It’s perfectly counterintuitive that “Veep” ended on a tearjerker. The finale was the show at its best, a head-spinning rush of unthinkable depravity. Final season be dashed: with those last 48 minutes, “Veep” went out at its peak.
In an era when even comedians question the value of comedy, tempering their acts to appease breathless Oberlin grads, “Veep” proved the enduring value of sharp edges. Rather than trample this legacy, the finale cemented it. For the better part of a decade, “Veep” resisted the temptation to turn its antiheroes into heroes, remaining brilliantly defiant until the bitter end. (When it’s often most difficult.)
That’s why Gary’s final moment matters. Of the precious few sympathetic characters “Veep” introduced, Gary, for all his faults, was the most important. He was the ever-present, selfless foil to Selina’s defining self-absorption. His destiny—as revealed in Sunday’s finale—illuminated that contrast poignantly. I was as shocked as anyone to find tears in my eyes at the end of “Veep,” but that’s why it was perfect. Gary’s final scene was emotional because everything else wasn’t, because his undying loyalty and selflessness stood out glaringly in the Washington of “Veep.”
In pushing the limits of human ugliness to their comical worst, more brave an endeavor today than at the show’s premiere, “Veep” was downright trenchant when it flirted with reality. That was true in the era of Obama, and it’s true in the era of Trump.
People in DC rightly say “Veep” is more accurate a depiction of the city than “House of Cards,” or “The West Wing.” They don’t just mean it gets the wardrobes right, they’re talking about the people here. If that needed explaining under the previous president, it seems much more obvious now—and it’s an effect much larger than this particular president. Both parties deserve the credit for exposing the desperation and incompetence rampant in their establishments. (You’ll note “Veep” never really chose a team, likely for this reason, a superior approach foreign to the rest of Hollywood.)
In some ways, this exposition has been healthy. Of course, it would have been a lot healthier if we could have just watched it play out on “Veep.” Then again, the best satire is the most in touch with reality, meaning one must exist in order to have the other.
Still, there are no real-life Selina Meyers. There are people who come close, but to its credit, “Veep” succeeded in making her utterly and impossibly irredeemable. Where does that leave Gary? He, too, is a cartoonish version of some Washington stereotype, the slavish bodyman more dedicated to his boss than himself.
It’s in the contrast that “Veep” made its point, pushing the characters to their outlandish extremes, occasionally brushing up against reality, giving us a seven-year break from all the pretense. That took guts.