‘Veep’ Season Finale: Selina’s Big Surprise

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
Photo: HBO

Veep closed out its wily season with a half-hour containing more twists and surprises than a season of The Bachelorette set in Twin Peaks. Crammed with flashbacks and payoffs for numerous gags mousetrapped throughout its sixth season, the HBO comedy brought us full circle, ending with big cheese Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s Selina Meyer running for president once again. As one of her stunned inner circle member says: “The fourth’s time’s the charm.”

The episode began in a startling way, taking us back six years to Selina’s concession speech as she suspends her presidential campaign. Then it hurtles us back to the present day, with scenes of Selina approving the finishing touches on her Yale library, with an added treat: a scene with Timothy Simons’s Jonah, now stripped of her political office and back to living with his mother. (“Mom, I don’t want waffles for breakfast!”)

This set up the structure for the finale: for every current-day scene, there was a flashback, and those time-traveling moments included the birth of daughter Catherine (Tony Hale’s Gary was a candy-striper in the hospital) and her first day as a vice president, during which she meets some of the key supporting characters for the first time. This was Veep’s version of a superhero comic book’s “origin story.”

Instead of becoming nostalgic or misty-eyed, this structure actually built comic suspense. It turned out that the penultimate episode’s revelation that Selina deserved credit for freeing Tibet retrospectively increased the achievements of her brief presidency.

The cleverness of David Mandel — who wrote and directed this episode — is that he gave us what we want (Selina and the gang together again, running for office) while giving Selina what she should not want to want. Which is to say, why couldn’t she have been happy to have a published memoir, a presidential library, and a bouncing baby grandson? (Yes, Catherine gave birth as well.) Selina even had a solid boyfriend in Ambassador Jaffar (Usman Ally). All of that should have been — given all her hard work over the years — a great victory lap for her. Instead, Selina is instinctively compelled to put all of that aside to take advantage of her newly lustered political reputation, reunite her with her old team, and announce her candidacy. Next season ought to be an immense pleasure for us, and (or rather, because it will be) an immense agony for Selina.

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