The biggest question for Veep going into its sixth season was how the smart, biting political satire could beat the shenanigans currently happening in Washington. But as it always does, Veep finds a way to eschew expectations, reinventing itself in Season 6. The show’s point of view has always been from outsiders — even when Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) was the Vice President, she never had any respect. It’s not like she really deserved any, mind you, but much of the comedy came from how she and her staffers were always shut out of power and prestige. Selina was, briefly, President Meyer (for less than a year, as she and we are constantly reminded in these new episodes), but even then the show found a way to never allow her or her administration to feel at ease or fully in control.
Veep thrives on conflict, anxiety, and being in constant motion. The camera is never still, nor are those in front of it. It illustrates how manic and out of control politics really are, but in Season 6 it explores that in a new way. Selina is now an ex-president, trying desperately to not leave the limelight. Her former staffers are scattered, save for the ever-loyal Gary (Tony Hale) and the loveably inept Richard (Sam Richardson), who remain by her side. Eventually Mike (Matt Walsh) joins in as well, saddled as he has been with three screaming kids at home that he can’t wait to leave behind.
Elsewhere, Ben (Kevin Dunn) joins Kent (Gary Cole) on Jonah’s (Timothy Simons) political team, and they set about early on to try and find him a wife (as you can imagine, the results are horrifying). These shakeups reveal new dimensions for these characters, but they are still never far from Selina’s orbit, especially as she tries to win them over into her new presidential run (a terrible idea that everyone but Selina agrees is terrible).
Veep’s humor is at its best when it comes out a place of desperation, and Season 6 is filled with it. Selina has a new office the South Bronx for “optics” but also because she can’t afford anything else since her long-suffering daughter Catherine (Sarah Sutherland) was given all of the family’s money, which she doles out sparingly and responsibly to her mother through her partner Marjorie (a hilariously humorless Clea DuVall). Dan (Reid Scott) has the on-camera job at CBS he was angling for, but soon finds himself trapped with a terrible co-host, doing menial stories at her behest. Amy’s (Anna Chlumsky) story doesn’t land quite as well, as she’s engaged to the would-be governor of Nevada, running his campaign, and offending everyone around her. But the point to it is, maybe, that this group of sundries don’t really make sense anywhere but with each other.
Per usual, Veep has a keen eye to the absurdity and vanity of politics, where Selina keeps adding onto her foundation’s name as she needs to for press (adult literacy, then adult literacy and AIDS, etc), leaning into issues de jour as she lobbies support for her presidential library. But most of all, the new season shows how insular D.C. is, and how even when one is just tangential to it, you can never really escape its junior high school drama nightmare. And yet, it’s exactly what these characters are drawn to in order to find their versions of validation, and to create that nebulous idea of legacy.
For longtime fans, there are a lot of changes to the sets and locations and situations for the core group (with one great addition: more physical humor), but the series’ touchstones remain the same. It’s still exceptionally foul-mouthed and creative in finding new ways to insult and tear down its leads, but there are also small moments of triumph — not many, but just enough to cut some of the darkness. Veep has always walked a very delicate line when it comes to its acidic style of storytelling, yet it always finds a way to make us laugh, no matter how uncomfortable it gets. There’s a lesson there, maybe, about the healing power of humor — while still never letting those in power off the hook for their sins.
Rating: ★★★★★ Excellent, and still relevant in all of the right ways
Veep Season 6 premieres Sunday, April 16th on HBO.