Veep final season review: HBO’s best show has ended, stop crying about Game of Thrones
VeepCast - Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, Tony Hale, Reid Scott, Matt Walsh, Kevin Dunn, Gary ColeRating - 4/5
While most of the world was distracted by Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow’s adventures, a different sort of Game of Thrones was unfolding on another HBO show, also in its abridged final season. On Monday, Veep concludes its terrific seven-season run, which has been playing out in parallel to GoT. And without any help from fire-breathing dragons and mad queens - and despite being largely asexual - its achievements far outweigh anything we’ve seen on the more popular GoT.
In its last couple of seasons, Veep has had to face the same moral quandary as House of Cards. Can any political show retain an element of shock and surprise in the current environment, when Donald Trump’s America continues to blur the lines between satire and real life?
House of Cards reacted to this mess with a shrug of disbelief, and decided to fully commit itself to transforming into a sappy soap opera. Veep, meanwhile, has retained its dignity.
The final season is perhaps more subversive than the show has ever been. If anything, the Trump presidency has made Veep more cynical, and more fearless. Policies it jokingly suggested in earlier seasons have been adopted by real-life politicians, playful plot points have come true. For instance, Selina Meyer’s emails leaked years before Hilary Clinton’s, and her campaign slogan - Continuity with Change, devised with the express objective of sounding ‘meaningless’ - was unfortunately ripped off by former Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.
This newfound nihilism has allowed showrunner David Mandel and his team to fully embrace the emptiness at the show’s heart. After mistakenly landing at Cedar Plains instead of Cedar Rapids, Selina barks at her campaign advisors, “If Mohamed Atta had you guys booking his travel he’d still be alive today.” Enticing her with a possible scam, her Chief of Staff quips, “You’ll be drowning with money so dark you’ll get shot entering your own apartment.” A running joke is Selina’s campaign speeches getting interrupted by mass shootings. “Was he Muslim or white?” she asks. “White,” her staff says. “Which one’s better for us?”
All this is pretty bold material, and an excellent example of how, despite its many troubles, free speech is still a cornerstone of American society. It’s difficult to imagine similar jokes being made in an Indian context.
And as Selina Meyer prepares for her presidential campaign - for real this time - her worst tendencies as a petty, opportunistic schemer emerge out of hibernation. This is the role of a lifetime for Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who despite Selina’s inherent awfulness, finds ways to humanise her, and project her as a product of her environment. She’s won the Primetime Emmy six years in a row for playing Selina, and barring a major upset, will likely win her seventh, one for every season. I wonder if this is unprecedented.
And while Game of Thrones flounders about, draining a decade of goodwill down the toilet, Veep ends on a resoundingly positive note. In its final season, the show leapfrogs over plain satire and ventures into the absurd. Congressman Jonah Ryan, once the butt of the most colourful insults, has transformed into an exaggerated version of a Trump-type candidate. There is no situation he can’t make worse by simply opening his mouth. Over the course of the final seven episodes, he marries his step-sister and later learns that she is his half-sister; contracts small pox after going all-in on an anti-vaccine campaign, and inspires scores of women to start a #NotMe campaign, in which they provide proof of never having dated him in the past.
Even the formerly miserable Black Mirror has found it in its heart to project some decency into the universe, but Veep has taken our sorry situation as an excuse to point fingers and take names. “Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite,” a wise Frenchman once said. “Every nation gets the government it deserves.” It’s all your fault, Veep seems to suggest, with a disdain that’ll continue to serve as a warning for future generations, just in case they feel the need to shake things up again.