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By returning to its roots, 'Veep' rebounds in its final season

tv review

Julia Louis Dreyfus, star of the HBO series "Veep," with Vice President Joe Biden.
Julia Louis Dreyfus, star of the HBO series "Veep," with Vice President Joe Biden.

Four presidential campaigns in, Selina Meyer is as power hungry and cutthroat as ever. The same cast of bumbling staffers surrounds her campaign, which predictably struggles from the outset with launch problems, airport mishaps and more. The show’s seventh and final season brings “Veep” back to its strengths: crude and hilarious banter between castmates and spot on satire of American politics.    

The sixth season was the show’s first that somewhat missed the mark. The jokes lost their edge as Meyer and company were booted from the White House and found themselves working on Meyer’s Presidential Library. “Veep” thrives when its characters are in the thick of American politics, forced into situations that bring out the very worst in these horrid narcissists.  

With a final season on the campaign trail, “Veep” has found a setting to get the most out of its brilliant cast. Meyer’s campaign employs “Veep” mainstays including bagman and Selena-worshiper Gary Walsh (Tony Hale), strategist and possible sex addict Dan Egan (Reid Scott), Deputy Chief of Staff and human stress ball Amy Brookheimer (Anna Chlumsky), robotic data analyst Kent Davison (Gary Cole) and burned out Chief of Staff Ben Cafferty (Kevin Dunn). This group continues with their excellent mix of pure incompetence and hilarious one liners, all while trying to keep Meyer’s campaign afloat.  

Other characters stick around with new roles. The always delightful, innocent, and wholesome Richard Splett (Sam Richardson) works for both the Ryan and Meyer campaigns, switching campaign buttons depending on who he is with. A fan favorite since entering the show in season three, Splett serves as a breath of fresh air on both campaigns as the only truly likable character on “Veep.” Meyer’s former press secretary, and most incompetent staffer, Mike McClintock finds new work this season as a reporter for Buzzfeed. He now sports a horrendous goatee while finding a way to be in the right place at the right time to break big stories that ultimately hurt his former employer.  

Meanwhile, Congressman Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simmons) continues his climb from low-level White House staffer to now presidential candidate. Out of all of the horrible people portrayed in “Veep,” Ryan is certainly the worst. Ryan, much like Meyer, has no reason that he wants to be President other than the power of it. Ryan encompasses the characteristics of wildly sexist, annoying, childish, rude, and dumb, as well as probably ever other negative adjective. His rise to power, without any policy knowledge or real political experience, is fitting for the current state of politics.

Despite Ryan’s character flaws, Simmons steals every scene he is in with hysterical bits of stupidity. In between seasons six and seven, it is revealed that he started dating and quickly married his step-sister, which bewilders and infuriates his top campaign staff. To try and rewrite the narrative, he appears on "Good Morning America," where he fights with his step-father and horrifically jokes about how his mother’s hands are for “Making me Hot Pockets and nothing else.” 

The show struggled to satirize American politics in season six since its characters suddenly mirrored reality. “Veep” worked so well in the past as an alternate reality, where policy lightweights deceive the American people on an almost daily basis. In season six, the show struggled to differentiate itself from our current politics while also lacking clear direction or justification for its own existence.  

The solution to this problem in season seven: Go way over the top. The show doubled down on its edgy and dark humor, dialing up the insanity to best what is happening in the White House. Meyer at one point celebrates a mass shooting with her staff since it allows her to cancel her doomed announcement speech.  

This strategy keeps the show ahead of the curve while still satirizing, instead of mirroring, modern politics. However, to get to this point, some of the comments made by Ryan are so absurd, that it is actually hard to believe his candidacy is still viable. It is also hard to imagine Meyer winning, when she simply cannot explain why she wants to be President. She asks her staff, getting responses ranging from “So I could nuke America” to “As a child of a Native American….”, which she quickly cuts off with a condescending, “I get the jist.” In her campaign announcement, she ends up just stealing lines from an earlier conversation she had with an angry worker who was stiffed by her last campaign. 

“Veep” has been a cornerstone of HBO’s television programming for years now, and it will go down in history as one of the most critically celebrated shows in TV history. The show won 15 total Emmys, including six straight years of the show’s star Julia Louis-Dreyfous taking home the Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series. “Veep” is the funniest show ever made about politics and one of the funniest shows, period. Hopefully, the last season will solidify this legacy.  

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