What will we do without “Veep?” The show’s seventh, and final, season premieres this Sunday, March 31st at 10:30 p.m. ET on HBO. Over the course of six seasons, “Veep” has wowed critics and audiences alike with its acid-tongued skewering of the US political system. It’s done particularly well at the Emmys, racking up 17 Emmy wins from 59 Emmy nominations. This includes six straight wins for Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Lead Actress in a Comedy, giving her the most wins of all time for an actor. Additionally, it has won three Best Comedy Series wins from seasons four through six.
As we approach the final season, let’s count down the ten best episodes of “Veep.”
“Convention” (Season 4, Episode 5)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus does some of her best work when she has to scramble without breaking a sweat. “Convention” forces Selina to grovel while still maintaining shreds of dignity. Doyle (Phil Reeves) has left the ticket as her Veep and she returns to each of her political rivals to convince them to join her campaign. Here we meet Hugh Laurie as Tom James, a charming Senator that eventually becomes Selina’s Vice President. The episode culminates with an epic rant from Amy (Anna Chlumsky) that ranks as her best moment in the series. “You are the worst thing to happen to this country since food in buckets. And maybe slavery,” yells Amy before dealing the episode’s gut punch. “You have achieved nothing apart from one thing. The fact that you are a woman means we will have no more women presidents because we tried one and she f**king sucked.”
“East Wing” (Season 4, Episode 2)
“East Wing” revolves around Selina Meyer’s (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) dinner meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister. This episode is adorned with plenty of fun character moments from the supporting cast, kicking off on a high note as press secretary Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh) dyes his mustache bright orange. This makes for some perfectly hilarious “Veep” zingers. What takes “East Wing” from good to great is Tony Hale’s Emmy winning performance as Gary. The best runner of the episode becomes Gary planning an increasingly lavish dinner. This all blows up in his face when Selina realizes how much he spent. After she berates him, per the usual, Gary finally stands up for himself. “I’m your calendar, I’m your Google, I’m your Wilson the volleyball,” he says. Gary and Selina’s bond is the most special of the series. This episode adds a new layer to their employer-employee relationship.
“Testimony” (Season 4, Episode 9)
It’s easy for special episodes to hide behind their gimmicks. “Testimony” could very easily have done this. Selina’s staff testifies before a Congressional committee about the “alleged” data breach and lobbying around the Families First bill. This stylistic flourish manages to show new levels of how each of the show’s large expanse of characters squirms under pressure. At first, everyone plays nice with each other, trying to seem diplomatic. One pivotal moment comes once the committee discovers the JoNad file, which contains all the nicknames of reviled team member Jonah (Timothy Simons). The hilarious names range from “Jizzy Gillespie,” “the 60-foot Virgin,” “Jonah Ono,” “the Cloud Botherer” to “Spewbacca.” The episode also lets many other members factor into the proceedings, particularly Gary (Tony Hale) who’s sad description of his job ends up sending the committee on a separate search for an internal lobbyist.
“Special Relationship” (Season 3, Episode 7)
“Veep” is often undervalued for its amazing guest stars. One of the best characters to only show up for a couple of episodes was Christopher Meloni’s Ray. “Special Relationship” represents the second episode of Ray’s arc in the Selina Meyer orbit. Ray starts out as Selina’s (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) personal trainer but becomes more involved with her Presidential campaign once they develop a romantic relationship. Selina trusts Ray’s advice, ripped straight from the internet, a bit too much, which catches her team off guard. There’s more in the episode that makes it an all-time best. Dan (Reid Scott) has an epic meltdown that ends in a panic attack. Kent (Gary Cole) advises Selina to visit a London pub to seem folksy. This ends in her misunderstanding the patrons and chanting “Daniwah” rather than “Down in One.” All around, it’s a stellar episode.
