In this endless onslaught of sociopolitical turmoil, it’s kind of crazy realize we’ve gone almost two full years without a season of Veep. The last time HBO’s biting political sitcom was on the air, we were only a few months into the trump administration. When season 6 premiered, we were still talking about the travel ban and the administration’s ceaseless attempts to strip Americans of their right to healthcare. We had barely heard of the name “Robert Mueller” and only had vague suspicions of Russian election interference. In retrospect, those were much simpler times. Perhaps the show and its writers felt the same, as the biggest criticism against season 6 was probably that it felt like it didn’t belong. Some attributed it to the show’s age, or how far passed its original premise it had gone, but it’s quite possible that it was because the show didn’t have any relevance or identity as a pre-trump show living in a post-trump world. I’ll defend season 6 as being as funny as any season that came before it, but I’m willing to admit that perhaps its timing and its insistence on being more about an oblivious, out-of-touch ex-president rather than anything more biting was probably detrimental to how it would be remembered.
And that may be one of the reasons why it took showrunner David Mandel and his crew almost a full two years to prepare this, the seventh and final season. This is a show that was birthed from the cynicism of Obama-era obstructionist politics, a show that took as much inspiration from the then sitting VP Joe Biden as it did from its British predecessor, The Thick Of It. Those were much simpler times, where the ineffectual nature of politics could actually be mined for humour. Things are a lot more complicated now. A lot more sinister. And it’s not like the show could simply cast Alec Baldwin or Tony Atamanuik to play trump, this is a fictional world, deviated from the actual politics of the 21st century. Portraying the post-trump world without donald trump likely proved to be a much harder nut to crack.
With this past week’s season 7 premiere, “Iowa”, it’s probably safe to say that the show found where it had stored its nut cracker, because that biting commentary, that brutal take-no-prisoners attitude of the show was out and swinging with a fantastic episode. An episode that in no way forgets Veep’s roots as being about a terrible, selfish politician and the terrible selfish people around her, while still finding the perfect moments to crack the whip in the direction of white nationalism and gun culture.
The episode centers largely around Selina’s repeated failed attempts to announce her presidential campaign. She arrives at the wrong Iowan airport, she’s stalled by multiple mass shootings, she’s stonewalled by unpaid contractors and her staff’s failures. And when she does finally announce, her declaration is overshadowed by the shitshow that is Jonah Ryan’s literally incestuous campaign, which, it turns out, people find more raw and appealing than a business-as-usual Selina Meyer running once again for president.
The episode established that, in its final season, Veep will not cease to be a show about terrible people insulting each other terribly for being bad at their jobs. It’s almost like it’s going through an existential crisis, as Selina constantly laments the ineffective nature of her staff all while making the exact same mistakes they try to warn her about. And yet, it’s also a show that rips apart the debate around mass shootings, purposely never taking an actual stance on the matter and playing into the ridiculous nature of the “thoughts and prayers” response (to the point where Selina slapdashedly tries to rebrand it as “mindfulness and meditations” instead of actually trying to say something substantive, only doing so absentmindedly when questioned by Mike, whom she forgets no longer works for her. The way the episode tackles the politicization of mass shootings is absolutely brutal and hilarious, as is what they set up with Jonah Ryan playing the post-trump candidate. I hope this isn’t insulting towards Timothy Simons, because he’s really good as playing a disgusting, gargantuan monster who you can totally believe is the rallying call of the alt-right (and yet “alt-right” and “white nationalism” are terms that aren’t uttered in this episode, and likely never will be over the course of the season, because this show is truly that brilliant when it comes to subtext).
In other words, this is a great episode that feels like it earned its two year break. It feels like it’s cemented its place in the modern political conversation, despite arguably feeling out of touch the last time we saw it, and without losing sight of what got it here. It seems like it’s adapted perfectly, all while managing a huge, talented cast where there still is a lead that’s head-and-shoulders above all the rest; and as you’ll see below, that lead manages to steal the show despite the ever-growing cast that not only brings back pretty much everyone from previous seasons and adds the incomparable Andy Daly as Selina’s accidental new campaign manager.
“Iowa” proves that Veep’s still got it, and with nothing left to hold back, this final season is shaping up to be one hell of a ride.
Below are my favourite lines from the episode, be sure to check back weekly for the rest of the season!
- Jonah Insult of the Week: 80-story Skyraper
- Amy: “Hey, sweatpants! You can’t just walk out, this isn’t a Terrence Malick movie.”
- Selina: “I’m not sure about the part where I say I want to be president for all Americans. I mean, do I? All of them?”
- Selina: “If Mohammed Atta had you people booking his travel he’d still be alive today. Which from his perspective would be a massive fuckup.”
- Dan/Selina: “FYI we’re tracking a school shooting in Spokane, Washington.” “Muslim or white guy? Which one’s better for me?”
- Amy/Selina: “First of all, there was a reluctance on the part of the candidate to take responsibility for mistakes.” “What, no, you were the one who made mistakes.” “Second, there was a culture of blame which made people feel unsafe expressing criticisms.” “What dumb asshole said that?”
- Selina: “How about I write 500 pages on how you need to start wearing concealer?”
- Selina (escaping Marjorie): “I just had to get away from Blue is the Most Annoying Color.”
- Selina/Amy: “Amy, why would you want to be president?” “So I could nuke America.”
- Teddy/Bill: “How did this not come up?” “The same reason it didn’t come up that he moisturizes with Minotaur semen, it’s not one of the standard questions!”
- Kent: “Google always filters out my emails, they think I’m a bot.”
- Selina/Ben: “I really thought my 50s would be about sucking and fucking my way through the Shorestein Center.” “You and me both, ma’am.”
- Amy: “I don’t want people to think I was going for Megan Egan because that sounds like someone who gets assfucked on the Major Deegan in a limerick.”
- Selina: “I was a gamechanger, I took a dump on the glass ceiling and I shaved my muff in the sink of the old boys club.”
- Ben: “technically it’s more of a goat rape than a clusterfuck.”
- Jonah: “It’s exactly what Woody Allen did. I’m clearly no more of a pervert than he is.”