While it’s subjective to state that Veep is currently the best comedy on television, the critical reception and accolades the show has garnered speak for themselves. Julia Louis-Dreyfus has won the ‘Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series’ Emmy Award every single year since the show’s debut for her portrayal of Vice President, and then President, Selina Meyer, while the show itself has been nominated for the ‘Outstanding Comedy Series’ Emmy Award every year, winning it twice. Personally, it’s one of my favorite television shows.
Given the spectacular quality of the writing during its first five seasons, fans were excited to see how the series would back itself out of the corner the writers trapped themselves in at the end of season five: Selina Meyer lost the presidency and, for the first time in the show’s run, no longer held any political office. Season six picks up exactly one year after the historic vote that cost Selina her title of Commander in Chief, and a lot has changed in her life – and the lives of her staff – since then.
Beware of Spoilers Below!
Selina’s living in New York City with her daughter Catherine and her new wife, former secret service agent Marjorie, and is once again in a relationship with her sleazy ex-husband Andrew. Ever loyal Gary is still serving as her bagman, and Richard has also stayed on, serving as her top aide. As for the rest of her loyal entourage, they’ve all gone their separate directions. Amy is engaged to Buddy Calhoun, who is running for Governor of Nevada; Mike has become a stay-at-home dad who has become overwhelmed by his three young children; Dan is working for CBS This Morning; and Jonah is continuing to turn Congress upside down, with Kent and Ben miserably working for him. Meanwhile, Laura Montez is still serving as president, and has been given all of the credit for negotiating the freeing of Tibet, which in actuality, Selina herself managed to do in the weeks before leaving office herself.
In retrospect, though obviously unplanned given when season five’s finale aired and therefore when it must have been shot, it was a smart move on the part of showrunner David Mandel to remove Selina from the White House considering where America has ended up in reality. With the real life America dealing with a (in the minds of many, not all, people) seemingly brash, uncouth, outlandish, and incompetent administration led by a former reality television star, it would have been impossible for the Veep writers to top reality without making Selina and her staff completely ineffectual at doing their jobs. By removing her from office, however, Mandel and the writers inadvertently set up constant, and often uncomfortable, comparisons between their main character’s return to private life and the return to private life of the 2016 Democratic nominee – former First Lady, Hillary Clinton. In complete fairness, the similarities between the incredibly driven former Secretary of State and the fictional first woman President of the United States have always lurked beneath the surface of the show, but they were especially apparent this season as audiences watched Selina struggle to find herself outside of the world of American politics at the same time that Americans watched Clinton try to acclimate to civilian life, knowing she’d probably never hold office again. These similarities had to have been accidental as well, at least initially, because Veep had already plotted out their season and were midway through shooting episode three on election night when Hillary Clinton lost the race that most people assumed she would win. Initially an accident or not, however, the writers clearly ended up keeping Clinton’s trajectory in the back of their mind as they finished fleshing out and writing their remaining episodes.
It is Selina’s journey of self-discovery, and her quest for relevance, that truly drives season six of the show. Both of these manifest themselves in a desperate desire to save her floundering, political legacy via normal, post-presidency means – such as designing her library, writing a memoir, trying to get the perfect portrait of herself within the White House, and serving as an envoy on diplomatic missions overseas. Of course, Selina struggles aimlessly without being directly involved in the political process anymore, and because of this, season six struggles as well without any sense of direction or a true arc. Similar to season five of House of Cards, HBO’s comedy struggles to compete with the absurd state of American politics as it currently stands, which has so devolved and has become such a circus, the process has become a satire of itself, which takes away from Veep’s ability to provide its normal, biting commentary. This is made all the more difficult with Selina removed from Washington almost entirely. Indeed, the fact that the cast – an ensemble the likes of which is hard to come by; every scene they all have together is lightning in a bottle – is scattered to the winds also takes away from the show’s normal magic, giving us a season that is far less refined in terms of its writing. Indeed, besides the characters of Selina, Gary, and Jonah, everybody else seemed – dare I say – expendable this season, in terms of having nothing of substance to truly do.
