TV REVIEW: “Veep” Season 5 – Politically Inept, Comically Adept

Written by Jeremiah Greville June 29, 2016

Veep

The fifth season of HBO’s Veep wrapped up on Sunday, ending another turbulent year in the life of White House politician Selina Meyer, played to prurient perfection once again by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. This season saw the presidency itself hang in the balance, assailed by missing ballots, electoral shenanigans, sexual scandals, wholesale betrayal, and general ineptitude all around. Throughout it all, the series continued to shine like no other through some of the most fast-paced, hauntingly vicious, and deliciously profane dialogue on television. Veep was, and continues to be, one of the funniest shows on TV.

(Spoilers for previous seasons below)

For the uninitiated, Veep follows President (formerly Vice President) Selina Meyer and her White House staff as they navigate the world of American politics with self-deluded grandstanding and effortless inefficiency. It’s difficult in describing this show not to compare and contrast it with Netflix’s House of Cards. Many of the overarching political machinations and upsets in both series mirror each other, and each can be taken as different approaches to the same broad story. If you happen to be a fan of the Netflix original, then Veep might surprise you as a comedic take on several of the same issues. This season revolved around an unprecedented presidential tie vote, allowing the show to focus on electoral maneuvering over any real national concerns. In the end, this was a bold and successful choice for the direction of the series, as the characters are at their best when they’re ruthlessly worried about their own jobs and status.

“Selina Meyer will never be Vice President ever, ever again.”

Veep season 5 gave us several plots to sink our teeth into, often devoting two or three episodes to a single arc over its ten-episode run. This meant that there was always action happening on the peripheral of whatever was meant to be the main story each episode, allowing the writers to spend time with several characters, bouncing back and forth between different locations. Notable story-lines this season included being Selina forced to decide on a bailout of her boyfriend’s bank; her daughter Catherine’s surprising choice of love interest; a tenuous Nevada (Nev-AD-a) recount; and the congressional campaign of former-staffer Jonah Ryan. Each of these, however, was secondary to the primary plot of the President’s election, and each served the main story effectively, never derailing the episode or losing focus of what was important: Selina staying in power.

Veep

The experimental 9th episode of this season, shot entirely as a documentary within the show’s meta-narrative, was a bit of a departure in terms of tone and humour. However, following up on the running gag of Catherine (Sarah Sutherland) shooting her documentary in the background of previous episodes, it allowed for several key scenes throughout the season to be re-visited and re-examined from other angles, providing extra punchlines to existing jokes. While it lacked the same constant banter and humour of other episodes, it nonetheless served the whole through its own brand of self-awareness, and gave the audience a bit of distance from several dramatic scenes, something a show like this needs to do in order to keep the plot moving to the next joke.

“The only president to pee sitting down since FDR—is that going to be my legacy?”

In gathering quotes for this review, I had a hard time selecting any that were PG. The dialogue in this series is its finest feature, yet almost every line is something you’d have a hard time quoting…pretty much anywhere. Despite a shocking lack of violence and nudity, let me assure you, this is absolutely a show that needs to be on HBO. Many of this season’s best insults were directed at Timothy Simons’ hilariously absurd Jonah Ryan, who is, at separate moments, scathingly referred to as “wax melting down a flagpole”, and my personal favourite, a “sentient enema”. His delightfully foulmouthed self-aggrandizement and complete lack of self awareness made his story arc this season one of the show’s best, helped immensely by the introduction of his ruthlessly vicious uncle, played by veteran actor Peter MacNicol. Other standout newcomers this season include John Slattery as a charming love interest, Clea DuVall as a presidential look-a-like and lesbian bodyguard, and Martin Mull as a folksy senile political adviser.

Veep

Yet despite the outstanding ensemble, Julia Louis-Dreyfus once again proved herself as the solid foundation for this season’s well-crafted highs. She changes effortlessly from straight man to the butt of joke within the same take, giving each scene and everyone around exactly what they need to drive the comedy home. Season 5 saw her character deal with new relationships, numerous wins and losses, a change in her daughter’s sexuality, and a death in the family, allowing Louis-Dreyfus to filter Selina’s particular brand of narcissistic charm through a much wider emotional range than we’ve seen before. The cracks in her polished public persona are just as funny as her profanity-ridden personal moments, and whenever she’s on screen her conflicting motivations are made clear. Moments like when she cries at her mother’s funeral (for all the wrong reasons), or when she accidentally brokers peace between two rival nations, are driven home solely through Louis-Dreyfus’ perfect delivery.

“I hate this country.” “I know.”

With Season 6 already ordered by HBO for 2017, the fifth season of Veep has left the main characters in a very different state than where they were when it began. I’ve attempted to keep the spoilers in this review to a minimum because I absolutely believe that if you haven’t seen this season—or this series—then you should check it out right away. Veep‘s solid writing, perfect casting, and incredible lead actress has lead Season 5 to be one of it’s funniest yet.

My Rating: 9/10

Veep

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About Jeremiah Greville

Jeremiah Greville is a pretty rad beard that's attached itself to a human face. The beard likes movies, television, comic books, and gentle finger rubs. The human likes pizza and sleep. When they work together, they write reviews. Hope you enjoy them!

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