Season 4, Episode 01 “Joint Session”
Air date: April 12, 2015 10:30pm
Veep is back, and Selina Meyer finds herself in the oval office after the former president resigned last season. If that sounds like a familiar premise, this is a far cry from the ruthless machinations of Frank Underwood in House of Cards. “Joint Session” is all chaos and folly as Selina settles into her new office and prepares for her first State of the Union speech with help from her loyal but incompetent staff. Things don’t quite reach the heights of frantic disarray that some of the best episodes have, but “Joint Session” still has all the ceaseless jokes, dysfunctional characters, and high-stakes political fumbling that Veep does best.
The episode opens with Selina’s first State of the Union address, but she’s stuck at the podium with a blank teleprompter. “Joint Session” then depicts the previous day’s series of minor disasters that lead up to Selina’s much larger disaster. Julia Louis-Dreyfus does wonderful work as always, alternating between Selina’s projected facade of calm professionalism and her withering hostility behind closed doors. Her frustration and impatience towards her ineffectual staff reaches new heights as the speech draws closer without any clear vision–Selina is eager to include her Families First bill, but she needs find a way to fund it through budget cuts. Selina, Kent, and Ben scramble to negotiate some spending cuts while the rest of the team works frantically to edit the speech after each turn of events. It’s a narrower focus that the show operates most comfortably in; the sort of minutiae that props up or topples the team’s best laid plans.
There are some minor storylines that are mostly just setup for future episodes, but don’t really contribute much to the main plot, which is a little deflating for the escalation of events. Bill Ericcson quits his position as Thornhill’s campaign manager and might be making a play for Amy’s position, while Gary finds himself increasingly unnecessary as Selina’s position makes her less accessible. Jonah pays a visit to the new vice president Andrew Doyle, only to be tasked with spying on Selina’s team. Patton Oswalt makes a guest appearance as Doyle’s chief of staff Teddy Sykes, who has a very hands on approach to threatening Jonah and asserting his dominance. The ridiculous physical comedy on display makes up for the rather abrupt and awkward ball grabbing, and the whole scene reads a bit like a parody on the hyper masculine power dynamics in House of Cards. Veep continues to add to its already large and incredible cast of comedic talent, and hopefully we’ll be seeing more of Teddy Sykes in the season to come.
Selina finally manages to squeeze some budget cuts from the joint chiefs in the form of an obsolete submarine program, only to upset multiple districts who threaten to kill her Families First bill if the cuts aren’t removed. All of this occurs right before the address, so the team scrambles to fix the speech right as Selina is left floundering at the podium. Although she manages to improvise her way through part of the speech to stall for time, she ultimately reads a draft of former President Hughes’ old plan, which promised an additional $10 billion to the submarine program. Selina’s veiled frustration during the speech and her simmering rage by the end of the episode are both great, and her presidency has barely even started. At the rate things are going, Selina Meyer might not be president for long.
- I really enjoyed Ben and Dan’s use and explanation of the term “cock-thumb”, and Selina’s reactions throughout: “… commonly known as negotiating?”
- “I booked the name using ‘Lazlo Whittaker.’” “Was ‘Vladimir Draw-Attention-to-Myself’ already taken?”
- “The only unthinkable thing is that anything is unthinkable.” “Oh, Kent majored in fortune cookies.”
- “Whole cities of children were going to be saved from poverty. Instead now, that money is going to fund obsolete… metal… giant… dildos.”