Selina Meyer is the worst. And that is exactly what made Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ final episode as the egocentric leader one of the series’ best.
The show has always been ridiculous, bordering on (and often crossing into) being unnecessarily cruel. Seven seasons — and two IRL administrations later — the show managed to slyly adjust its tone to read better against the current American political backdrop. (Expect to see Julia Louis-Dreyfus add yet another Emmy nomination and statue for her last run as the former Vice President and President of the United States.)
One thing that Veep season 7 did, which few shows in the their final season accomplish, is push these characters to their peak selves. For some of them that meant discovering what it would take to push them over the edge and out of the Washington orbit. For others it meant realizing they sold their soul to the swamp some time long ago and they better find a way to make it worth it.
And, most importantly, it meant that one character had to get everything they ever wanted and then have to live with what that meant.
The ensemble exists in a very insular world — to a point which makes the reality the show reflects even more terrifying to think about. Everyone runs alongside one another and not just in the swamps of Washington, but abroad as well. There are very few key players, making (but mostly breaking) the world. We aren’t shortchanged with any of them. Somehow, the writers were able to bring the characters new levels without becoming unrecognizable.
The seventh season needed to accomplish a lot, but it was able to lean heavily on the work accomplished in previous seasons. Every decision made by Jonah, every moment of existential crisis (however fleeting) felt by Dan, every twinge of jealousy shown by Gary, and every moment of complacency offered by Kent and Ben, were completely in line with who these people have become over the years.
But there are two very unique relationships at the forefront of the finale. Both had telling moments that revealed two sides of Selina to the audience.
First, her bond with Ben Cafferty. The grit it takes to work, not only in Washington, but with Selina in the thick of the action and backdoor deals flows through whatever size passages are available in Ben’s veins. His heart attack in the finale is not surprising, but the line of dominoes it topples proves to be, as Selina, shockingly, follows Ben to the hospital. She does so not out of concern for his health, but because she is losing her council. Once she is removed from the yelling and deal brokering and the chaos of people running around doing her bidding, Selina is able to take a minute and look at the consequences of her drive for power.
In the same way that her “twin heart attack” with Gary did nothing to change her singular focus, sitting with Ben in his hospital room earns her the final nudge to completely unleash the person who has been slowly crawling their way out over the last few seasons. Ben curtailed most of the dirty work and pumped the brakes on her rash decision-making, but with his blessing, the child locks are off and it’s time for Selina to run free.
Ben was not a sacrifice to the cause. Rather, he was a willing participant and Selina felt next to nothing about turning him over to a life of sponge baths and future cardiac events. So, what did she personally sacrifice? One thing.
It had to be Gary. Unspoken on her side, and overly expressed on his, their relationship is perhaps the only right thing in her life. For Gary, it’s always been a Selina-first approach. While the other yuppies roamed around barking orders and further corrupting the swamps of Washington, Gary made sure she had the dress, the glasses, and the coconut and raisin-free products to deliver the marching orders.
Watching her fumble, just for a second, not being able to ask Gary for the final favor, shows the strongest emotional connection she’s shown for another person the entire run of this series. And it appears to be gone in an instant as she stares out into the crowd of people who are cheering, “New. Selina. Now.” But as she sits in the Oval Office ruling the country as “Old. Selina. Forever.” she calls for Gary as her glasses are unavailable, she doesn’t have a snack, and she could use a reminder of who and what the pressing matters of the day are and if she should actually care.
For every decision and comment made by Selina in this episode — and the preceding 64 — there was never a moment where I had to ask, “Why would she do this?” Instead I asked, “How hasn’t she done this already?”
So when she steps onto the stage, and the balloons finally fall around her at the convention, I realized that the knife she just drove into Gary’s back could not have been done earlier. It was perfectly calculated and timed to perfection, and that is what makes it so satisfying to see Selina win and be completely alone when she does.
The flash forward left Selina lying before a half-filled room of her “closest” acquaintances. Not even her daughter, who celebrated with margaritas, was in attendance. But the series managed to deliver an unexpected gut-punch at the conclusion of the series — Gary’s “You’d hate the flowers, but I brought the Dubonnet,” and laying the lipstick on Selina’s casket.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Tony Hale says, “Our character relationship and our friendship has genuinely been one of the biggest gifts of my career. So I’m really deeply going to miss it, really bad.”
If you miss them already, there exists a treasure trove of extras from the duo in the audiobook of Selina Meyer’s memoir.
While the book might make a great addition to any coffee or side table of your home, the audiobook is the best way to take in the story of Selina Meyer by Selina Meyer. Just as you would expect on the show, Gary is right by Selina’s side as she records the book in one take. Everything, and I mean everything, makes it into the recording — Gary’s commentary, Selina’s realization about what actually made it into the book, a few reviews of Mike’s writing, and, of course, an entire section read by Gary when Selina needed a break.
This is not the first, and certainly not the last, time we will see a book lifted from the screen to the shelves. A train wreck from the start, Selina’s memoir actually hits on the best beats of the show. It is the perfect marriage of many Easter egg moments from the series, including the Meyer-McLintock relationship, the unclear and scandalous history of the Meyer family, and the subtle recognition of Richard Splett’s potential.
In the same vein as Snow Falling, the novel written by Jane Gloriana Villanueva of Jane the Virgin, A Woman First: First Woman, gives fans a taste of the project that was the catalyst for many jokes and revelations in the series.
The final words of the, well, long-winded synopsis paint the perfect picture of what you’re in for:
With wit, wisdom, eloquence, and fearless honesty, Selina Meyer reveals for the first time what really goes on in the halls of power, including the ultimate hall, the White House. It’s all here: the triumphs, the tragedies, the personalities, and the momentous events that have shaped our times, brought together in a page-turning tale told as only Selina Meyer could tell it. Selina Meyer’s compassion, her sense of humor, her grace, and her uncommon willingness to bare her heart make this story revelatory, beautifully rendered, and unlike any other president’s memoir ever written. First Woman: A Woman First would be a fitting title for a book about Selina Meyer, Eleanor Roosevelt, or Amelia Earhart, but in this case, it is about Selina Meyer.
So, if you already miss Tony Hale and Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ onscreen chemistry, give A Woman First: First Woman a listen. It is laugh-out-loud funny and will hit just a little harder now that we have bid farewell to the series.
Other highlights from the Veep finale:
- Tom Hanks’ death overtaking Selina’s funeral coverage.
- Mike McLintock’s ability to fail up and become a staple at CBS news.
- Kent having a favorite number.
- Andrew outliving Selina.
- Jonah Ryan being impeached as Veep.
- Sufe Bradshaw returns!
Stream Veep anytime on HBO Go and order the audiobook of A Woman First: First Woman from Audible today!