That’s not to say that this season didn’t have its moments, however, for it did. Because it was a much more personal season, we got to delve much further into the private lives and backgrounds of our characters, most notably in terms of Selina, Gary, and Jonah. Meeting Gary’s southern parents, finally, after they’ve been teased since season one was a real treat and gave us insight into why Gary is the way that he is, and seeing Jonah ride a populist wave and continue to fail upward was priceless. Indeed, one of the smartest things the show did this season was add a love interest for Jonah – Shawnee Tanz – to the cast in the form of actress Mary Holland. Seeing the aloof Jonah in such a dysfunctional relationship with an ice cold, controlling woman was hilarious, and the two shared some of the best scenes within this batch of episodes. And in terms of Selina, the show delved a lot further into her emotionally abusive relationship with Andrew, explored a new romantic relationship she embarked on with Ambassador Al Jaffar, and revealed more about the never seen, but oft-talked about, father of Selina – the man she’s always seemed to admire most. Investigating these facets allowed the writers to delve deeper into the former President’s mind, and showed audiences what exactly made her tick.
The highlight of the season was easily the finale – ‘Groundbreaking’; not only for where it leaves us at the end of the episode, which we’ll get to in a bit, but because throughout its half-an-hour, the show provides viewers with flashbacks of significant moments during Selina’s life, including:
- The moment Selina decides to run for Congress while holding baby Catherine for the first time, as Andrew flirts with the hospital nurse in what we’re led to believe is the first time he contemplates cheating on his wife. This flashback also revealed the Gary origin story we never knew we needed! He was a Candy Striper who first met Selina by bring her ice chips in the hospital during labor!
- Selina’s first campaign for the Senate, in which we learn Mike has been incompetent from the moment Selina hired him, and in which we witness the first time Selina sold her soul for politics: walking in on her husband having sex with another woman on the campaign bus. Instead of calling them out, Selina lets it slide in return for a large donation from the woman he’s cheating on her with.
- Selina’s concession speech on Super Tuesday, after losing the majority of states up for grabs and coming in third place in Iowa, bringing her first presidential campaign to an end.
- Selina’s first day as Vice President, in which we learn that she was only picked for the ticket because she was a woman, and all the President wants her to do is continue to be a woman. This flashback also reminds viewers of the contentious relationship Selina and Ben had when the latter was the President’s Chief of Staff. It also shows us the first time that she and Amy meet Jonah, who’s a fresh-faced White House intern. Hilariously, both remark about how cute he is.
- Selina at “The Spa” – in reality, a mental health facility – after she lost the presidency last season to Montez. She’s kept drugged up and is being taken care of by Gary. We get to witness a visit by Catherine and Marjorie, who invite her to move into their brownstone in New York when she’s released. We also get to see the moment Andrew and her decide to embark once more on a relationship, all because he takes advantage of her vulnerable state by kissing her.
The insight into Selina’s character that all of these flashbacks provide is enormous in helping audiences understand who this woman is, and always has been. She’s always been extremely ambitious, career-oriented, and driven, and has never really been able to hold down a successful relationship or be a great mother because her one and only true love is politics; it’s all that makes her happy. This is further exemplified in the finale when she is forced to break up with Jaffar, thus ending her only health relationship, in order to get back into the game. These flashbacks also help put into context what the true arc of the often seemingly purposeless season was: the realization for Selina herself, and for viewers, that she will never be truly happy outside of the Washington D.C. arena.
