Veep's winning formula of making Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) fail, stumble and crumble while wearing a stupid grin has made her one of TV's best characters on one of TV 's best shows. Of course, most of her plights were connected to her post in the White House -- a place she no longer works after her crushing defeat in the presidential election at the end of Season 5. Now, as Season 6 begins, everything she's worked for is gone and along with it, Veep's driving premise. What now?
Well, she flounders. As Season 6 opens, Selina is on CBS This Morning with her former underling Dan (Reid Scott) trying to mask her brokenness with the demented fortitude Julia-Louis Dreyfus plays with sheer perfection. Stripped of power or even purpose, Selina blathers on about a foundation she's trying to start, which sounds laughably half-baked. It sounds like a cheap distraction from an ethical/financial scandal that keeps popping up in early episodes sent to press, hinting at a big disaster down the road. And her slapdash-sounding plans also signal that Selina has absolutely no idea what she's doing next -- a risky move for the series.
Technically, she's fundraising. But without any goal as big as the presidency to lose, Selina is ultimately just...Beltway roadkill. This daring, diminished set of stakes very well could've weakened the series and yet, judging by the three episodes sent to press, her fuzzy future is still funny -- a testament to the show's writing, Dreyfus' comedic ability and Veep's confidence that wherever she goes we will follow like some army of 10,000 Garys (Tony Hale).
Speaking of Gary, he's still by her side, of course, as is Richard (Sam Richardson). As for the rest of her cohorts, Ben (Kevin Dunn) is at Uber, being woefully out of place alongside millennials; Mike (Matt Walsh) is a stay-at-home dad; Amy (Anna Chlumsky) is engaged to Buddy Calhoun (Matt Oberg) and managing his campaign and Jonah (Timothy C. Simons) is serving the people of New Hampshire (ha!) in Congress. Disparate though their paths are, they never really left one another, obviously, and when Selina reveals her next new grand ambition (I won't spoil it for you but it's not hard to guess), it's quickly shot down. She's rudderless once more.
Her purgatory doesn't last long. A clear objective -- she wants a library -- emerges by the second episode and the pursuit of that, as well as donations for her increasingly convoluted foundation, become the yellow brick road for a new adventure full of shady and kooky characters. Her attempt to get a library at her alma mater Smith College, for example, descends into a sh--show that comes to involve protests from students and shamelessly propositioning the (female) president. As always, Selina's ethical and moral boundaries remain shaky at best, and as she desperately scoops up change wherever loopholes allow, we get more of the same Selina in the best possible way.
Still, her ambitions feel more like the effect of life pinballing her around, rather than real true norths. The ambiguity is inviting, at least now, thanks in part to Veep's unfailingly great writing. Whether Selina's (comparative) aimlessness takes Veep somewhere unlikable as the season progresses, we'll have to wait and see.
Veep has always had a knack for being eerily close to reality, especially when Selina's attempt to become Madame President in Season 5 evaporated before her eyes just months before....well, you know. Today, nothing is truer to the real political climate than burning everything we understood to be fixed down, and then pushing our heroine forward to stumble around in the dark smoke until she figures out what to do. Lucky for us, it's pretty funny too.
Veep Season 6 premieres Sunday April 16 at 10:30 on HBO.