One thing I’ve realized in reviewing this third season is that, despite its lack of a laugh track and its manifold F-bombs, Veep is still a fairly traditional sitcom in its penchant for pressing the Reset button. (I realize Selina just became POTUS. Hear me out.)
Threads are discarded almost as soon as they’re introduced. Dan loses his mind and his job one week; the next he’s got a firm grip on both. Mike gets married; his wife disappears for a stretch, reappears, says their marriage is one big conflict of interest, and then everything’s inexplicably rosy. Gary (still in a relationship, I think? We haven’t heard from his lady since the premiere!) doesn’t want to be an unappreciated 40-year-old bagman until he does; his shoulder is a potential career-killer until it isn’t. Jonah cycles through every post in the District, only to wind up back where he started: perpetually shit-upon in the West Wing.
Selina flip-flops on fracking (Ep. 4, “Clovis;), calls the Second Amendment a “problem” (Ep. 6, “Detroit;), inserts the word “Repel” into her immigration policy (last week’s “Debate;), slams her donors (“Crate”) and her staff (every episode), with few if any repercussions. Even the biggest event in Veep’s history—Selina’s sudden, deus ex machina ascension to the Oval Office—is mitigated by the primary, in which she trails Chung and Thornhill. (Maddox and Pierce have endorsed the former.) Becoming lame duck President amounts to just a small bump in the polls, which Selina quickly flattens via squeaky heels and a trademark brainfart. Save the welcome additions of Ben and Kent last season, most of the show’s developments are like Selina’s new ‘do: more cosmetic rebranding than change we can believe in.
I’m probably being unfair. Veep never aimed or claimed to be Breaking Bad. (If it were, Dan would be dead-eyed and bedridden, ordering minerals on the Internet.) There was plenty to like about this season and these final two episodes, “Crate,” especially: Selina sympathizing with FLOTUS’s suicide attempt (“I don’t blame her. Imagine being married to that guy,” she says, miming a headshot); Mike asking Siri why God allows suffering; Selina and Gary collapsing in bathroom hysterics at news of her Oval promotion, Gary’s excitement manifesting itself in a marathon double-nostril nosebleed. These moments represent Veep at its darkly funniest, and we got a lot of them in the penultimate episode.
Given that, and the bombshell that dropped at the end of “Crate,” it was probably inevitable that “New Hampshire” would be a letdown. I liked that Dan’s leaking of the Chung torture story came back to haunt him, and that (prior to Dan hiring him) Jonah was torn between Africa and Wall Street. Gary savoring placing Selina’s shoes on her feet was wonderfully creepy (“The perfect shoes on the perfect day for the perfect woman…”), and her long squeaky walk to the podium for her first address was classic Veep. But on the whole I thought the finale was short on laughs and surprises, more of a denouement-infused anti-victory lap than anything. (Selina finished third in New Hampshire, after all.)
With Selina’s newfound power (however long it lasts), Amy in Dan mode (“You do me better than I do me,” he says), Ben at his most wretched and ruthless, the lingering tension between Kent and Sue, and the crazy proliferation of ever-present secret service (and all the awkwardness that brings), next season has the potential to be more than politics as usual for Veep.
In short: Selina’s got the nuclear codes. Now it’s up to the writers to blow some shit up.
Evan Allgood is deputy editor of Trop. He lives in Brooklyn. Follow and maybe later unfollow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/evoooooooooooo.