Ultimately, season six comes full circle in its finale. In the premiere, ‘Omaha’, Selina wants to stop in Iowa to announce that she wants to run for president again, but Ben talks her out of it by informing her that she has no chance of ever winning, nor getting enough donations or support to secure the nomination. In ‘Groundbreaking’, the gang is back together after it’s revealed to the world that Selina was truly the one who negotiated freeing Tibet with the Chinese and – believing it will give her enough political capital to actually win the White House if she makes one more bid for it – Ben comes around and convinces Selina she actually has a shot at succeeding. The final moments of the season show the full team, minus Mike whom Selina fired off camera and replaced with belligerent Washington Post reporter, Leon West, in Iowa – twenty-minutes from Omaha – where the viewers get to hear the beginnings of a speech in which Selina doesn’t officially announce she’s running again, but merely embarking on a “feeling tour” of the country in order to get to know the real people who inhabit it. If this sense of familiarity and repetition is enough to make you roll your eyes at the prospect of getting a season seven in which Selina is running for office yet again, the very fact that the cast will be reunited is enough to make anybody excited and hopeful about what’s to come. As are the two other interesting tidbits that we learn at the very end of the finale: Amy is pregnant with Dan’s child, after a drunken night that audiences never got to see, and Jonah is running for president with the help of former Meyer campaign staffer Bill Ericsson, serial testicle groper Teddy Sykes, and Sherman Tanz. Hopefully, with Sherman backing Jonah’s bid for the White House, it means Shawnee will reenter the picture. Even if it doesn’t, however, the fact that we’ll get to see Selina Meyer and Jonah Ryan competing against one another in the primaries next season is a thrilling and hilarious prospect, and a scenario I’m sure the writers will take advantage of and deliver on in spades.
Season six of Veep was, unfortunately, the weakest season of HBO’s hit comedy, which – up until this point – really had no weak season. Despite this, a weak season of Veep is still better than just about any other comedy on television. While uneven, I still found that I laughed at and enjoyed every episode within it. Although I don’t anticipate this stretch of episodes garnering an ‘Outstanding Comedy Series’ Emmy Award nomination, I would be shocked – and disappointed – if Julia Louis-Dreyfus isn’t once again nominated for the ‘Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series’ Emmy Award and doesn’t once again win for her tour-de-force performance of a struggling Selina Meyer.
With the entire gang – minus Mike – back together once again, making one last run at the White House against the constant thorn-in-their-side Jonah, I think fans of the show are in for a much stronger season seven. While an attempted break from the thick of the political realm was a daring choice to make on Mandel’s part, Selina’s comeback next season will be most welcome. The show is always at its best when commenting on the political process and drawing parallels to real life, as evidenced this season by the sad comparisons between Selina Meyer and Hillary Clinton, the even sadder fact that Selina had to break up with Jaffar in order to run for president again (because, given the state of America, she felt a Muslim partner would hinder her campaign), Jaffar’s repeatedly dark – yet humorous – joking asides to Selina about relatives of his who had grudges against American buildings and were certainly on “no fly lists”, and Jonah’s hilariously quick, Trumpian, populist rise to prominence. Indeed, two of the funniest lines of dialogue this season were characters commenting on the United States election process (Minna’s “I saw your[America’s] last election – no thank you” in response to Selina’s suggestion that they should run Georgia’s elections similar to the United States’ – a clear reference to the 2016 election, which David Mandel referred to as a “shit show”.) and on the feelings that a large chunk of Americans harbor toward immigrants who take American jobs (Ben’s “She’s [Laura Montez] a Mexican who stole your [Selina’s] job” in response to a question about how the two women would poll against one another in the general election and Selina’s chances were she to run for president yet again.). With politics sure to be at the forefront again next season, it will provide the writers much more of a chance to once again provide their piercing, satirical commentary about the state of the world and the opinions of those within it, which was sadly lacking during much of this year.
As for Veep’s future? Given where this season ended, I predict season seven will be about the primaries – focusing specifically on the race between Selina Meyer and Jonah Ryan – and I envisage season eight will probably be the show’s final season, ending with Selina being elected president against Laura Montez. One thing you can bank on though, I’d bet dollars to donuts that – given his meteoric ride amongst populists – Selina will choose Jonah Ryan to join her ticket as vice president after she defeats him in the primary. Or who knows! Given that the show is called Veep, maybe Jonah will beat Selina in the primary and choose her to join his ticket.
What did you think of Veep’s sixth season? Are you excited for a potentially contentious primary between Selina and Jonah? How much longer do you think the show can viably continue? Let me know in the comments below!