VEEP (2012–2019), 2.05 Helsinki.
Hi! I'd love a link if you've already discussed it somewhere, but I was wondering what your thoughts are on Selina letting Gary take the fall and go to jail in the finale/that scene as a whole? Thanks so much!
I think I talked about briefly in the recap posts (which I now can’t find) but not anywhere in detail.
I am in two minds about it.
On the level of what the show was attempting to do, I think it (basically) works. Selina’s long-running relationship with her staff is one of the more unrealistic aspects of Veep – there tends to be high turnover in political roles (especially high level ones like director of comms for the President) because the pressure and pace attached to them comes at a very high cost to people’s health, mental and physical. For Selina to have retained the same team for nearly eight years is very, very unlikely.
Plus because Selina’s familial support structure was effectively non-existent and she didn’t have friends, she had become heavily dependent on her staff. Look at how she talks to Amy (especially season one) – she vents to her, a lot, bounces her emotional problems off Amy, because realistically, she didn’t have anyone else she could talk to. (And one of the more realistic aspects of this is that Selina in the first four seasons had a bond with Amy that was unique, precisely because Amy was a woman, and understood more of what Selina was going through. That’s why she valued Amy enough that even in season 4 – when Amy abandoned her – Selina threw Bill Erickson under the bus in her place. David Mandel can bite me).
So, if you want to create a personal tragedy of Selina Meyer, a story in which she loses, one by one, each of the staff members she had previously relied on for her emotional well-being, makes a lot of sense.
Now, I don’t necessarily think it’s well-executed – I think the audience could see Selina ditching Gary coming a mile-off, and attaching the sacrifice to Andrew having done “something” unspecified with the Meyer Foundation renders it pretty toothless. The audience doesn’t feel the stakes of it, because we never understand what was actually done.
It also perpetuates a tendency in the later seasons of the show to assign consequences to the wrong actions. Allegations of sexual harassment are invariably false and invariably destroy careers – former American Presidents are arrested for war crimes they actually committed – vague rumours of financial misdoings are enough to torpedo an election campaign. Is it wrong that I’d kind of like to live on a world that works like that, because the real one certainly doesn’t.
My problem is this. As the personal tragedy of Selina Meyer, it (kind of) works.
But I have seen comment after comment ever since the finale aired, talking about how Selina sacrifices the one person who truly loves her, and Selina ends up alone, and isn’t that all so sad.
Which – fine. I’m not saying the people saying that aren’t right, so far as it goes.
What I will say is that Veep is not a personal show. The tragedy of Selina Meyer isn’t just that she sacrificed someone who loved her – or shouldn’t be, to my mind.
The tragedy is that she sacrificed someone who loved her and then did sweet fuck all with that opportunity. And the show…doesn’t really talk about that.
Or rather, it talks about it, but only in the sense that it’s a sad thing for Selina. The consequences of Selina stealing an election, banning same-sex marriage and allowing Tibet to be annexed, are presented as sad because they meant Selina was denied the recognition she had craved for so long.
The show utterly fails in connecting Selina’s tragedy to the wider world. And for a show that is about politics – and one whose creator made quite a song and dance in its final season about it presenting a “commentary” on the current political crisis – that is at best an abdication of responsibility, at worst it’s wilfully obscuring the reality of what is at stake in a political contest.
In the real world, Donald Trump stole an election by colluding with a foreign power and within two years children were dying in American concentration camps. In Veep-world, Selina stole an election and everything was fine, it didn’t really matter, it’s not like what politicians do is important.
So, as I said, on the level of “the final act of the tragedy of Selina Meyer” Selina sacrificing Gary makes a certain amount of sense, even if the execution is…muddled, at best.
But as political commentary, I find it feeble.
I have pretty much made my peace with most of season 7 – but the handling of Amy’s abortion, the gutless use of a false rape allegation, and the way the show shrugs at the sabotage of a democratic election are three things that will never stop pissing me off.