In Veep season seven, Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is once again on the road to finish the work she began during her short term as the leader of the free world. Selina finished out the Meyer years, or more accurately the Meyer year, as the 43rd most effective president, right ahead of Buchanan, in American history.
Veep season six ended with her going on a “feeling” tour, where she could be with the real folks out there to “feel their feelings and hear their speakings.” Rightly or wrongly taking the pulse of the nation, Meyer decided to run again for president, against the advice of her staff and the wishes of her family. Her daughter Catherine (Sarah Sutherland), now married to Selina’s former secret service body double Marjorie (Clea DuVall), had an emotional meltdown when the subject was first broached and hasn’t cheered up since. In the new season, even the joys of motherhood don’t bring much more than a few photo ops.
Pending parenting also doesn’t do much for Selina’s longtime adviser Amy Brookheimer (Anna Chlumsky). At least the morning sickness makes her interesting, even if it is mistaken for bulimia. Amy is considering life choices as a pregnant political operative. We learned at the close of season six Dan Eagan (Reid Scott) is the father of Amy’s baby, they did it after having more than a few drinks with Ben Cafferty (Kevin Dunn). Dan, who was the shit Selina needed to take on her rocky road trip from veep to eep, is feeling the greying sting of old age.
While the field isn’t even close to narrowing, Selina faces two main opponents in the presidential race, both familiar. Tom James (Hugh Laurie), who was veep while she was president, and Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons), who was an intern at the West Wing while she was veep. Jonah has had a strange and unlikely political career since finding unprecedented fame as the poster boy for sexual harassment and testicular health. Teddy Sykes (Patton Oswalt), the man who harassed Jonah, now works on his campaign after being chemically castrated, along with Bill Ericsson (Diedrich Bader), whose career was torpedoed by Selina.
Jonah has really come a long way on whatever is the polar opposite of intelligence, wit and charisma. He is as clueless to realities as Richard Splett (Sam Richardson) appears, but is able to bend everything to fit his limited knowledge. Richard is working for both the Meyer and Ryan campaigns. He occasionally forgets to switch buttons. Jonah is in the midst of his own controversy, no matter how hard he tries to keep things inappropriate.
Ben Cafferty, who was so thrilled last season to be fired by Jonah he celebrated with a festive Big Gulp cup of 86 proof, is running Selina’s campaign from behind the scenes. Veteran political strategist Kent Davison (Gary Cole) works hard but is not one to roll up his sleeves. He rarely loosens his tie, and he still proofreads small talk. Gary (Tony Hale) is still at Selina’s side, usually a little too close.
Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh), who was unceremoniously dumped at the end of last season, is now writing online news with a ten-story daily quota. His hackneyed under-zealousness makes for some interesting and problematic copy. Former Washington Post reporter Leon West (Brian Huskey) is now doing Mike’s old job, a gig he got in exchange for backing off a story at last season’s end. And he does it without misspelling the former president’s name.
Meyer is touring Iowa to prepare for the caucuses with a campaign promising “New. Selina. Now.” She is not one to learn from past mistakes. At the first meeting of the exploratory committee, Amy brings up a complaint about how the staff felt the former president suppressed criticism and created a hostile environment. Selina asks what asshole thought of that. Selena is also more honest about her constituency. Does she really want to represent all Americans? Some of them are pretty much beneath her standards. I don’t want to say deplorable but she might.
Veep season seven comes into the Trump era by pouring disdain on the constituency. They get what want, and probably deserve. Selina closed last season by setting up shop in the south Bronx to feel and smell what America is all about. On the road from the Selina Meyer for President Exploratory Committee Headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa, things smell a little funny, and it’s not just the corn dogs potential candidates are forced to swallow. It’s also the hay in the square dances they are forced to do-see-doh.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus is brave. Maybe not Larry Charles brave in that she’ll go watch a comedy show where comedians are being executed just for being funny, but she makes dangerous choices. And she does it casually. She courageously puts the absolute worst front possible and then lowers the bar on horrible. Selina makes dark choices. She dismantles every value she has come to defend. Selina Meyer is an anti-hero character as much as Tony Soprano or Walter White. Selina is confronted at one point by someone asking for more than thoughts and prayers in the aftermath of a gun tragedy. Selina’s got nothing. She repackages thoughts and prayers into a new brand and runs away, figuratively.
Louis-Dreyfus is also brave enough to make the former president a sexual creature who considers at least one of her rivals spongeworthy. Tom James’ time is somewhat curtailed by his press secretary, played by Better Call Saul’s Rhea Seehorn.
Veep season seven moves past the cynicism which defines the series into deeper reprehension. As in previous seasons, the dialogue is brilliantly vicious. But now there is a well-worn sheen of exhaustion over the enthusiasm of going after the biggest job in the world.
Fans of Veep love the show because we hate politicians. This show allows us to openly root for the worst to come out in the characters, because it confirms our worst suspicions: Politicians are demi-witted ambition-obsessed monsters who somehow get to govern what happens in a real world they know nothing about. Season seven looks like politicians and real people alike will have a rude awakening, but as this is Veep, they will probably sleep through it.
Veep season 7 starts on Wednesday the 3rd of April at 10.10pm on Sky Atlantic in the UK.