Screens: HBO

Veep Ends Season 4 With Both Happy And Unhappy Returns

No spoilers, but: if Election Night was an unqualified triumph for Selina, it wouldn't be Veep.

For Selina Meyer, being elevated to the office of President was a non-achievement: the fulfillment of Constitutional process after her predecessor's resignation as opposed to the consequence of a successful campaign. That's basically the last time anything she wanted came easy, and given the way the season ends, there's even more struggle to come. Fortunately, no one makes sucking funnier than everyone who works on this show.

Way back at the start of the season, there was maybe half an episode where it seemed like things might turn out well. Selina was in her element, kicking ass in all the meetings she was excluded from in her former role and taking principled stances in support of legislation she felt was important.

But one disastrous TelePrompter misfire later, Selina and her staff were back in survival mode, doing whatever it took to keep from embarrassing themselves in her first real presidential campaign. There's some real gold in those early episodes -- like the sketchiness around the Iranian detainment of journalist Leon West, but Selina's attempts to shore up her awkward daughter Catherine's public image.

But for me, the (thoroughly excellent) season is hammocked between two high points: "Convention" and "Testimony." In the former, Selina works on lining up a new VP to replace the one she never really liked, "assisted" by her former law firm colleague Karen, a transcendently idiotic Lennon Parham. Karen's inability to make any useful contribution -- and Selina's apparent blindness to her vapidity -- pushes Amy so far that she loses her shit in a way we've never seen her do in front of her boss before.

Selina doesn't need to spend too long worried about whether Amy's dire pronouncements are accurate: as the episode ends, she gets a sitdown with her #1 veep prospect (and Karen gets one last chance to demonstrate how little she adds to the campaign).

The plotlines that found Amy and Dan working at the same consulting firm and competing for their smarmy boss's approval were less compelling to me, but they paid off spectacularly with "Testimony," in which all the members of Selina's inner circle -- plus Madam President herself -- testify and/or are deposed about a scandalous data breach. In a major style departure, the episode features no candid moments between characters -- it's literally exactly what the episode title promises, from Congressional hearing footage to video depositions, in the course of which an engagement is severed, a scapegoat is sacrificed, and Jonah's status as the whipping boy of the West Wing becomes a matter of public record. The perfection of these thirty minutes of comedy really can't be overstated.

The finale is, like so many real election nights, a roller coaster, and when it looks like Selina might lose and she crabs, "Screw this whole sloppy back seat blowjob of a night, anyway, I don't give a shit," I believe she means it. The vice-president job stank, obviously, but at least she could do it in relative obscurity; there's no more high-profile failure than a president's, and that's pretty much all she's had since she took the oath of office. So naturally, one second after the blowjob crack comes the news that she hasn't actually lost as many states as she thought, and she might actually win the office on her own merits...and that euphoria lasts for a couple more hours until it turns out she and her opponent, O'Brien, are going to split the electoral college count and that, due to a Constitutional quirk, the next President might turn out to be Selina's running mate, Tom. No more will Selina try to steal away his high approval ratings by reminding the American public that by picking him for the ticket, she's even better than he is; now he's just another rival impeding her access to power. Offering her a job as his vice-president is the end of their friendship with maybe future benefits, if this look is anything to go by.

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And yet, Selina may end up once again occupying the titular office, which could be the best thing for her: based on the evidence, she's better at fake-smiling than she is at actually governing. Though it would obviously be a comedown from the Selina we saw holding court at her first State Dinner or crowing over her victory in Tehran, the possibilities are enticing: if Selina was resentful of her dumb job in the show's first three seasons, when it was all she knew of the executive branch, how much more hilariously pissy will she be if she finds herself back in it after a few months of ultimate power? I can't wait to see.

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