I’m going to be writing a regular series of Veep articles, each episode having its own article. I feel it’s important to mention that these articles won’t function as re-caps as such as I’m assuming you’re re-watching the series with me, or otherwise know the plot of each episode and I’m aiming to intimately discuss the themes and relationship presented in the show instead.
Veep is so densely written at times that I would dare to describe it as lyrical. There’s stacks of creative insults, political satire and pop culture references crammed into every 26-ish minute instalment. The fact that characters actually develop and grow throughout the series is testament to the lofty ambitions Veep harbours, even from the beginning. It was never enough, even in the comparatively low stakes first season, to simply wallow in the uncomfortable misery of Selina, Amy, Dan, Mike, Jonah and Gary’s shared existence; these characters had to grow and advance personally and professionally, and they did.
In terms of focusing on individual characters, I’m going to stick to those listed above; as much as I love Ben, I feel his character arc is less developed than, say, Jonah. It also allows me to focus on the political trajectory of both Selina and Jonah, which is probably the most fascinating angle to me.
It’s also important to note that at the time of writing Veep is still an unfinished work since season seven, due to be the last, won’t air until at least 2019 so in many ways the character arcs I’ll be commenting on are still very much still in development.
Fundraiser introduces us to Selina Meyer, Vice President of the USA, as she’s being helped into her jacket by her ever faithful bag man, Gary Walsh. I can’t imagine a more apt way to introduce the relationship between these two characters; a marriage made of inequality if there ever was one, Garry’s eyes firmly locked on Selina’s jacket as he focuses on the task at hand, Selina paying no mind as she receives information from her Chief of Staff Amy Brookheimer. The kinetic pace is set right from the beginning and arguably the first character trait established is Gary’s love and adoration for his boss. Even before the Veep declares reading glasses “a wheelchair for the eye” it’s clear how much regard Gary has for her, and not just in an employer-employee sense. The pride he takes in his job is different to the rampant competitiveness displayed by Amy and Dan. You can tell from his reaction during Garyoke how much pride he takes, the way he swings backwards in celebration when he knocks it out of the park with Senator Dorsey; that’s not the reaction of a man who’s in it for himself.
The first time Selina is Gary-less in Veep, she takes the opportunity to denounce the coffee sweetener he insists she likes to Senator Hallowes. Small moments like this give a lived-in quality to their relationship.
After it becomes clear that a staffer’s tweet (ah, the comparative innocence of 2012) has scared off the plastics industry from the fundraiser and Selina refuses to mingle with the small amount of people who actually showed up as it would be comparable to Simon mingling with Garfunkel (yes, Gary, they probably did socialise together).
If Fundraiser belongs to any single character, it’s Dan Egan. He’s introduced as Director of Communications for Senator Hallowes, a guy who’s appetite for success (and a pat on the back) knows no bounds. Introducing the audience to the character by having him stab his current boss in the back to earn a spot on Selina’s team is a master stroke in hindsight and his relationship with Hallowes needs very little exploration to understand why he’d be tempted to jump ship. To Dan, all relationships are nothing more than career currency and the way Selina gravitates towards him is entirely natural; he’s a guy who’s entire persona is built around professional advancement.
Jonah Ryan, the liaison between the Veep and POTUS, is given a much more low key, comical introduction as “the guy from My Left Foot” with a proclivity towards Amy he’s not yet ready to admit.
Much of Fundraiser, however, works to contrast and compare Dan to other characters. His forcefulness is contrasted with Gary’s passive nature, his capability is contrasted with Mike’s inability, his ruthlessness is contrasted with Amy’s… less ruthless ruthlessness.
By episode’s end Dan is a part of the Veep’s staff, despite Amy’s best faeces related comparisons, and the team is all in place. It’s easy to see why Mike’s “just wing it” in regards to the Veep’s speech would encourage dreams of a more competent staff.
Selina’s “hoist by our own retard” gaff serves as a moment to reflect on the incompetencies surrounding her, a theme that will become central to Veep.
As Dan sweeps in the next morning to turn lemons into lemonade he doesn’t even earn his himself a cup of coffee as the Veep shuts the door in his face, another theme thouroughly explored later on.
The miss-signing of Rapey Reeves’ card is ample opportunity to demonstrate the lengths Garry will go to for Selina while Dan plays God in the background, undoing the damage of retardgate by sticking the knife in his old boss.
Gary saves the day by pimping out Amy to Jonah in return for the incorrectly signed card, even though the card has already been signed by POTUS. He then re-enters the Veep’s work quarters and gives her a much more enthusiastic embrace than she intended, before Dan commits a capital offence in the name of securing his new gig. He’ll end up going a lot further in the future.
Veep’s pilot episode is so perfect at painting us a picture of its characters that we know them intimately from the word “go”, which doesn’t make it any less of a joy to re-discover these relationships.
As Fundraiser ends, we’re left to ponder who’s using who. After six seasons of Veep, it’s a familiar question.
Sue, did the President call?:
“When a sexual harasser dies we sign his wife’s card, that’s how Washington works”.
“What if Tom Hanks dies?” asks Mike, more in hope than expectation, just before a human motorcade fit for the Pope swarms the Veep in order to avoid facing backlash for her use of the word “retard”.
It takes no time at all for Dan to realise the fakeness of Mike’s BullSchitzu.
“Tuck your shirt in, your dick is hanging out of your pants”.
“It’s going to look like the Veep couldn’t be bothered to sign a card for one of the most respected perverts in the Senate”.
I love the way Selina and Gary exit her office after he tells her about Amy signing her own name on Reeves’ card. Like a mother and her disappointing child.
“Did Dan tell you this is your Cuba?! He’s such a shit!”.
“Amy, I need a shit!”.