What happened to Jonad?
For the first two seasons of Veep, HBO’s political comedy, West Wing errand boy Jonah Ryan, played by Timothy Simons, filled a simple yet essential role: The backboard against which the Vice President and her lieutenants landed insult after insult, joke after joke, all aimed at usurping not only “Jonad,” as Selina Meyer’s staff called him, but the unseen President, whose useless directives and maddening requests Jonah was tasked with delivering.
Then came Season 3, which premiered three weeks ago. In the first episode, Jonah’s nemesis, Dan Egan, discovered that Jonah was running, under the name “West Wing Man,” an undercover Beltway gossip blog where he posted embarassing photos of the Vice President’s staff. After being fired, Jonah exited the West Wing screaming: “I’m going to be back as the fucking President! Jonah Ryan, 2026!”
Now, this twist wasn’t entirely unbelievable. In October 2013, the (real) White House fired a national security official named Jofi Joseph for tweeting administration gossip under the Twitter account “natsecwonk,” where Joseph ridiculed Obama aide Ben Rhodes’ receding hairline, among other things. Then the perpetrator, full of contrition, faded into the background.
Not Jonah. Over the next three episodes, Simons’ character refashioned himself as the host and author of a D.C.-centric blog-slash-video-series called “Ryan-Tology,” where he shook completely loose of Veep’s otherwise cutting depiction of Washington. Look at the video above. Look at the video below.
Jonah Ryan has gone off the deep end.
Ryan-Tology’s political commentary employs dolls (or are they bobbleheads?), Jonah’s own rapid-fire narration, and video effects so distracting that you almost don’t notice how amateur they are.
It’s an unusual misfire. While visual media have always struggled with the blogger figure, Veep has otherwise been adept at portraying those who circulate within D.C.’s power corridors, such as political reporters (recall Leon West, the “Beltway Butcher,” played by Brian Huskey) and, of course, lobbyists, personified in the oily Sidney Purcell, played by Peter Grosz.
Jonah’s newfound blogger persona, on the other hand, is so miswritten and imprecise that it’s difficult to say what Veep wants it to reveal. Pre-blogger Jonah was captivated by his own power, whether over the VP’s staff or other women, and the subtle tactics required to accumulate and preserve it. Blogger Jonah, by contrast, would rather film himself playing with misshapen figurines. It’s as if his prior West Wing status, and the symbolic power it conferred, were the only objects tethering him to reality.
Which is, perhaps, the point. The writers of Veep have created a D.C., much like the real one, in which power is the only currency. A blogger living in that swamp would have to be nuts, literally, not to want some of his own.
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