Airtime: Sundays at 10:30PM on HBO
Episode: Season 5, Episode 1 (S05E1)
Tweetable Takeaway: #Veep is back and better than ever.
VEEP’s fifth season premiere erased any doubts about the show’s ability to continue on without showrunner and series creator Armando Iannucci at the helm. Written by new showrunner, former Curb Your Enthusiasm executive producer David Mandel, “Morning After” was chock full of cutting one-liners, expletive-laced rants, and hilarious screw-ups by the Meyer team. In a time where the absurdity of our actual election can be disheartening, laughing at the chaos and blatant self-interest that governs Selina’s White House is a welcome change of pace.
To quickly recap last season’s finale, the electoral college, “a somewhat arcane institution that many scholars believe we should do away with” according to Selina, is in an unprecedented tie between Meyer and O’Brien. Selina is still president for the time being, while they wait for the results of the vote in the House. It’s mentioned at the top of the episode that there’s a possibility that Tom James could be elected president, with Selina as VP, but that concern is set aside for the moment.
The episode opens with Selina addressing the American people. She won the popular vote and is committed to governing while the government figures out what the hell happens next. She puts on a positive face for the camera, with a speech full of Ben’s three S’s, “strength, stability, and bullshit”, but immediately turns on the American people the second she’s off the air. However, Katherine’s in the room, filming. She’s making a documentary about the tie for her thesis for film school, wearing a black turtleneck like a true artiste. Katherine might be just as horrible as her mom. She’s delayed the project until now, as she “had that thing last semester where I was tired all the time.” Selina’s team is worried about the doc, but Selina tells them that the only thing Katherine has ever finished is an ice cream cake.
The team gets the news that Nevada’s race is so close, there’s going to be a recount. Nevada previously went for O’Brien, so if Selina wins in the recount, she can avoid the whole messy election in the House. This is news to everyone but Richard, the incompetent staffer foisted on Jonah as an underling, who did his doctorate on recount procedures in the West. In a glorious reversal of roles, Selina promotes Richard over Jonah, leading to Jonah unleashing an amazingly unhinged Harry Potter-themed rant against the injustice of it all.
Selina addresses the American people again, but everyone is distracted by the giant pimple on her face. Gary’s homemade remedies are just making it worse. To top it all off, the stock market is crashing, with investors panicking due to election uncertainty. Amy suggests appointing an economic czar—ostensibly to address the problem, but really to have someone to blame things on. Yes, Amy is still hanging around the White House, despite her breakdown/quitting last season. Amy wants to be back, and Selina wants her back, but neither wants to admit it to the other one, leading to Selina suggesting Candi Caruso as the person to head their recount efforts in Nevada.
Amy vents about Candi to Sue—if she voluntarily chooses to go by Candi when her name is Candace, how can she be trusted with anything? She interrupts Selina’s meeting with her and negotiates with Selina to get the job. Poor Candi. She was just a pawn in their power struggles, but Selina did an excellent job picking her. She looks like a younger, happier Amy.
Selina offers Tom James the job of economic czar, which he promptly turns down. She’s confused, as after all, he asked to be Treasury Secretary in last season’s finale. No problem. Selina simply tells the press that he’s taking the job anyways. Checkmate. Hugh Laurie and Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s chemistry is hilarious to watch. They play the thinly veiled animosity between the two of them so well.
During all of this, Dan was let go from both his job as a TV pundit and his job as a lobbyist. In what was perhaps a reference to Trump, his boss at the news channel told him to go run a racist billionaire’s campaign in order to establish credibility. Amy offers him the chance to work alongside her managing the recount in Nevada. I love the two of them together, so I’m excited for this development.
Meanwhile, Selina has pushed forward her symposium on race in order to score points with the press. There’s only one problem. Her symposium is made up of only white people—it looks like the NHL All Star Weekend according to Ben. This leads to a hilarious sequence of events. Mike accidentally sets off an alarm as he’s walking upstairs in hopes of beating Sue in their battle of the Fitbits, just as Sue is rushed into the symposium as a quick fix to the diversity problem. Of course, the Secret Service thinks she’s an intruder. Mike blames the disgraced Bill Ericsson for the whole disaster.
There was so much going on in this episode that there isn’t space to discuss it all, but overall this was a hilarious, self-assured season premiere from one of the smartest, best comedies on television. Welcome back, Veep! We need you now more than ever.
Jennifer Trofa lives for two things: spreading the “Superstore” gospel and themed “Law & Order: SVU” marathons on USA.
Jennifer Trofa | Contributor