Veep ended its seven-year term on HBO last night with a series of backdoor deals, sublime obscenities, multiple time jumps, and one final indignity for once-and-future President Selina Meyer (the incomparable Julia Louis-Dreyfus). Like a certain other award-winning HBO series, Veep had numerous threads to tie up in its final moments. And like its network neighbor, the series occasionally placed plotting above characterization in its uneven final season. But by the end of “Veep,” there was no doubt that everything—from a botched drone strike to Jonah Ryan’s (Timothy Simons) descent into hate-fueled propagandist to a casual reference to Tom Hanks years ago—was leading up to this.
With one full-term Meyer presidency on the Veep books, The A.V. Club weighs in on what Selina sacrificed to get back into the Oval Office, what future President Richard Splett’s “three-state solution” could be, and the return of the White House’s lone competent staffer.
Note: Plot points of “Veep” are discussed below, because we are, after all, talking about the finale here.
There were definitely moments in the final season that made the series’ return feel almost inessential, especially once the show’s depiction of the world of politics felt less heightened and more “ripped from the headlines.” But thanks to a thrilling, depraved finale, Veep has reclaimed a spot in the upper echelons of no-holds-barred, pitch-black comedies. David Mandel, who wrote and directed the episode, delivers poetic justice and callous fates in equal measure: Dan, who was certain he was born to be a D.C. wheeler and dealer, is ultimately unable to hitch a ride on the wide coattails of the most humane person on the show; unfit people continue to fail upward; and everyone who backed Selina’s bids for the presidency is left with little to show for it aside from a prison record. It’s a credit to the cast and writers that Gary and Selina’s final moments together could elicit both a sob and a nod in agreement—to echo a character from a different world of power players, there was no other way for this to end. (Take note, Game Of Thrones writers: This is how you depict a power-hungry person’s terrible retribution and victory.)
This was an amazing finale. The Jonah-is-Trump buildup felt a little too obvious, so it was great that the finale focused on Selina as the true villain. I wish the episode spent a little more time in the future though. I didn’t need a Parks And Recreation-level of closure, but I think it would’ve given us more time to sit with the impact of Gary taking the fall. I recently rewatched “Judge,” where Selina visits Gary’s family, so maybe that’s why I was feeling particularly sentimental about their relationship. Of course, Selina ends up alone, but I actually have more faith in a Selina/Sue White House than any version of Selina’s previous staff. The funeral scene was also an excellent conclusion to a season focused on Selina’s questionable legacy and impact. The plans she made with Gary earlier this season made it even more touching when he placed the lipstick on her casket and remarked that she’d hate the flowers. Still, I got what I wanted from this episode: Sue back in the White House! President Splett! I just wish we also knew why Jonah was impeached.
It’s an odd feeling to get such a strong series finale coming at the end of an otherwise weak, inconsistent season, and yet that was a pretty great episode. It had a little bit of everything, and all of it fit with both this last season, as all-over-the-place as it was, and more importantly, the entire series, the writers pushing each character’s arc to their extreme, inevitable conclusions (Dan ultimately becoming a real estate agent in Laguna Beach was an especially nice touch). Veep’s other episode set during the DNC was an all-time great (back in season four when Selina chose Tom James as her running mate and Amy quit the Meyer campaign, but not in that order), and it was smart to do so again for the finale. But Selina has significantly less political capital this time around, and both she and her staff are forced to scramble even more than usual, the (bad) decisions coming fast and furious. Selina sells out just about everyone left to sell out (Tom James, Catherine, Gary, herself) in order to secure the nomination, but as with so many of her choices, her decisions made here end up hurting her almost as much as anyone else. A woman in the White House means even less this time than the first, and with Selina having jettisoned anything left of value in her party’s platform, she proves that she’s been the “gash of least resistance” all along.