To be long-delayed delight of many TV viewers, Veep returned to HBO on Sunday night for its seventh and final season, having taken a year’s hiatus to let star Julia Louis-Dreyfus recover from treatment for breast cancer. (Louis-Dreyfus announced that she was now cancer-free on Jimmy Kimmel Live back in October.) Selina Meyer’s latest campaign for President didn’t exactly hit the ground running, starting by landing at the wrong airport (Cedar Falls, Iowa, not Cedar Rapids), and from there encountered messaging errors, hiring the wrong campaign manager, and a disgruntled bandstand-builder who never got paid by Team Meyer the last time she kicked off a campaign in Iowa.
But bad news for Selina on-screen could not have been better news for Veep fans, who saw their show return in fine form. Selina’s team bungled and bickered and talked their way around every possible issue, from mass shootings to inclusivity, all the while explicitly assuring us that no one has learned any lessons from their past failures. In other words, Veep is what it’s always been: a sugar-free assessment of American politics as a purely self-interested, ego-driven, values-free endeavor where the most error-prone team of venal bumblers in history can fall ass-backwards into a position to lead the free world without a single idea or good intention towards what to do once they get there.
In that way, Veep has always been a valuable pressure-release valve for anyone driven crazy by political gridlock and the ineffectiveness of our leaders. The show is partisan only inasmuch as it knows the values of right versus wrong and judges its characters harshly when take the callow, expedient route around getting things done in favor of attempting to remain in power. But what has always stood out about the show is that there are never any heroes. Selina is wrong, her allies are wrong, her opponents (on both sides of the aisle) are wrong, and any kind of momentary bid towards altruism is sure to be buried under a mountain of ineptness, cowardice, and apathy.
You’d think this would be depressing, but it’s proven to be wildly cathartic, and it’s why Veep has been such an essential show now that American politics has descended into madness during the Trump era. It sounds trite, but we have needed Veep more than ever, for its rapid-fire bursts of angry, withering invective directed at both Washington and a voting public that has allowed this to happen.
All that being said, it’s probably a good thing that Veep is ending its run now, before we get into the thick (no pun intended) of the 2020 election. Veep’s superpower is that it lays waste to the entire political landscape; no heroes, only selfish nincompoops. But that comfort — the pillowy easy-chair of omnidirectional cynicism — will do no one any good in the real world, as we move on the road to selecting a candidate to defeat Donald Trump. A world of no heroes and a worthless political system is a big part of how this country ended up with Trump in the first place. That’s not Veep’s fault, of course, but it will he good to have its legacy squared away before we get down to the business of finding a political figure to affirmatively invest in.
For years, Washington insiders would say that Veep, in all its cynicism, was the most accurate depiction of D.C. ever put on film. It was a compliment to Veep and a smack to American democracy at the same time. Maybe now that Veep is ending, we can get to the business of giving Washington a better pop-cultural avatar.