Even though her acumen is rising, Selina keeps her circle of trust as tight as ever, shunning those that have done her wrong in the past, like walking political poison Bill Ericsson (Diedrich Bader), who is as welcome to the White House “as a swastika shaped shit in a synagogue.” Lines like that jitter and electrify the opening hours of Veep season 5 with gags and visual references that are far too numerous to catch in one go (which makes it the perfect partner in crime to the similarly themed, similarly spoof-y Silicon Valley).
Despite all of these political wheels in motion, the show never feels overstuffed or crowded because everyone has a nifty niche of their own in the land of Veep. Even side characters like numbers whiz Kent (Gary Cole) and perpetually stoic Sue (Sufe Bradshaw) have a humorous tangent centering around Sue’s mysterious, and perhaps supernatural, tenure in the White House. It goes to show how absolutely packed to the Oval Office’s ceiling Veep‘s brilliant cast is when one of its biggest names, actual Vice President Tom (Hugh Laurie), gets sidelined as the newly appointed, and entirely ineffectual “Economy Czar.”
Still, the show’s winning formula had a crucial ingredient in Iannucci’s penchant for absolutely unapologetic vulgarness, and Mandel has replicated his predecessor’s recipe with airtight precision. Selina describes her ailing mother in a middle-season episode with forlorn disdain and negativity, telling her weeping daughter Catherine (Sarah Sutherland) that “Thomas fucking Kinkade couldn’t paint Meemaw in a positive light.” Quick digs later target the Queen of England and Eleanor Roosevelt (whom Amy pontificates over whether she simply either “ate pussy,” or just “finger-banged her way down Pennsylvania Avenue”).
The honesty might be misplaced (Amy apologizes to a homegrown Nevada councilman about those Roosevelt comments, before adding to the fire), but it feels all-too-true to the intensely stressful situations they emerge from. It’s also not Veep‘s sole weapon of intriguing comedic devastation, with little threads built up in the first four episodes that promise entirely expected meltdowns by the time the season is done. Those Chinese hackers are one, another more immediately tangible punchline gag is a school project documentary that Catherine intends to create surrounding the lack of historical precedence in her mom’s tie in the Electoral College. Selina is, expectedly, not as excited about someone recording every nook and cranny of her work life, and “Catherine, out” quickly becomes Veep season five’s unofficial catchphrase.
If the vulgarity rules the kingdom of Veep, Louis-Dreyfus is the only queen I want on its throne. She’s still milking each and every exasperated “fuck” out of all possible moments, which usually coalesces out of her staff’s massive blunders, but it’s the bipolar switching between public-facing President vs. private-facing slouch that makes Selina a marvel. She’s cartoonish and at times a straight-up villain (especially in episode 4), but the writers keep her believably flummoxed, and repeatedly ground her stratospheric vanity, making Veep a joy to watch on a character level instead of a purely, vacuous comedic one.
And that’s all without mentioning an entirely welcome new role for Jonah’s former patsy Richard (Sam Richardson), the introduction of Selina’s new body double (Clea Duvall), and a subplot about the foreign adoption of a baby by Mike (Matt Walsh) and Wendy (Kathy Najimy) getting waylaid by the Meyer administration’s shortsighted sanctions against China, all built as a front for Selina’s accidental tweet.
If it sounds exhausting, it can be, but only momentarily. The show, now maybe more than ever, is constructed as a simple reason to get a bunch of funny people in a room and shoot rat-a-tat barbs at one another for thirty minutes at a time. The political satire, the write-that-one-down cursing, and the myriad, exceptional cast are just icing on the cake. If you were worried for Veep – over the showrunner change, over a creative painted-into-a-corner scenario, over anything – you can stop now. In a TV landscape drowning in Washington, D.C. dramas, ranging from the satirical to the soapy to the cut-throat, Veep is still very much the un-P.C. V.I.P.
Dizzily paced and frequently, ridiculously funny, Veep embraces the cartoonish nature of our own political world in season 5 and siphons it into a precisely cast, curse-filled comedy anchored by what is essentially a flawless central performance.