You say you’re a bitch like it’s a bad thing. Don’t you know that bitches get shit done?
The Pilot (or whatever we’re calling it; the first part of a “limited series blahblah”) of Political Animals is a tough nut to crack. I was looking forward to the premiere, based mainly on it’s cast, all of whom have either been in some things I’ve loved or I love them individually as actors. I was especially looking forward to the dynamic between the female leads, Sigourney Weaver and Carla Gugino. However, while those scenes shined, and Greg Berlanti damn well sure knows how to write quippy lines (there are plenty in the quotes section down below), the surrounding stuff was pretty trope-y, not particularly original, and in some cases slightly problematic. I’m always one to give shows the benefit of the doubt when it comes to Pilots; Pilots and their expositionary obligations are tough.
First though, let’s start with a quick (okay I lied it’s kinda long, but there’s gifs! Gifs make everything better!) run-down of the basic set-up of the show.
The basic set-up is that this is sort of an alternate universe version of the Clinton… situation. Sigourney Weaver plays Elaine Barrish, the former First Lady to President Bud Hammond (played by Ciarán Hinds aka Julius Motherfucking Caesar from Rome). As President, Bud was exposed as a serial philanderer, but since the public viewed Elaine as an ice queen “political animal”, they thought a manwhore President was roguish. Elaine and Bud have twin sons who grew up as teenagers in the White House: golden boy Douglas (played by the adorable James Wolk), who can do no wrong, and troubled Thomas aka T.J. (Sebastian Stan, who is great but has mostly terrible luck with roles), the first openly gay child of a President, who was forced to come out (outed?) as a First Son. Since then he’s been in and out of rehab for a cocaine addiction and all sorts of other self-destructive behavior. Finally, there’s Elaine’s mother Margaret (Ellen Burstyn) who is the typical cynical, booze-pickled loose cannon who’s not allowed to talk to the press.
We open on a political party, what I believe is at least a few years after Bud’s presidency, which provides a nice introduction the the members of Hammond family. Elaine has chosen to run for President, but tonight is conceding the Democratic nomination to her opponent (and future President) Paul Garcetti (Adrian Pasdar). Afterwards, Elaine complains about campaigning, “an Olympic sport in hypocrisy” and says that she hates lying. However, while Bud blusters and boasts about how he’s not going to support Garcetti in his campaign, basically being his typical self-centered bastard self, Elaine shuts that shit down. She knows Garcetti is going to win because he believes the lie. Then, as she leaves the room to head home, BAMF Elaine arrives for good: “And Bud. I want a divorce.” Shut. It. Down.
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