As a writer, what are the things you would re-write for this season from what we’ve seen.
I’m not sure you have time for that list. And I say this as someone who has been emphasising all along that I could live with an ending where Amy and Dan weren’t together, that I could see ways to write it where she moved on. But man do I hate how they’re going about it.
But to step back a little, I think there are three factors which have determined how all of this played out – none of which may be immediately obvious.
Firstly, they wanted to get to the end of the Presidential election. That puts a time pressure on the season, because it has to cover almost two years in real time to tie up the story in a satisfying way.
Secondly, with Dan and Amy’s relationship being their biggest ongoing narrative thread, they don’t want to resolve that relationship tension categorically until the end of the season – they want to be able to continue teasing the audience right up until the last episode.
Thirdly, they wanted to cover the primaries, all the weird and wonderful things that happens in the first stages.
These three things combined made it difficult – but by no means impossible – to manage the pregnancy, because it was always going to strain disbelief that Dan and Amy couldn’t sort out their feelings even with a baby on the way. I mean, they’re immature, but at a certain point it would just start to seem silly. This was why I tended to think they were going to have to have at least one final period of separation before the end of the season, because it was the only way I could see to make the timelines line up – in fact, I swear I remember having a conversation with @casliyn about this exact point… but I can’t find it now.
Now, I don’t hate the choice of Amy having an abortion necessarily, I just hate the way they’ve gone about it. Reading that interview with Mandel, Reid Scott and Anna Chlumsky was profoundly head-scratching to me because, while yes, women do make choices around abortion that are difficult and complex, the whole context around this decision was so relentlessly negative that it’s really, really difficult to see it as anything but…sad.
What they showed us was Dan, Selina and Sophie mocking, belittling and in Dan’s case openly hurting, Amy, to the point where she decides an abortion is her only option. That’s not a “beautiful moment of acceptance,” that’s a woman being so badly emotionally mistreated that she surrenders to people – people she loves – who don’t seem to care about her wellbeing in any way.
I find it highly telling that Mandel framed negative reactions to the abortion as being about the audience wanting Dan and Amy to be together – because for me, at least, the abortion really isn’t the issue. I actually think it would be completely possible to write a love story for them that included an abortion – and in so many ways, I think that would be a braver choice. I mean, sure, Veep included an abortion – which is a hell of a lot more than most shows will do, I’ll give them that – but the way Amy is treated in the lead-up is so sickening that it’s impossible to feel good about what happened to her.
Dan wouldn’t even have a conversation with her about it. Every time Amy tries to discuss it with him, he finds a way to turn it around so she has to hear all the details of his sex life, which get more and more repulsive as the show goes on.
And even this – even this could be made to work as a kind of ‘phoenix rising from the ashes’ story. Which is not in any way what I wanted, but I would find more tolerable than what we appear to be getting. Because they still want the audience to be rooting – somehow – for Dan and Amy to find a way to be together. That’s why Dan doesn’t come out and tell Amy that he doesn’t want to be with her – which would end the story pretty categorically – and that’s why Amy never gets angry at him, despite…my god, so many provocations – and that’s why we get weird ‘cute’ moments between them throughout, as a way of keeping hope alive.
One of the words in the feminist lexicon I have come to loathe is ‘empowering’ – because it has become a catch-all, attached to blatantly regressive concepts in an attempt to sell women on the idea that if they ‘choose’ something, then that choice is an inherently feminist act (never mind the context in which that choice is made). And for Veep to depict – painfully accurately – a woman being emotionally battered the way Amy has been in the past episodes, and then to turn around and try sell the choice she makes as a positive for her… don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining, you know?
So, for things I would have done differently – I almost certainly would have held the pregnancy back for the middle of season 7 – episode 4 or 5, most likely – to avoid the timeline issues. Without the convoluted timeline, even if they still opted for Amy to have an abortion, I think the context would be much less disturbing. You wouldn’t have the mish-mash of the show showing us Amy being abused but trying to convince us it’s not, and showing us Dan being more disgusting than Jonah while trying to maintain the tension of a will-they-won’t-they. Amy would also get to react to him more naturally by tearing him to shreds instead of a random protester, which would be cathartic for the audience, and also would allow Dan to express some actual feelings on the matter, which, even if they were horrible ones (which they almost certainly would) would still be more tolerable than the combination of abuse and avoidance we did get.
Basically, I think the writers wanted to have it both ways – they wanted the narrative tension of the will-they-won’t-they to last until the end of the season, and they wanted the abortion and they wanted Amy to be sincerely in love with Dan and they wanted what happened to be Amy’s “choice.”
At some point, I think they should have sat down and realised that all four of those things couldn’t exist in the same storyline. Take one of those four elements away, and I think the character development wouldn’t be nearly so contorted – with Amy (and to a lesser extent Dan) seeming to experience emotions that shouldn’t be able to exist simultaneously – because all of the characters would be reacting naturally.
Oh, and they should never have included the ‘Meaghan’ line because it took Dan to a degree of heartlessness that feels like character assassination, even for him.
TL:DR – if you want to see some of the ways I tried to solve these problems, read You Were Always On My Mind, because I was thinking about a lot of similar issues when I plotted out that story. (And I got at least one element right, with Amy leaving Selina to go to another campaign. Next up, waiting for a time jump and a second pregnancy).