“C***Gate” (Season 5, Episode 6)
The U.S. is on the brink of economic disaster, Selina’s (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) relationship with banker Charlie Baird (John Slattery) depends on one hard decision and all she cares about is who called her the c-word in an interview. The title refers to Selina’s wonderfully hilarious crusade going after the person who called her the c-word. The staff runs around trying to find a scapegoat. However, things come to a cackle-inducing conclusion as the staffers realize they were all guilty of calling her the c-word in public settings. Despite this runner, the episode is also noteworthy for the chemistry between Louis-Dreyfus and Slattery. Selina, unfortunately, declines to bail out Charlie’s bank, which ends their relationship. However, it was glorious while we had it.
“Election Night” (Season 4, Episode 10)
Season Four represents a peak for “Veep.” The show thrusts Selina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) into the Presidency but also forces her to run for office as she’s adjusting to the role. The remarkable season culminates in an “Election Night” finale that is hilarious and moves the story in interesting directions. As the evening progresses, the tight race becomes even tighter than expected. It becomes clear that Selina can’t win the election, but she can tie. “The rule book’s been torn up now and America’s wiping its nasty ass with it!” she cries as part of a long, epic screed. For a show filled with amazing showcase moments for Julia Louis-Dreyfus, this stands out.
“Running” (Season 2, Episode 9)
“Running” begins with a bang and never lets up from there. On a rare high note, Selina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) does a textbook walk-and-talk with Press Secretary Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh). In the process of this, she walks through a glass door, cutting up her face and body. “That woman has become a living metaphor of her own career,” says Sue (Sufe Bradshaw), Selina’s personal secretary. In the hospital, Selina gets put on a cocktail of painkillers, a comedy staple that Louis-Dreyfus elevates. While under the influence, she says “I intend to run,” in response to a question about a fun run. The quote gets misconstrued and, fresh out of the hospital, Selina finishes the episode running the race. The construction of the episode is hilarious, building to a wonderfully triumphant moment of Selina beating a man in a banana-costume.
“Helsinki” (Season 2, Episode 5)
While “Veep” excels at skewering American politics, it also impressively flexes its muscles at dealing with international affairs. Season two of “Veep” found Selina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) growing increasingly uncomfortable with the powerlessness of the titular position. This only gets accentuated on a trip to Helsinki where she encounters her nemesis, Minna Häkkinen (Sally Phillips), the Finnish Prime Minister. The episode sets the stage perfectly, as the two engage in an awkward, public gift-giving ceremony. The image of Julia Louis-Dreyfus receiving an oversized Angry Birds clock deserves to be hung in the Louvre. It only gets better from there, as Minna undermines and passive-aggressively dismantles Selina throughout. Add on a White House spy thread, Gary (Tony Hale) introducing himself as a “man bag” in Finnish and greater one-liners and you have one of the best “Veep” episodes.
“Crate” (Season 3, Episode 9)
The titular crate serves as the best personification of Selina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), especially how she relates to the people. In order to seem more “folksy,” Selina orders a rustic crate to stand on and deliver an address. However, as a reporter from the New Hampshire Globe profiles her, they focus on how she spent $1,200 making a said crate. This provokes an uproar her team struggles to quench. However, despite the low PR point, Selina learns that President Hughes is stepping down to take care of his suicidal wife. This makes her President. Selina grabs Gary (Tony Hale) and brings him into the bathroom to announce that she’s assuming the role of President. Their cackles turn into nosebleeds in perhaps the most comically satisfying episode of the show’s tenure.
“Kissing Your Sister” (Season 5, Episode 9)
One of the greatest unsung heroes of the “Veep” cast is Sarah Sutherland as Catherine, Selina’s awkward daughter. Season five gives Catherine a lesbian romance in the form of Marjorie (Clea DuVall), the security detail and body double for Selina. Throughout the season, Catherine had been filming things for a documentary she was making. The episode chronicles the lead up to a historic vote in the House to break a tie for President. Selina wants Jonah (Timothy Simons) to be the tie-breaking vote, but there is lots of trouble with getting him to the actual vote. Setting the episode from Catherine’s eyes allows for lots of fresh new humor. The perspective shift, married with the documentary technique, catches glimpses of new sides of each of the staff’s personalities. In the end, the documentary becomes all about Catherine and Marjorie’s relationship, ending on a wonderful high note.