HBO's Veep ended in May after seven seasons and 17 Emmy awards, including three for Best Comedy and six straight wins for leading lady Julia Louis-Dreyfus. It will go down as one of the finest television shows of the decade, if not of all time.
The political satire follows the highs and lows of Vice President Selina Meyer and her staff and their collective goal of seeing her in the highest office in America. What could easily be a Shakespearean tragedy with its protagonist repeatedly taken down by her own hubris, it's instead a divine comedy. Here's a look at some of the best episodes and some that weren't as memorable.
The third season sees Selina on the campaign trail, producing some of the most memorable moments of the entire series. “Clovis” is not a bad episode by any metric, except by comparison to the rest of Veep’s episodes.
Selina stops at Clovis’s headquarters and meets with its CEO to court the tech vote. The character of Clovis’s CEO Craig is extremely smart, pedantic, and at sea with human interaction. In other words, everything you’d expect of a tech CEO—but he’s not particularly memorable. Nor is his number two, Melissa, who spends the episode trying to recruit Amy. There are some funny moments, like Selina signing the Clovis wall and the gang blocking her from signing next to Ron Jeremy and then Lance Armstrong. But in the end, it’s just not as good as it could be.
Finales have a lot of pressure on them, and it seems the more beloved a series is, the more pressure there is. The final season of Veep isn’t its strongest, but the final episode, also titled “Veep”, brings everything together and sticks the landing. From returning missed characters like Sue and Bill to wrapping up every story, the finale nails it all.
The main recurring question on Veep is how far Selina will go to obtain power. The finale answers that question, and it turns out, she’ll go all the way. She’ll undo every good she’s ever done, she’ll alienate her family, as well as her last few remaining supporters. She’ll throw Gary under the bus to take the fall for all her misdeeds. She gets what she wants in the end, but it’s a hollow victory without anyone to celebrate with. It was the perfect end for Selina Meyer.
“Mommy Meyer” suffers from disjointed stories and from characters not acting like themselves. The previous episode established Tom James as the savviest political figure ever on the show. In this episode, he makes a rookie mistake by sympathizing with a mass shooter who had PTSD. Nothing that we know of Tom James makes this seem likely. Later in the episode, he’s back to form which makes the earlier gaffe all the more confusing.
Amy working with Dan for lobbyist Sidney Purcell also seems like a convenient but lazy solution to the two characters being separated from the Meyer staff. Dan working for Sidney makes complete sense, but Amy has always had more integrity than that. Their whole story could lift right out of the episode, and it wouldn’t be noticeable at all. The same could also be said about Selina’s reunion with her old friends. Nothing new is gained from that scene. If anything it muddies the water on Selina’s character. In essence, much of “Mommy Meyer” feels like filler.
Veep excels at using its guest stars and nowhere is that more obvious than in “Detroit”. Selina and her staff go to a jobs summit, and everything falls apart as they are used to. They’re joined on this trip by Catherine and Selina’s new trainer Ray, played by Chris Meloni. Unbeknownst to Selina, Dan hired Ray to be a “stress reliever” and to also keep her away from Andrew, who also shows up. Selina is joined at the jobs fair with her old buddy Minna Hakkinen, the now former Prime Minister of Finland. And she has a photo op with fellow presidential hopeful George Maddox.
All these interactions allow for some hilarious one-liners. Mike explains the photo op going poorly with, “Jonah had a good idea. We never planned for that.” Selina reacts to the death of a journalist by saying, “She was a vicious bitch and a f**king drunk.” After Minna is tricked into disclosing how Selina feels about gun regulations, Selina spits out, “In your country, people f**k snow!” Add to that Catherine punching out a rogue protestor, the gang going to a women’s gun show, and Amy snarking on Dan’s every decision as campaign manager, and you’ve got an outstanding episode.
In the previous episode, the fourth season finale, the presidential election ends in an unprecedented tie. It was surprising and enjoyable to the end of the season. “Morning After” picks up directly after the finale with the team scrambling to understand what has happened and what they can do to keep Selina in the Oval Office.
