Episode 3: The Woman Problem
By: Carlos Uribe
Political Animals is a six-episode miniseries that follows Elaine Branch, former first lady and current Secretary of State, and her family. I will be covering every episode.
Why did Elaine Barrish lose the primary? The show keeps pointing to one single reason and that's because of her gender. She's a woman and people don't like them to be ambitious. Every time she was in debates, she would either appear to be too timid or too aggressive. She simply couldn't win the American people. She was losing California and she was going to lose the primary. There needed to be a way to keep her politically influential and that was through Bud. Bud purposefully messed up his answers in a series of interviews to turn public opinion against Elaine. This led to Elaine losing and everyone blamed Bud. Even his own family pointed the finger at him. In doing so, Bud kept the door open for a future run. Elaine might have lost because she was a women in the old primary, but she'll definably lose if Bud campaigns with her. This was a harsh reality that Bud was given when a pollster tells him that Elaine's currently popularity would be shot if Bud campaigned with her. The layer of Bud wanting to be in the White House has been established along with his ego. This episode helped to define that he truly does love Elaine, even if he uses her.
She's planning to run for President in the present. She's going to run against the man who had beaten her. He's been incompetent and this has led to Elaine actually having a chance to win. She can't just come out and announce that she'll run. She needs to ensure that she is fully prepared to enter the race. This is why she spent the time getting the support of her family. She had already made her good son, Doug, a campaign manager. She gets it from TJ, who wants to stay on her good side, and eventually from Margaret. She also now knows that she has a chance to actually win this thing, thanks to the discreet poll. Political Animals is presenting an interesting situation where we see a Hillary Clinton character deciding to take an Obama administration. The names and situations might be slightly different but the similarities are striking. In a way, Veep is a similar show. That might be an HBO comedy but that's a show on what would have probably happened if a Sarah Palin had been elected Vice-President. Elaine is getting ready for the run but it is disappointing that it's likely that this mini-series won't follow this election. It shows some insights at the previous primary, with a reveal that Doug also did drugs, but it's only hinting at the upcoming election.
This is a pity because Garcetti is a worthwhile opponent. He might not be a vary capable President, but he is the sitting President. This makes him an incumbent and that alone makes him a formidable opponent. He's shown to be cunning. In this episode, he manages to arrange it to the point where he could offer Elaine a Supreme Court nomination. If she accepts, that means that she won't be able to run against him. It's a tempting life-time opportunity as it give her a lot of power but she barely seems to consider it. If she refuses, she's announcing to the administration that she is at least seriously considering running for President. This was an interesting political situation that led to some entertaining scenes. It also led to Susan and Elaine getting even closer. That's because Susan was willing to warn Elaine rather than report the story. Elaine is now willing to trust Susan more and Susan is given more access. Access that she is hoping to exploit after she makes her formal announcement. Access she will also be receiving because Doug owes her.
This was a good episode of Political Animals and it slowly manage to develop Doug's character. He's still the most bland main character on the show but he's slowly getting edges and layers. The episode helped to give each character an opinion on Elaine's desire to run but the show is merely hinting at what this will do for the family. It's a lot of build-up for the mini-series and there is only three episodes left. If this doesn't become a full-fledged series then we would have seen the characters setting up the groundwork for a campaign that the viewer will never get to see or experience.