On Sunday night, Veep went deep and dark for a finale that we all deserved. It has always been a brilliant show that made me feel smart for being in on the jokes and scandal. Most importantly, it stands in a unique spot amongst the elite of political television shows like West Wing, The Good Wife, House of Cards, and Scandal. It peeled back the curtain to not reveal that politicians are just like us – it showed us that, too often, where fact and fiction collide, they’re worse than us. Fitz and Olivia may have had an open affair forever, but if they were Veep characters they would have been internally bad people and Olivia would be ordering murders in season 1, not 7. And Mellie would be way more unhinged.
It’s hard to even articulate what Veep’s secret ingredient is. The entire cast raves about their amazing working environment and co-workers, the love is so clear even on promotional and campaign tours, as Joanna wrote a couple months ago, about the tenderness involved when Julia-Louis Dreyfus spoke about the show’s hiatus during her treatment for breast cancer. Veep showrunner David Mandel
also weighed in on how their star’s illness changed and even uplifted the show. I love a show that competes with only itself, and this last episode paid homage to its own legacy.
When Ben has a heart attack at the beginning of the finale, it’s as Selina is scheming on how she will impossibly win her party’s nomination (that we all know she does not deserve), and he tells her that she knows what she has to do. Here are some of the things we have seen Selina perform in the past 7 seasons: election rigging, abject humiliation, endless lying, and governing with absolutely no ethics, among much more. But still, I was shocked to see Selina somehow cross another boundary to prove just how low (below ground) she will go to win. In a flurry of manipulative decisions that actually worked, Selina thwarts what would be Tom James’ surprise victory upon re-entering the race, promising his mistress and chief of staff a job in her White House if she publicly accuses Tom of sexual misconduct. It was nice to see the angriest moment of the episode go to Tom, who has been insulting, tricking and screwing Selina over for years, plainly say how he really feels when he asks what she is, calling her a conniving c-nt and a f-cking monster. Hugh Laurie is always magic as Tom, but I get toxic masculinity hypocrisy vibes as he calls Selina out. He has always been entitled and brutal with Selina as a political rival and lover, and can never take what he dishes out.
Tom’s meltdown doesn’t faze Selina as she steamrolls a finally emotive Kent and horrified Amy in what I feel is the most important moment of the episode: She offers Jonah the spot for Vice President.
If we look back on season 1 and the way Selina was treated as VP by President Hughes, Jonah’s old boss, everything has come full circle. Everyone knew how useless the VP position was, and it’s now being handed down to Jonah, allowing him to be treated the exact same way as Vice President of the United States as he was treated in season 1. And this show has been all about how hilariously fraught the VP position is. (Joe Biden even collaborated with Julie Louis-Dreyfus in a Veep skit for the 2014 White House Correspondents’ Dinner). Jonah’s low stakes, simplicity, and vulnerability are on full display when he tries to shut down the VP offer, only to be screamed at by both Selina and his uncle Jeff, quickly conceding and accepting it.
Unfortunately, what came next was devastating. In order to move forward with the nomination and eventually the White House, Selina frames her most loyal employee and closest friend Gary for her Meyer fund (and possibly other) crimes. Gary’s loyalty to Selina didn’t even waver as they exchanged their last glance, Gary seeming confused and alarmed, being escorted by the FBI away from Selina’s victory speech.
When we see Selina in the White House as the (one-term) president, she seems deeply lonely, but not unhappy. Sue came back as Selina’s assistant (and for us Sue loyalists) to ward off Jonah and Amy which was fun to watch, and Selina attempted and failed to yell a line that defined her character in season 1: “The level of incompetence in this office is staggering.” No one (but especially Gary) was there to hear her and for the first time, Selina Meyer was alone.
The show has been about what all of the characters have been willing to do to maintain Selina’s power, most doing more than Selina herself. At the end of the jam-packed finale in a fun 24 year fast forward to her funeral attended by all of the characters that have outlived her, her wall headstone hilariously and fittingly reads: “Someone needs to do something about this.”
There’s a bunch of other nerdy delicious things I noticed about this episode that pay homage to the legacy of this show and its seamless ability to sit comfortably in our tragic news cycle. Governor Buddy Calhoun being offered Secretary of Education and a promise Selina will outlaw same sex marriage seemed like a wink to Betsy DeVos, and served as the nail in the coffin to her relationship with her long-suffering daughter Catherine, a lesbian. Mike in the future interrupting his personal tribute to Selina to announce Tom Hanks has died when one of Mike’s first mistakes as Selina’s press secretary in season 1 was refusing to anticipate and address bad press for Selina because “what if Tom Hanks dies” was, simply, perfect.
While many of us didn’t want to imagine a conclusion for this show, and some fans of other shows, another HBO show in particular, are struggling with the way their shows are wrapping up, Veep helped us cope by being amazing, right to the end.
Attached - JLD at The Late Show last week in New York.