Selina finds an opportunity to make the whole event about herself.

Gary’s relationship with Selina has always been one of the most interesting focal points of Veep. From episodes like season 4’s terrific “East Wing,” to this season’s “Justice,” it’s never not engrossing to watch the show delve into their toxic codependence and endearing familiarity with each other.

“Judge” gives us another opportunity to examine this dynamic, as Selina heads to White City, Alabama for Gary’s 40th birthday party. Meeting Gary’s family proves to be as compelling as you’d expect, with guest stars Jean Smart and Stephen Root doing wonderful work as his parents. Gary’s complicated home life—particularly his relationship with his father—immediately explains why he’s stuck with Selina for all these years, and putting both of them in the center of so much familial tension made for some excellent character beats.

Unfortunately, the one thing that stops this episode from being a true Veep classic is a problem that’s been occurring with the show all season long. Even though most of Team Meyer is working together again, the narratives still seem too scattershot. It’s hard to focus on the gold mine that is Gary’s childhood when we keep getting distracted by subplots that don’t feel connected in the slightest. The season’s take on post-presidential life has certainly created some memorable episodes, but with only two left to go, the lack of cohesiveness is concerning.

Still, “Judge” does have some really fantastic sequences. The episode is named after Gary’s father, who spends most of his screen time alternating between bullying his son and dropping not-so-subtle hints that he’s a closeted homosexual. These moments are both played for laughs—my personal favorite is when he gives Selina better makeup advice than Gary does—and used to build up a tipping point for Gary, who finally snaps during his birthday celebration and calls his dad out for treating him like shit. Tony Hale is sublime this week, as he gives an emotionally layered performance that does well to highlight Gary’s inner turmoil.

Before Gary goes off on his dad, however, Selina finds away to piss him off as well. The Ambassador Al Jaffar returns to connect Selina with a potential new donor for her library, with the catch that he feels she’s too much of an Upper East Side elitist for his Southern sensibilities. Selina takes this as a cue to reimagine Gary’s birthday as a confederate flag-themed hoedown, which Gary begrudgingly abides by. The real kick in the stomach comes later, when she appropriates a childhood story he tells her for her own use.

The sequence itself is cringe-inducing, but what’s most intriguing is how the episode handles the aftermath. I was expecting something similar to “East Wing,” in which Gary confronts Selina about her selfishness, but instead he decides to let this one go. While it’s always thrilling to watch him stand up to Selina, I think the main conflict this week was between Gary and his father, and so it made sense that he would give his boss a pass. Selina is always going to be incredibly self-involved, but for Gary that’s so much better than getting bullied for not being good at sports or hunting. Judge makes crass comments about how Gary’s stillborn twin brother had a better chance of making the football team than he did. Selina might chide Gary for minor incompetences and steal his stories for personal gain, but she knows she would be utterly lost without him.

All of the show’s scenes at the Walsh household are gems, and I wish we could’ve spent more time with them. Unfortunately, the episode gets sidetracked by things like Jonah refusing to accept President Montez’ deal and then getting screwed over by his fellow congressmen, Dan seeing the return of Jane McCabe, and Amy and Mike searching for his White House diary. All of these subplots have relevant points to make—Jonah is no longer succeeding in congress, Dan may lose his CBS This Morning gig, and Mike’s diary is in the hands of snarky New York Times reporter Leon West—but there isn’t enough there to warrant entire plot threads throughout the episode. Mike and Amy’s storyline is especially troubling because, after eight episodes, it is wholly apparent that this show still has no idea what to do with Amy. Ana Chlumsky deserves better.

As the season begins to wrap things up, I’m curious to see which plots will be given the most screen time in the final two episodes. Veep has some interesting material to work with, but it needs to reign things in when it comes to the more ancillary members of the ensemble. Or, better yet, just have them all in the same room together. In terms of creating tension within a bickering group of people, this show is so good. Having said people all go off on their own adventures is what’s keeping it from being so great. Grade: B+

 

Some Other Notes:

  • Despite my annoyance at the subplot, Jonah’s scene in the Oval Office with President Montez is fantastic. Andrea Savage has been doing so much with so little, and I really like the brief moments we’re allowed to see her at work.
  • Also, bonus points for the Working Girl reference during Dan and Jonah’s night out.
  • I also loved Marjorie and Catherine’s fight about Catherine eating meat.
  • Richard announcing that almost everything shocks him, and then getting shocked at seeing Gary’s house was a great laugh-out-loud moment.
  • “If I had a crib for every baby who died inside me I could open up a Pottery Barn Kids.”

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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