Review: ‘Veep’ tries to break a tie with ‘Kissing Your Sister’

06.19.16 1 year ago 35 Comments

A review of tonight's Veep coming up just as soon as I remember to check for lead…

Veep only did eight episodes in its first season (a pattern HBO seems to be employing with most of its new comedies these days), but in every year since, the ninth episode has been a special one(*). Season 2 gave us “Running,” where Selina got high on pain meds and said too much about her future election plans. Season 3 had “Crate,” with the amazing Selina/Gary bathroom scene.(*) Last year offered up the format-busting “Testimony,” which was framed as raw footage of the staff being interviewed about the data breaches.

(*) Julia Louis-Dreyfus chose “Running” and “Crate” as her (winning) Emmy submission episodes in those years. (Last year was “Election Night,” and – barring something extraordinary in the finale – I'm assuming she'll go with “Mother” this time, with an outside chance of “Congressional Ball.”

“Kissing Your Sister” is more in the vein of “Testimony,” in that the entire episode is presented as Catherine's eponymous documentary. The film simultaneously shows us the House vote to break the electoral tie – which ends without a winner, other than maybe Tom James when the vote moves to the Senate – and events of the season we weren't previously aware of, like Selina's plans to fire Mike after the election is resolved. It's both a dead-on parody of the documentaries of Alexandra Pelosi and other Beltway-adjacent filmmakers, a clever way to liven up an episode where the main characters are watching votes on a TV set, and an inspired riff on the idea of late-season clip shows(**), since it both recapped the events of the season so far while offering us new perspectives on what we saw previously, like the outtakes from Jonah's wood-chopping TV ad. (Though funny as that was, it didn't hold a candle to the revelation of where Jonah was when he bragged on the phone about his success with the ladies.)

(**) Years and years ago, David Mandel was showrunner on Clerks: The Animated Series, where the second episode was a spoof of clip shows, where virtually all of the clips were of episodes that never existed. (And the few that weren't came from an episode that, thanks to ABC's weird scheduling, hadn't aired yet.) So deconstructing the format isn't a new thing for Mandel. And speaking of Mandel, come back here tomorrow morning for his breakdown of how this episode was put together. Clerks may have been discussed.

Along the way, the episode/documentary delved into the characters' personal lives in ways that had been barely alluded to, if at all, previously. Amy has no life outside the job, and Sue of course isn't going to divulge a thing to anyone, let alone a filmmaker (making her face as pixellated as Charlie Baird's private parts in a later scene), but the film gave us the opportunity to go home with the supporting characters in ways we largely haven't before, whether we were meeting Ben's third wife, witnessing the sad evolution of Mike's spare room from nursery to man cave to cramped master suite, or, especially, discovering that in his spare time, Kent is essentially a supporting player on a Sons of Anarchy spin-off.

That Selina loses the vote – and is, as usual, so cravenly self-interested that she tries to get Jonah to vote for O'Brien so she can run again in four years (whereas she knows Tom will be a good enough president that he'll easily serve two terms) – would suggest we're heading towards a re-setting of the original status quo, with Selina frustrated to be back in her old job while Tom gets all the glory. If that's what comes next, I'll trust the creative team to make it work like they've handled everything else so well of late. But these two seasons with Selina have been so much fun, with her mistakes having much greater resonance due to her higher profile and power, that it would feel disappointing to have to take that step back – albeit not nearly as disappointing as it would be for Selina herself.

Either way, this has been a great season so far, and I look forward to seeing what weird stuff goes down in episode 9 a year from now.

What did everybody else think?

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