Less than 24 hours after Jeb Bush made official his run for the presidency, the presidential election in the season finale of Veep came to an end on Sunday night… sort of. In a political and comic cliffhanger, Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s President Selina Meyer saw her lead against opponent Bill O’Brien (Friday Night Lights’s Brad Leland) shrink, resulting in a tie that will have to be resolved next season.
Could such a thing happen in real life? Certainly. Would the White House be caught as flatfooted and scrambling as President Meyers’s was? It’s a measure of how good Veep is that the situation room in the White House became a panic room with such convincing credibility. Searching for the rules when the Electoral College is deadlocked, staffers jabbed at their iPhones and you could hear Bill Ericsson wail that he wished someone had “a book” with “real pages” that might more quickly provide an answer to this crisis question.
Veep has had an uneven season. The slow alienation and defection of one of the show’s greatest assets, Anna Chlumsky’s Amy Brookheimer, didn’t yield redeeming hilarity, and I never thought the character of Richard Splett, the dim, overly enthusiastic campaign aide who became Jonah Ryan’s sidekick, was drawn vividly enough to yield sufficient laughs. But the finale — the swan song of Veep creator Armando Iannucci — was exceptionally well-executed. Every staffer got a few golden moments to amuse us.
Louis-Dreyfus’s performance, as usual, was astonishingly good: She played out every emotion — anger, resignation, confusion — with a combination of go-for-broke ferocity and delicate subtlety. Plus, Hugh Laurie’s veep Tom James — who could become president next season on a technicality — has proven a valuable addition. Heed Veep, Hillary, Jeb, and all you other presidential hopefuls. If you don’t watch it, you could get tangled in a mess as ridiculously intense as President Meyers’s was.