Veep Season 5 Finale Review: Inauguration
HBO's Veep makes presidential election history.
This Veep review contains spoilers.
Veep Season 5 Episode 10
Veep’s “Inauguration” proves that a free democracy is full of surprises, not matter how much it costs. Last week closed with the news that President Selina Meyer lost the vote in the Senate and the race now moves, under little viewed constitutional law, to the vice presidential candidates. That means the Meyer administration is staring down the barrel of a Tom James (Hugh Laurie) presidency. We forget that some guns have a double barrel.
Last week I predicted that James would win and Selina Meyer would go back to being vice president. Otherwise the show would be called Eep. In a series where every setup leads to the one punch line that most unexpectedly works harshest against the main character, it seems part of the natural order. That would also free Hugh Laurie to do other work, because as we know from the first season of Veep, the vice president never sees the president. It is a position with no power, a humiliating place-keeper job, with a vulture vibe. Selina wouldn’t be interested if there was a grassy knoll filled with Jodie foster fans sitting in the front seat of James’s inauguration. Unless, of course, it could be the bitter pill she swallows to leave a legacy.
Selina gets a lot of what she wants just as she is leaving. Even her daughter, the first daughter, Catherine (Sarah Sutherland) gets a glamorous makeover for her animal shelter just in time to catch the last plane from Saigon, I mean the White House Lawn. Selina gets to see China free the lamas of Tibet, a deal she brokered and the new President actually closed. Selina gets to see the first woman take presidency for a four year term. Of course, again, not quite in the up-close and personal way she would have preferred, but she could see it and hear it, with exceptionally clear enunciation.
It is all worth it just to see Gary (Tony Hale) break down in a public display of sycophantic implosion. His breakdown is caught on camera and tells so much less about the character than is believable. Underneath that selfless bagman was just a bagman, ready with the lip gloss. Selina can’t leave without Gary and Amy (Anna Chlumsky). This is probably much more literal than it might seem on the surface. This is a woman who hasn’t driven in so long her license expired. She’s used to long intercontinental flights and very, very short helicopter rides. Once she gets off the tarmac with some keys, an ignition and wheels, she is going to have to delegate her power of movement.
Dan (Reid Scott) is now a mover and a shaker. He keeps himself in check as a televised political analyst and turns down a late night slot for a gig at CBS, having already passed on a gig at a CVS. Mike (Matt Walsh) slept through the episode. Either that or he was cradling his sleeping three year old adopted daughter, which Kent Davidson (Gary Cole) points out has the head circumference of a six year old. Poor Mike, the sadsack soon-to-be unemployed father of three. And poor Kent, all those numbers never did him a bit of good. It’s no surprise he writes trashy romance novels. Actually it is a surprise, like last week’s revelation that he cruised with Reuben and the Jets or whatever the Sanchez brothers are calling his biker gang now.
Oh and poor Ben (Kevin Dunn), stuck waiting in line at Disneyworld with a wife who has already ruled out divorce as a matter of course. Ben’s whole life has been a series of Washington office jobs and hospitalization with, I’m assuming occasional bouts of rehabilitation or detox. Or dehabilitation and retox, whichever was in season during his long and harried political career. Martin Mull, who was Ben’s first harrier as The Eagle, gets the last laugh.
Though the highest echelons of power come and go, the day to day workings of government must go on. That is, unless there is some kind of shut-down, furlough or any number of closed sessions and vacations. For all the new meat sticking to the sawdust of the House floor, like Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons), if he lives out his freshman session before being yanked out like a cheerleader’s unwanted fetus, there will be a Congressman Roger Furlong (Dan Bakkedahl) always ready to pass on, and piss on, wisdom from his own experience. And pee he does, but no matter who he pisses on, no one seems to get pissed off. Washington DC has the strangest of political bedfellows.
Of course none would have been stranger than Selina and Richard (Sam Richardson). Though, we have to admit, Richard has been very proficient at everything he’s laid his hands on. Maybe not digital cameras, but did you see him take down that tree stump? That is some easy burning wood and, loyal as he is, if he were ordered to drill the President of the United States for a natural energy alternative, he would do his duty with the same chatty enthusiasm as any other.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus brings every ugly emotion to the surface of the first woman president of America. She is catty, bratty, scattered and battered, gives as good as she gets, or not, sometimes she throws herself out of whack. Louis-Dreyfus is completely unafraid of losing her constituents as an unabashedly selfish and self-centered power-whore. She says nothing in her defense. As a matter of fact, every syllable that comes out of her mouth should prove to any voter in any district that Selina should be barred from tours of the White House much less have the power to, well, to anything. There is nothing she has ever said in the run of the series that would gain her a sympathetic ear, much less an empathetic extra kidney or whatever President Underwood got on House of Cards and he’s got a kill count.
What gets Meyer the sympathy, empathy and just shy of half the national vote, is Louis-Dreyfus, in between the words. We still see the naked ambition behind every single disappointment, but she turns the political animal into something misopomorphic, almost human. Flawed, hurt and bored. She really does get bored very easily, which also keeps the character in another kind of constant motion. Selina has a short attention span, and myopic vision, and is constantly tripping into new territory. When Selina tells Tom James now you know what it feels like, it’s not just a childish taunt, but a bitter welcome to a very sad club.
This episode was more bittersweet than it was funny. Every few minutes I expected them to throw in some kind of loophole, like senator Montez wasn’t born in America or something. But it all goes exactly against plans.
President Meyer doesn’t leave the office without a legacy. A league of presidential scholars determined that she is the 43rd most effective president. Right ahead of Buchanan who many blame for the civil war and whose name was chopped into the concrete on the school on Welcome Back Kotter.
“Inauguration” was written by Jim Margolis and directed by Becky Martin.