HBO’s Veep is good in its first season, great in the second, and really finds its stride in the third year, which completed its run last night with two-part episodes “Crate” and “New Hampshire.” Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) finds her presidential ambitions slipping away again as one screw up after another by her inept team and herself keeps getting her into trouble. But when the POTUS decides to resign in order to spend more time caring for his wife, who recently attempted suicide, Selina suddenly finds herself in the highest position in the land, the first woman to hold the office, woefully unprepared.
A major draw for Veep, and the source of much of its humor, is the way in which Selina constantly and hilariously fails. When considering this, many viewers may wonder why the Vice President could suddenly achieve her goals, rising to the Oval Office, without starting to bleed some of the loser spirit. Veep pulls it off, though, maintaining the same tone and humor at the characters’ expense by making Selina’s ascension accidental and full of flubs such as an overly expensive crate and squeaky shoes. Selina may be president now, but she may just be worse at that than being the veep, and isn’t likely to stay in the office long.
Will Veep stick with the development next season, changing the premise slightly, or will she soon be vice president to one of the primary opponents, still beating her in “New Hampshire,” despite the fact that her election campaign is now a re-election battle? It’s understandable that Selina’s biggest competitor doesn’t drop out of the race, even though it would be customary to do so in the real world, since he is pretty darn clueless, and Selina is definitely vulnerable. There’s a sense of unease and instability as Veep‘s third season draws to a close, and its hard to tell yet just where the writers are going with it.
Yet, there is little doubt that wherever they want to take us, viewers will stay on board. The wry wit and tight pacing keep the show entertaining, constantly upping what’s already been established. It seems like these days the characters can be taken even further, building upon what we already know about them and deepening it. With a top notch ensemble, there are no shortage of directions to play the cast from here.
In “Crate” and “New Hampshire,” each player gets their chance to shine. Mike (Matt Walsh), quite surprisingly makes an awesome press secretary, until he doesn’t. Ben (Kevin Dunn) begs Selina not to make him chief of staff, but she does so anyway. The chemistry between bitter rivals Dan (Reid Scott) and Jonah (Timothy Simons) is excellent as Dan tries to use Jonah and Jonah stays arrogant, in spite of his precarious position. They are matched only by Kent (Gary Cole) and Sue (Sufe Bradshaw), now exes who must share the workspace. Gary (Tony Hale) is under-valued again, feeling bad for himself, while Amy (Anna Chlumsky) is passed over again, trying to grin and bear it.
What’s great is the way that the group passes the ball effortlessly from person to person, taking turns. All the actors take these situations and milk them for every laugh they’re worth, expertly entertaining, being way more important to the show than any detail or joke. They all rise to the occasion when they get their focus, but don’t steal the spotlight from any of their co-stars. The talent here is so thick that any weak link would immediately stand out, but there is none to be found, a casting coup that is appreciated each and every week.
Of course, the queen of the series, Louis-Dreyfus, is even better than the rest, which is truly a feat. Julia makes Selina–who should not be likeable in the slightest–sympathetic. Selina isn’t a good person, she lacks compassion, has a severely broken moral compass, and will gleefully play the political game, allowing her opinion to be swayed as the polls dictate. Yet, there’s a desperation and vulnerability under the surface that makes her incredibly compelling. Selina is narcissistic, to be sure, however we can see her dreams and desires and feel her frustration with every set back. She just wants what she thinks she deserves, and those who achieve it instead of her are no more worthy. It’s a fascinating performance, a career-defining role from an actress who already proved herself numerous times before now, meaning no one needed or expected this much from her, and its easy to be impressed that she’s done it again.
Veep has been renewed (thankfully) and will likely return in 2015 to HBO.[amazon template=iframe image&chan=default&asin=B00BGI07XU,B008BLCT5O,B00EIJTLK4]