The second-season finale of Veep has a nice (and presumably accidental) counterpoint to one of the most talked-about moments on another Sunday night show that’s been overshadowing Julia Louis-Dreyfus and company all spring. On Mad Men, Sally Draper was deeply shaken by an accidental glimpse of her father at his most selfish and untrustworthy. Veep ends the season with a bunch of high-schoolers accidentally hearing the vice president reveal her crassness and cynicism. (“Who gives a flying fuck?”) But the kids seem more intrigued than disillusioned, with one girl later saying that she wants to follow in Selina’s footsteps. (“When I grow up, I want to be vice president just like you.” “No, you don’t, you want to be president.”)
After glimpses of a more introspective Selina Meyer this season, the finale shows the veep — and just about every other regular character — at their opportunistic worst. We could blame Selina for setting the tone with her manic-depressive swings (curiously, no mention of her antidepressants this week) if we hadn’t seen what some of her staffers have been doing behind her back in recent episodes.
“D.C.” follows on Selina’s decision last week to walk away from the president and forgo a run for a second term in the office she’s grown to hate. It’s the most frenetic, if not the funniest, episode of the season, with several possible scenarios for the next two years being offered and then snatched back over the half hour. At one point, no one seems to know whether the president is going to dump Selina from the ticket (a pre-emptive strike, to use an obscure military term Danny Chung might come up with) or embrace her as a successor in the Oval Office. With every plot twist, Selena and her staff react too quickly and too impulsively, sometimes dynamiting bridges (Dan’s epic telling-off of Chung) and sometimes just leaving everyone very confused. (Do Selina and sleazeball Congressman Roger Furlong know whether they’re allies or enemies by the end of the episode?)
It’s a relief to have an interlude at a science fair full of adolescents who still that think the world is rational and that patience is a virtue. Well, until Selina sets them straight.
To its credit, “D.C.” doesn’t end with a reset or a total erasure of the character development that’s taken place over the past season. In particular, Louis-Dreyfus continues to make Selina more interesting than the shallow, narcissistic character that Veep could have ended up with. I’m still not sure whether she has any moral core, but the way that Selina is energized by a challenge — which usually involves cleaning up after a mistake that she or one of her staffers made — suggests a genuine talent for problem-solving (multi-tasking, not so much). Maybe if she had paid more attention to science fairs when she was a teen, she’d be heading up a task force on cancer research or renewable energy. Which isn’t very funny.
My favorite moments in this episode are when Selina’s face lights up at the prospect of beginning a presidential campaign and then crumples when it appears that her career is over. Her single-mindedness is ruining her interpersonal relationships, and probably destroying her health. I can’t wait to see where it takes her next season.
- Nice episode title for a season finale. “D.C.” is inscrutable enough not to give away anything about the plot, but it reinforces the idea that the city is a malevolent force that prevents any of the characters from escaping. Selina also explains that the abbreviation stands for “District of Cunts.”
- Veep’s ensemble cast really clicked this season. I especially liked Timothy Simons’ evolution as Jonah Ryan, still a jerkass but now with a kind of admirable tenacity. And Kevin Dunn grew into an indispensible cast member as Ben Cafferty, the president’s hangdog chief of staff. (“It’s not the job that’s depressing. Life is depressing.”) I love that he genuinely tries to be warm toward Selina and other characters before he inevitably starts swearing about their incompetence. Also, I think his tolerance for caffeine is now so high that his big blue mug of coffee has no effect at all on him.
- Ben breaks some bad news about the president to Selina, who asks, “Why didn’t he tell me this? Why are you telling me this?” Ben: “Because he couldn’t stomach the look like that, just like that, of unbridled joy.” Watching Selina try to suppress a laugh is another form of unbridled joy.
- Minnesota Governor and military hero Danny Chung really hits new depths of asshattery in this episode. (“That’s the worst kind of friendly fire. The unfriendly kind.”) By which I mean that Randall Park has passed the Veep test and will probably be a more prominent member of the cast next year.
- Dan has a moment of principle, telling Chung, “If I had a dollar for every time you mention the goddamn war, I would buy a tank and I would blow your fat fucking head off.” Too bad he regrets it two seconds later.
- Selina: “I hate impeachments. They’re so ’90s.”
- Kent echoes many Veep fans when interviewing Sue for a job: “I respect your brevity. It’s almost threatening.” This is a weirdly placed scene, though. Sue tipping off Kent that Selina has decided not to run again would be the most unprofessional thing I’ve ever see her do.
- Selina blurting to Roger Furlong that she’ll be running for re-election as president in four years is so stupid I have to assume she does it deliberately to fuck with him. Dan using the same anecdote in speeches for both Selina and Danny Chung is just too boneheaded for his character. But Mike spilling the beans to Roger, and then being unreachable at a critical moment because his cellphone battery died, is about right.
- Gary’s taking of liberties with Selina reaches a new high when he kisses her on the lips after she announces that she’s running for president. He also gets to yell, “What the fuck is wrong with you?” in this episode, though not to either of the two women trying to control his life. He’s growing up fast, but maybe not fast enough.
- As Gary gets more independent, Amy is forced to become more of a nurse to Selina. (“Let’s go say hi to POTUS.” “Don’t talk to me like I’m a crazy person.”)
- Dan: “We’re so fucked. We fucked D.C. over so many different ways, no one’s going to hire us now.” Oh, don’t be so hard on yourself. No one can even tell you apart from all the other Dans in D.C.