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Veep’s Overshadowed Series Finale Was the Superior Tragedy of Blind Ambition

Most HBO viewers have been too preoccupied with their obsessive disappointment in the final season of Game of Thrones, to discuss last Sunday’s Veep series finale, which brought the biting political satire to a fitting, bittersweet end.  Taking the Machiavellian ruthlessness of House of Cards and throwing in the mockumentary-style absurdity of The Office to satirize the political rat race and the shameless, unscrupulous, often undignified things politicians are willing to do for power, Veep’s final season solidified its legacy as the truest reflection of this era of modern politics – and does so without the blood and bombast of HBO’s flashier series about the idiosyncrasies of fighting for political power.

There is a poignant comparison to draw between Selina’s bittersweet rise to victory in the Veep series finale to that of Daenerys Targaryen, who has made a controversial transition into war crime-committing Mad Queen.

While the first six seasons seemed to poke fun at Hillary Clinton (back when we all believed she would become the president), the seventh and final season was much more blatant in its mockery of the Trump Administration, proving that truth can be stranger than fiction. Storylines included Selina colluding with the Chinese to help her get ahead in the presidential election, sexual harassment scandals, and the former VP liaison and oafish man-child Jonah Ryan running for president. As one would expect, Julia Louis-Dreyfus capped off her career’s greatest performance as the narcissistic vice president Selina Meyer with excellent work in all these story lines, a role that’s earned her six consecutive Primetime Emmy Awards during the show’s run.

veep series finale

Not surprisingly, Jonah cultivates a large following of supporters, despite having no qualifications and a vulgar, bigoted personality. Selina’s unappreciated former Chief-of-Staff Amy becomes Jonah’s campaign manager and makes an overnight transformation into Kellyanne Conway. Most importantly, Selina goes through such desperate measures to insure her presidency, not only through collusion, but through firing and even framing trusted employees, having her ex-husband blown up at sea, and agreeing to ban gay marriage in order to gain an endorsement from a (closeted) Christian conservative.

The show cuts forward to Selina having successfully become the first woman president with Jonah Ryan as her new ‘veep.’ This decision has forced the remainder of her original staff to leave due to their series-long hatred of Jonah. Through the hustle and bustle of Selina’s new responsibilities as the most powerful person in the world, there is an incredibly poignant shot in the Oval Office. Selina shoos off her new staff and is sitting all alone at her large desk.

There is a sadness in her eyes that shows not only that heavy is the head that wears the crown, but that there is no true victory when you are alone. by the end of the series finale, Selina has sacrificed her morals (if she ever had any to begin with) and betrayed any loyalty to join forces with unlikable, untrustworthy, and undeserving people not too different than herself. Her daughter Catherine refuses to ever speak to her again after she makes it impossible for Catherine and her partner Marjorie to ever get legally married. Selina is truly all alone at the top.

Game of Thrones The Bells

There is a poignant comparison to draw between Selina’s bittersweet rise to victory in the Veep series finale, to that of Daenerys Targaryen, who has made a controversial transition into the war crime-committing Mad Queen. Whether or not she makes it through the upcoming finale alive, she has come exceptionally close to the Iron Throne at the cost of thousands of innocent lives, allies, and her reputation as the beloved Breaker of Chains. While Selina never had a particularly good reputation (and certainly didn’t care about the lives of many others), she cared about her public persona and heavily relied on her staff.

Both women let pride and ambition blind them, and now they sit alone on their respective thrones. Daenerys rules the ashes of the city she destroyed, and Selina leads among the ashes of the bridges she has burned.

This archetypal character has been ever-present in storytelling ranging from Macbeth to Walter White. Lust for power has always been a key element to tragedy – and on Veep, made for a compelling conclusion, giving a touch of depth to the show’s signature farcical style, while still maintaining the distinct, black comedic tone it built its legacy on. Though Game of Thrones‘ cynical depiction of the fight for political power may garner more attention and dissemination over time, Veep captures nuance and perspective in its reflection of our equally dour political climate – and, as with the most poignant of absurd tragedies, leaves you with the feeling that there’s nothing you can do but laugh.

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