HBO’s award-winning comedy series Veep wrapped up Sunday night with a fitting finale chock full of blistering barbs, clever callbacks and priceless poetic justice.
The final episode sees the notoriously self-involved Selina Meyer (Julia Louis Dreyfus) finally getting elected president, fulfilling the goal she ferociously fought for for three decades.
Selina’s ultimate success is balanced out by a stinging snub 24 years later when her funeral is eclipsed by the death of Tom Hanks.
The finale honors each of the captivatingly controversial characters that brought Veep’s version of Washington to life over the past seven seasons.
As always, the story line is carried by an almost-overwhelming number of impossibly creative insults punctuated with profanity.
The majority of the episode takes place in the days leading up to the Democratic nomination, which Selina initially appears to have no chance of winning.
However, as she’s done countless times throughout the series, the ruthless politician manages to manipulate enough people to get her way.
She starts by taking down her longtime rival slash lover Tom James (Hugh Laurie) by convincing his chief of staff Michelle York (Rhea Seehorn), whom he’s been sleeping with, to publicly accuse him of sexual assault.
In an unfathomable yet true-to-Veep twist, Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons) ends up being Selina toughest competition after his repeated claims that math teachers are terrorists because Muslims created math are validated when a Muslim math teacher attempts to bomb John F Kennedy Airport.
Selina ends up offering Jonah the VP slot, to the horror of her campaign staff and his.
In one particularly poignant scene, Selina’s longtime aide Amy Brookheimer (Anna Chlumsky), who went on to be Jonah’s campaign manager, gets on her knees and begs her former boss not to pick the ‘bitter, narcissistic manchild’ as her VP.
Selina responds by railing against the position she was suffering in when we first met her in season one, telling Amy: ‘Being vice president is like being declawed, defanged, neutered, ball-gagged and sealed in an abandoned coal mine under two miles of human s***. It is a fate worse than death.’
The conniving candidate also makes promises that go against her Democratic platform to get endorsements from congressmen, telling one that she’ll increase the amount of land available for oil drilling and another that she’ll outlaw same sex marriage.
When her lesbian daughter Catherine (Sarah Sutherland) expresses outrage at that second promise, Selina replies: ‘It’s just the party platform, it’s like a to-do list of things we’re not going to do.’
Perhaps Selina’s largest hurdle is an investigation into the Meyer Fund, which her husband Andrew (David Pasquesi) was stealing money from using checks in her name. His scheme appears to be seconds from going public, threatening to ruin her chances and making the White House.
Just before Selina goes on stage to accept her nomination, one of her advisers warns her that ‘someone will have to go down’ for the Meyer Fund.
She says: ‘I know’ with an unnerving smile that makes it clear she’s found a fall guy.
Sadly, but not surprisingly, that fall guy is Gary Walsh (Tony Hale) the ever-loyal minder who has been by her side constantly.
Though Gary can read Selina’s mind in many situations, like when she’s hungry or needs hand sanitizer, he doesn’t see this one coming.
He is standing on the edge of the stage offering Selina her favorite lipstick when she begins to tell him what she’s done – before he interrupts her to pick a chia seed out of her teeth.
Selina ends up just saying ‘nevermind’ with a shrug as she takes the stage to accept her nomination.
While she’s at the microphone she looks to the side to see a blindsided Gary being arrested by FBI agents.
It’s not until the last seven minutes that the episode feels like a finale. After the nomination scene the story skips ahead six months to see Selina settled into the Oval Office.
Sue Wilson (Sufe Bradshaw) is back to being Selina’s brutally blunt receptionist, just as she was in earlier seasons.
When Jonah shows up looking to speak with Selina, Sue makes it clear in very few words that that’s not going to happen. Seeing the vice president stand outside the Oval Office unable to get a minute with the president feels full-circle.
The next scene shows Selina in her office with her two top aides, her former campaign manager Bob Bradley (Martin Mull) and James’ former campaign manager Michelle.
She gripes about being hungry before calling out for Gary, who is presumably in prison.
Bob reminds her that Gary isn’t there and offers to get her something to eat. When he asks what she wants, Selina snaps: ‘You figure that out’ – something only Gary was ever able to do.
The two aides leave the room and we see Selina’s face fall as she realizes she’s alone, having alienated everyone who helped get her into the White House.
The moment doesn’t last long – this is a comedy, after all.
The final four or so minutes of the show take place 24 years in the future in 2044, just after Selina’s death.
Reporting on the late president’s funeral procession on TV is Selina’s former communications director Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh).
Having failed miserably in that role and struggled early on in his subsequent journalism career, a graying Mike appears to have finally hit his stride.
He gives the viewer a tiny glimpse into what happened with Selina’s presidency as he describes how she freed Tibet and made good on her promise to outlaw same sex marriage.
Next we see many of the core characters reunite at Selina’s funeral, including several of her political rivals. Through Mike’s newscast we learn that the current president is Richard Splett (Sam Richardson), the bumbling political aide who helped run Selina’s campaign, despite her protestations.
Amy is happily married to campaign manager Bill Ericsson (Diedrich Bader) and is the proud mother to greyhounds. She catches up with an overly-botoxed and tanned Dan Egan (Reid Scott), now married to a 20-something blonde.
Both Amy and Dan are shocked to see that Gary showed up for the funeral even though Selina apparently never visited him in prison.
He places her favorite lipstick on her casket and whispers: ‘You would hate these flowers.’
We see Jonah watching the funeral from home, griping to his wife slash step-sister that he’s glad he wasn’t there. She responds that its a good thing he got impeached so they didn’t have to invite him.
Catherine is also watching from home and celebrating being free from her judgmental and absent mother. Catherine’s ex-Secret Service agent lover Marjorie Palmiotti (Clea DuVall) tells her now-grown son that ‘losing a parent is hard’ before the not-so-grieving daughter saunters in with a tray of margaritas and a big grin.
As the credits start rolling on one side of the screen, Mike comes back on and begins paying tribute to Selina before receiving breaking news that actor Tom Hanks has died at the age of 88.
It also calls back to the first episode in the series, in which Selina makes an offensive joke and says the word ‘retard’, leaving her team scrambling to do damage control.
Mike suggests that the incident might just fall out of the news cycle anyway, saying: ‘What if Tom Hanks dies? I’m not wishing that, I’m saying anything could happen.’
The spectacular overshadowing is a fitting end for Veep’s bitter and battled anti-hero, who surely thought she deserved a much grander sendoff.