Review: VEEP, Season 3

The funniest show on television’s third season has come to an end, and it may change the dynamic of Veep forever.

This past Sunday, Armando Iannucci’s brazen political farce Veep reached the apex of its comedic muscle with a killer one-two punch.  HBO decided to air the final two episodes of the show’s 3rd (and best) season on the same evening, allowing its overall ebb and flow to come to a fitting conclusion.  After 10 episodes of vulgar political barbs, awkward hand wringing, cajoling of voters, and managing of the worst staff in all of Washington D.C., Selina Meyer is now President of the United States.  And all because the First Lady wanted to kill herself.

After the finale of Season 2 toyed with the possibility of Selina becoming POTUS, it was inevitable that somewhere down the track the show would get back to that potential comedic goldmine.  Season 3 kept us on that path with Selina doing a promotional book tour, which in the world of politics only means one thing: a major campaign is about to be underway.  Throughout the 10 episode arc we have seen Selina triumph and fall flat on her face, oftentimes in a single episode.  To say she is the most dysfunctional politician on record would be an understatement of vast proportions.  But Veep works as well as it does because of its dead-on satire of our current political climate.  No matter where your allegiances lie, it’s no secret that Washington is run by a litany of lobbyist pandering buffoons.  Veep takes that uneasiness of trust between the American people and their elected officials and stretches it to a near breaking point.  If we heard what came out of these people’s mouths come out of our leaders mouths we would surely revolt…but the truth is we hear terrible things on a daily basis, and are content to do little about it other than tweet our disapproval.  Perhaps that is what makes Selina such a plausible first female President — she wears her BS right on her sleeve for all the world to see.  She is a puppet of the modern political machine and in the hands of Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Selina Meyer has become a comedic performance for the ages.

The final two episodes of Season 3, titled “Crate” and “New Hampshire” respectively, find Selina in the direst of states.  After deciding to get “folksy” and literally stand on a crate handpicked by Kent, Selina gets some bad news from a local reporter who tells her that her titanium-reinforced crate that is meant to make her look like one of the people actually costs over $1,200.  In order to circumvent any negative press she agrees to an interview that goes relatively well by Meyer Camp standards, until said reporter forgets his phone and leaves it recording long after the interview is over.  During this time Selina and her team wax poetic about her dim-witted donors, using acronyms to describe them such as GUMMI (Give Us More Money, Idiots), or as Dan puts it, “I always called them ‘dicks’…doesn’t stand for anything.”  Needless to say, the cellphone recording ends up back in the hands of the reporter and Selina’s presidential hopes are decidedly dashed.  She even comes in third in the New Hampshire primary.

Refusing to place any responsibility on herself, Selina vehemently scolds her staff, screaming “you are all LOSERS!” Even poor bagboy Gary can’t escape her wrath. Speaking of which, Tony Hale continues to excel in his role, and the last two episodes of the season give him some of his finest moments including his struggling with the aforementioned titanium crate.  But his absolute best moment (and the best moment of the season) comes when Selena informs him that the President will be resigning in order to take care of his suicidal wife, thus leaving the VP to take the reins of the White House.  Gary begins to cry as his nose starts gushing blood.  Selina tries desperately to find Gary some sort of tissue in his oversized bag, at one point even offering him a tampon as they both writhe and laugh hysterically.  The kicker is all of this takes place in the bathroom of a homeless shelter where Selina is trying to save the image of her floundering campaign.  Veep’s handling of the tragic and turning it into the blackest of comedies has been one of this season’s definite highlights.

The episode “New Hampshire” deals directly with the aftermath of Selina becoming President of the United States. This includes a bungled swearing-in ceremony where Mike’s (now the “first redhead Press Secretary”) clumsy shenanigans cause Selina to miss a few words on her oath, and a disastrous shoe choice courtesy of Gary (“Perfect shoe for the perfect moment in the perfect life of a perfect woman”).  But as her now-campaign manager Amy reminds Selina constantly, they can’t get so caught up in her being the President that they forget to run for President.  Selina may be POTUS, but she doesn’t have long to reign — and if she wants to hold onto the throne she is going to have to fight tooth and nail for it.  That should make for an interesting next season and begs the question: are the powers that be going to re-title the show “POTUS”?

Earlier this season I indicated that Veep seldom takes on any hot-button issues, instead side-stepping them in favor of sly winking and political wit.  That no longer holds true as the show has gotten darker and has dived headfirst into murkier waters, including our “special relationship” with Great Britain (in an episode that harkens back to show creator Iannucci’s original British TV creation The Thick of It), gun control, and even abortion.  The show also managed to make two separate jokes about 9/11 in its finale that came off as ghastly funny, both courtesy of Jonah:

I publicly denounced the Internet, Dan, okay? Those are my people! I’m getting so much online hate—there are memes of me being burned alive! There’s one of me f*cking a chicken while dressed as Bin Laden.  No, I’m dressed as Bin Laden, Dan, and it’s really well done, so it legitimately looks like I am engaging in bestiality while insulting 9/11 victims.

Between that rant and “Someone has just flown two planes into my career,”  the show’s willingness to really “go there” has been a welcome change of pace in a series that could have easily crashed and burned after that first tepid season.  But Veep continues to surprise with every new episode, and the writing’s laser-sharp focus makes even the most absurd of situations deliriously funny.  Season 3 has launched the show into the stratosphere.  Veep is no longer that little show with a great central performance, but instead it carries one of the greatest comedic ensembles to ever grace the small screen.  Now we just have to wait another year before we see these genius-morons set fire to the White House, and the whole of democracy along with it.

Grade: A+

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