TV Review: ‘Veep’ Gives Julia Louis-Dreyfus a Final Victory Lap

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Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is back and saltier than ever. The final season of “Veep” returns with all cylinders, working overtime doling out caustic barbs. Some shows lose energy as they limp towards their well-thought-out conclusion. However, “Veep” appears to be reinvigorated as it continues to skewer our political system. Though this season deals with a fictional primary, the show still feels both cathartic and escapist.

Former Vice President and President want a new start as she enters another political primary. Her slogan “New Selina Now” represents her wanting to put her past flubs and controversies behind her. However, that’s easier said than done. With the same bumbling team around her, mistakes are bound to be repeated. It all starts with a scandal involving misuse of the funds in the Meyer Foundation, run by her corrupt ex-husband Andrew (David Pasquesi). Selina’s daughter Catherine (Sarah Sutherland) refuses to let her use her African-American son as a political prop for her campaign. Further hilarious misunderstandings and faux pas ensue, putting her campaign in peril.

What more is there to say about Julia Louis-Dreyfus that hasn’t already been said? Her performance as Selina Meyer vaults her into the pantheon of our greatest TV actresses of all time. She optimizes every nuance and motion for the biggest possible laugh. Not only does she know how to sell a moment, but she also builds all of these ticks into a fully developed, believable woman. From “Seinfeld” to now, there’s no doubting that Louis-Dreyfus is in a class of her own.

Once again, the supporting cast brings to life the extended universe of the show. One of the best decisions was to make loudmouth Jonah (Timothy Simons) a primary opponent of Selina’s. Whether it be marrying his step-sister, instigating a #notme movement against him and failing sensitivity training, Jonah becomes a must-watch train wreck. Simons delights in Jonah’s un-PC behavior, without ever making him a potential candidate. He’s a wrench in the system that manages to fall flat on his face with every false move. It’s a terrific comedy.

Elsewhere, Amy (Anna Chlumsky) and Dan (Reid Scott) also get to take advantage of some of the best storylines they’ve had. Chlumsky’s Amy revealed last season that she is pregnant with Dan’s baby. The plotline yields some expected moments, only with a sarcastic “Veep” twist. Amy frequently bursts out of conversations due to morning sickness. However, Gary (Tony Hale) spreads the word to Selina that Amy is bulimic. Meanwhile, Dan struggles with his age. He wonders whether he’s lost his touch as a Washington lothario.

The series writing also knows how to place Selina and crew in wonderfully absurd locations. One of the more inspired bits comes from the team visiting an Aspen vacation run by a closeted wealthy donor (William Fichtner). This episode also gives frequent guest star Hugh Laurie the most to do as Tom James, Selina’s former running mate turned opponent. Laurie and Louis-Dreyfus have amazing chemistry together as opponents, and possibly more. One can’t wait for more of their adversarial relationship as the show goes on.

By the end of the third episode, Selina takes a big swing in her first debate. The blunt and jaded edge she exudes with her staffers comes out full force for the public. Before, Selina would always hide behind a smile and word soup of nothingness to adhere to the political status quo. This season Selina finally finds that her voice could be her ticket to the White House, rather than what costs her the Presidency.

Another major thread of the first few episodes revolves around why someone would want to be President. Selina asks each person on her team why they would run, with answers ranging from hostility (“nuke everyone” – Amy) to non-answers (“I’d give [the position] to you” – Gary). Over six seasons, the show rarely parcels out what Selina actually wants out of politics. Part of the show’s initial fun was that it was apolitical, we never fully knew what party Selina was in, even though we could guess. However, this last season hopefully pushes her to a new level. She’s been beaten down and sucked up more times than we can count. What keeps her coming back to take another punch? I look forward to learning more as this final season unfolds.

“Veep” Season Seven premieres on HBO on Sunday, March 31 at 10:30 p.m. ET.

GRADE: (★)

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