Most of the episode sets up what will happen for the first half of the season. Catherine films her movie, Amy and her team of Dan, Richard, Jonah, and Cliff make for Las Vegas. An unfortunate blemish and the election causes a financial crisis that everyone else needs to deal with. There are funny bits, but it seems weak compared to what it followed.
There may be no other episode that better demonstrates how the Meyer administration works. It starts off with them genuinely trying to do some good by getting the military to drop a project in order to find the money to fund the Families First bill. They succeed only to find out that they’ve pissed off an entire coalition of their party in the process. Meanwhile, Selina’s indecision about her State of the Union address sees it constantly being edited up until the moment of the speech.
All of that leads up to one of the best moments of the series, Selina Meyer facing the House and the country with nothing on her prompter to say. An earlier off-hand comment from her just has the phrase “Future whatever” staring back at her. She freestyles in a truly impressive way which, in addition to seeing her play the room earlier, gives an indication of how she’s gotten as far as she has. The episode ends with her tearing a strip off of her staff before kicking them out, but they won’t even allow her to do that properly. It’s an amazing episode.
While “Signals” has some great moments, none of the stories in it are particularly interesting. Selina attending the pig roast doesn’t really serve any purpose, nor does her time spent with Catherine trying to get her to change her plans for Thanksgiving and backing down on her Middle-East stance. Amy and Dan dodging Furlong by going to the hospital to visit Amy’s father is just fine... and that's what a lot of the episode is—just fine.
All throughout the fifth season, Catherine was in the background shooting footage for her documentary. In the second to last episode, the audience gets to see the finished product. She cuts the lead up to the vote in the House with the day of the vote itself and Jonah's mad scramble to get to the House in time for the vote.
It shows the beginning of Catherine’s romance with Marjorie, which is both funny and oddly sweet. There's some great physical comedy with people come and going from different doors in order to talk about others behind their backs. The interviews with her mother's staffers are predictably hilarious—dan is unsure of whether all of his grandparents are dead or if one or two of them still live. What she captures accidentally, from her mother and Tom James's rendezvous to Charlie Baird naked in the background, is all fantastic. An example of something building for a whole season and coming together perfectly at the end.
Season 7 was shorter than the previous six seasons by three episodes. It is perhaps for that reason that a lot of the storylines in the season feel rushed. “Discovery Weekend” is not a bad episode of television, but it both tries to do too much and not enough all at the same time, making it a muddled mess.
Felix Wade is introduced as someone so important, getting his endorsement is tantamount to getting the nomination. But in the end, Felix Wade doesn’t show up again, and pissing him off does nothing to prevent Selina from getting her party’s nod. Why waste the time introducing a new character that goes nowhere, particularly in an episode that introduces two other important new characters?
Speaking of that, Kemi Talbot goes from Selina’s protégé—at least in Selina’s mind—to her running mate to her rival in the space of the episode. Why not stretch that out over two or three episodes and get a better idea of who Kemi is. But on the flip side, Amy’s choice of whether to have Dan’s baby is just a retread of the previous episode. She hopes he’ll be someone he’s not, he proves he’s never going to be what she wants him to be, she’s disappointed. Time is too precious to be wasting on repeating story lines.
The fourth season was a non-stop parade of screw-ups by Team Meyer. Data breaches, bill sabotages and a plot to stall a journalist in Tehran longer than needed to get a photo op. It all comes to a head with “Testimony”. The entire Meyer staff, as well as Dan and Amy, must testify in front of Congress about their intentional sinking of the Mommy Meyer bill.
Everything in this episode works. From Catherine’s hostility during the deposition to Lee Patterson’s roaring mouse trying to sink the administration. From Bill Erickson’s panic at the realization that he’s being railroaded to Richard’s inadvertent confession of the data breach. But there are two crowning jewels of the episode. The first is the reading of the Jonad Files, a list of nicknames the staffers compiled about Jonah. “The Cloud Botherer," “Teenage Mutant Ninja Asshole," and “Scrotum Pole” are among the best. The second is Selina’s passive-aggressive cooperation with the inquiry, and her scramble to seem unimpeachable, resulting in her forcing Catherine to end her engagement. It doesn’t happen onscreen, but the audience knows all the same, and it’s classic Selina Meyer.