Veep Season 4 Review: It Ain’t Easy Being President

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Veep‘s decision to move Selena Meyer to the Oval Office came with a unique set of challenges, but also with some of the best material the show has produced thus far.

When you’re at the top, the only direction to go in is down. Such is the reason that success can often be a double-edged sword. Frank Underwood, Fitzgerald Grant, Jed Bartlet, and countless other fictional leaders have quickly found this to be true. This year, Veep allowed Selena Meyer to discover this harsh reality as she stepped up to the plate to become Commander-in-Chief. The results were absolutely hilarious.

Veep is a comedy, and so watching Selena struggle to maintain her power often proved to be a great source of amusement. Yet, the show’s satirical nature has a dark edge, and this season featured some of its most sinister narratives to date. The Meyer team deals with a data breach scandal involving the families of murdered children, an imprisoned journalist who they have detained an extra day to ensure better publicity, and shady lobbying techniques being used to kill a bill. Truly, this series’ outlook on politics has never been bleaker, but that might be why season 4 is ultimately a triumph.

Having the team’s ethics become even murkier this season was a smart move, namely because it allowed for some excellent character moments. Veep might be known for its signature, profanity-laden dialogue, but its dirty one-liners would be nothing if they weren’t delivered by this stellar cast. Julia Louis-Dreyfus once again proves to be an unstoppable comedic force, ramping up Selena’s neuroticism to a presidential level. Elsewhere, Matt Walsh delivers fantastic bewilderment as Mike, Reid Scott’s Dan is as oily as ever, and Timothy Simons and Sam Richardson prove to be the season’s greatest comedic duo.

The real standout, however, is Ana Chlumsky’s Amy, who suffers a spectacular breakdown in “Convention.” It’s a prime example of the series’ expert tightrope walk between satire and seriousness, as her rant at Selena starts off funny, but ends with a surprisingly poignant jab. The sentiment is then echoed in the finale, when Amy and Selena have a reunion that is equal parts heartwarming and hilarious.

Another key player this season is Tony Hale’s Gary, who gets his chance to hash it out with the President in the terrific “East Wing.” Gary and Selena’s bizarre work relationship is always played for laughs, but here we see just how hard he works to keep things going—and how under appreciated he is.

Veep spends a large amount of time pushing various members of Selena’s staff to their limits, allowing for individual characters to be highlighted within the ensemble cast. It also causes Selena to sweat a little, as the team behind her struggles to face bigger and bigger scandals each week. By the end of the season, the crew has endured a congressional hearing in the outstanding episode “Testimony.” It is here that everyone was forced to make amends—aka find a new scapegoat—for their nefarious dealings, and the fly-on-the-wall format made the whole ordeal all the more engaging.

Still, Veep‘s big career move did have its downsides. At times, the season felt overstuffed with narratives, as if the show was trying too hard to show how stressed everyone was….in 30 minute installments. Episodes like “Tehran” and “Storms and Pancakes” suffered because there was way too much going on. Sometimes the episodes were filled with so much new information, that existing plotlines—or characters—fell by the wayside and were forgotten completely.

Then there was the finale, which may be one of the smartest things Veep has ever done. Hugh Laurie’s Tom James didn’t get much to do this season except be charming, but introducing the possibility that he might usurp Selena’s position—or, even worse, trade places with her—was a highly compelling way to leave things off. “Election Night” is an intense half hour, but it’s the perfect cap to the madness that the Meyer campaign has been through all season, as well as a great anticipation-builder for what’s to come.

There’s no telling what will happen with Selena’s presidency next year, and there’s a strong chance that she won’t be happy with the outcome of the election. The good thing is, even when Veep‘s characters lose, the show still comes out on top. Grade: A-

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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