Why is Selina the way she is? She’s casually vicious to her staff, brutally disinterested in her daughter, and disgusted with her ex. Until this week’s episode, we didn’t even know where she came from. Like any superhero — or, more appropriately in this case, antihero — Selina needs an origin story. We finally get one in “Mother,” although, in a very Veep way, we learn about Selina’s beginnings by witnessing her mother’s demise.
After Selina learns her mother had a stroke, her annoyed reaction is our first sign of trouble. Mike has to remind her she “needs to rush to her mother’s bedside.” Selina is a politician even with her own family, relying on her aides to point out when she should show empathy or emotion. Selina is unimpressed with her mom’s apparently dire state. “She’s been at death’s door, like, five times. She always bounces back. She’s like that guy, ummm, Rasputin.” Ah, just how any mom would like to be thought of: Rasputinesque.
Amy calls Selina to say she’s sorry about Selina’s mother. Selina thought the bad news was recount-related, and she is appalled. “Don’t ever, ever scare me like that again.”
Sue sets up shop at the hospital where Mama Rasputin is undergoing treatment. Andrew — the former Mr. Selina Meyer — is also here, but don’t worry. Sue saw to it that he had nowhere to sit. Andrew, who is a living nightmare, brought “a date” to the proceedings, a woman named Monica who has a better relationship with Catherine than Selina does. Catherine calls Monica “Monny.” I feel so awful for everyone in this situation.
This episode is a spot-on depiction of how someone can seem completely different to her child and her grandchild. Exacting, impossible parents can turn out to be lovely grandparents, removed as they are from the high stakes of This Is My Kid and the day-in-day-out drudgery of actual child-rearing. Although all this history is offscreen, it’s easy to conclude that Selina hightailed it out of her hometown as quickly as possible to distance herself from her mother, while Catherine, a child of divorced narcissists, talked to grandma more than Selina ever did.
And so, Selina is baffled by Catherine’s devastation and her (hilarious, annoying) request that country music be played in her room. Selina knows that her mother would really want her nails to be done, which leads to the saddest, most cleverly crafted line of the episode: “Mother loves her hands. She always wore dishwashing gloves when she gave me my bath … which is why I don’t do dishes. I just realized that.”
Grandma Meyer was “vague” about her do-not-resuscitate order. Look, I understand that there are circumstances in which you might want to leave some room for interpretation. But your DNR clause? Nail down the specifics! Oh, well. Anyway, it’s up to Selina. They say you have no control over who lives, who dies, etc., but they never had to deal with hazily worded DNRs. Gary hovers as Selina gets this intimate, private information.
But there’s good news: Mother’s imminent demise has driven up Selina’s favorables. Double-digits! (We have a very intriguing mirroring here, with how Selina can capitalize on her mother’s death on Veep and how Claire Underwood did the same little dance on House of Cards.) As Kent gently informs Selina, plug-pulling could result in “a shorter-lived but numerically greater outpouring” of love from the citizens of this fine nation.
Selina goes to the hospital chapel to mull this over. She brings Gary. She can’t even pray without Gary prompting her. Selina and Gary are the OTP of Veep. Selina manages to work in a request that she be the first woman elected president of the United States in her plea to “ease my mother’s pain and suffering.”
And in her final moments with her mother, what does Selina turn to? A line she stole from a card that Ben gave Kent after his cat, Fibonacci, died. Everyone is in the room and phones are buzzing and Gary’s phone rings, and then Selina’s mother dies. It is a nightmare and it is perfect, punctuated by the realization that — oops, Catherine wasn’t there! Selina didn’t even notice. “She’s brain dead, baby doll, she was brain dead. But we’ve got good news about Nevada!”
Back at the house, we learn what kind of icy woman Selina’s mother was: She wouldn’t let her daughter “play the good piano.” Selina, one of the least self-aware people on the planet, tells Catherine, “You have no idea what it was like to be the only daughter of a pathological narcissist. All this woman did was criticize me or ignore me.”
Also, that good news from Nevada was short-lived. Selina is now losing the recount she fought so hard to get. In maybe the only real moment of grief we see from her, she scream-howls, “You’re gonna cancel this recount like Anne Frank’s bat mitzvah. I’M TIRED OF LOSING THINGS.”
Just before Selina is about to speak at the funeral, Ben breaks the news: Karen can’t stop the recount. Nevada is lost. They’ll have to fight it out in Congress. Oh, and she lost the popular vote. Ben says, with all sincerity, “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
So Selina, upon trying to give her speech, immediately bursts into tears. “I’m sorry, it’s just all sort of hitting me right now. I have lost so much. I’m sorry, I can’t. Catherine, play the Tim McGraw thing.” And Selina sobs quietly to the sounds of Tim McGraw, and everyone is so moved, and it is glorious.
And a Few Other Things …
- I would watch an entire episode of Mike and Wendy interviewing potential surrogates. “Praise Jesus! Are y’all Christians?” “Yes! I mean, a lot of people think that I’m Jewish.” “Our church is … Our Lady of the Holy Womb of Jesus.”
- Kent’s helpful suggestion to Wendy and Mike, after they struggle to convince the surrogate to like them: “Did you explain to her that there’s no scientific evidence of a higher power?”
- Selina, always there with the casual racism, calls the doctor “the Hindu Grim Reaper.”
- “Did Eleanor Roosevelt eat pussy? … Or did she just finger-bang her way down Pennsylvania Avenue?”
- Selina, thinking out loud: “Maybe I’ll get assassinated.”
Insult of the Episode:
Dan, to Jonah: “The only thing women 18 to 34 are going to do when they see you on camera is file a restraining order.”
Compliment of the Episode:
Grandma skipping Selina and leaving “the bulk of her estate” to Catherine. Honestly, I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to like Catherine that much.
Jonah Shall Henceforth Be Known As:
The last in this killer trio: “Huey, Dewey, and Rapey.” Thanks, Amy!