By Prthvir Solanki May. 16, 2019
Last Monday, as King’s Landing turned into a literal metaphor of the dropping writing standards in the Game of Thrones team, Veep delivered a spectacular series finale. It hit the right emotional beats, delivered a scathing critique of modern-day American politics, and tied its seven-season long storyline to a logical end – all while being laugh out loud hilarious.
The last few Mondays have been a little bit of a stress. We wake up early morning to watch, along with the rest of the world, our beloved Game of Thrones be butchered live on our video-streaming devices. We watch with fear as each episode cements the realisation that the magic the show promises isn’t in the dragons or in Bran’s ability to warg or any such thing, but in the instantly vanishing character arcs and over-exaggerated theatrics. With a swish and a flick, Game of Thrones changed faces, lost its charm and character, and became “no-one”.
Of course, the technical faults the show now seems bent on displaying week after week are legitimate reasons for our collective disappointment in the show’s final season, but more than that we fear that we’re leaving behind a show that’s stripping itself of any nostalgia it may have bottled up inside of us all these years. We have already begun to forget Game of Thrones, and that is the existential dread we face every Monday morning when we see absurd plotline after plotline jump through gaping plothole after plothole.
It’s a funny thing about memory and art that will be remembered. It’s the loudest, of course, that stretches across pages of history books, but sometimes it is through sheer quality that certain things endure.
This week, quietly slipping through the cracks and gently exiting our screens was arguably the most incisive political satire our generation has seen, and inarguably the greatest resource for creative use of swear language any generation has ever seen – Veep.
As political satires go, Veep pressed the point that politics isn’t the scheming and plotting that so many of us believe it to be. It’s a field full of dunderheads like you and I, tripping and stumbling their way in and out of power. It was a critique on the image of politicians and the auras they shine, bringing them down to the Earth and laying bare the worst parts of politics. Veep was often terrifying, but not because of a man in power rubbing his hands together and deviously laughing, but because these were characters we could actually relate to.
Last Monday, as King’s Landing turned into a literal metaphor of the dropping writing standards in the Game of Thrones team, Veep delivered a spectacular series finale. It hit the right emotional beats, delivered a scathing, searing critique of modern-day American politics, brought out the best from its team of phenomenal actors, and tied its seven-season long storyline to a logical end – all while being laugh out loud hilarious.
Veep did not distinguish between Politician and People, but it did distinguish between those with power and those without.
Despite having the legendary Julia-Louis Dreyfus (in what was by far the most exciting role on television in the past decade) front and centre, Veep was never the cultural juggernaut the way a lot of other HBO shows are, nor did it seem like that was its aim. If Game of Thrones was the cultural landmark of the 2010s, Veep was the political and linguistic one, something literature could pick up and even teach as an entirely separate course.
At the core of Veep’s narrative was language. Created by Armando Iannuci (who adapted it from his own British original The Thick of It), there existed a certain joy in the language that characters spoke to each other with; a flair and flourish that looked more like a dance than a talkie. Veep is a show written almost entirely as insult comedy, but each jibe somehow managed to take the narrative forward. Each character had their own manner of abuse, which matured or collapsed specific to certain events that unfolded on the show.
And in that lay the show’s genius. Films and shows about politics before Veep seemed to project an image of The Politician as a figure separate from The People. Even if they attempted to portray a “human side” to the politician, the character’s humanity was seen as “vulnerability” only for the purpose of furthering the idea of the politician’s characterisation of power – that he/she was human only made him/her less so. Be it West Wing, House of Cards, and even the politicking of Game of Thrones, the Politician or the Leader is assigned that role and the narrative of the show revolves around fitting into those shoes. And the snugger the fit, the farther away from humanity you stray.
Veep did not distinguish between Politician and People, but it did distinguish between those with power and those without. Each relationship on the show was explicitly dictated by power – man and woman, superior and inferior, president and vice president, white and black. Relationships between characters changed because of a change in power dynamic, but the characters remained firmly rooted in a reality recognisable to us.
Over and above all of this, Veep was also an indictment of democracy as a system of governance. It didn’t offer up any alternatives or solutions, but it made you aware of the fact that the system is broken, not damaged externally but is so by design. And it’s amazing that a show slamming democracy and unpacking what it means to be a woman in power was also as hilarious as it was.
In the year 2019 when politics is constantly challenging actual satire, Veep stood out because it wasn’t really making fun of politics. It was showing you exactly what it is – plain, simple, and absolutely stupid. It has all the drama of regular office politics, but what makes it stressful is the stakes. You not liking your co-worker may lead to a poor appraisal, but in politics something like that could lead to a drone strike in Iraq. The language of communication though is the same.
Despite Game of Thrones taking over pop-culture landscapes this week, we must pay our respects to Veep. A show like no other, and a show that may not have an equal, but more importantly a show of its time. One that may have been seen as a little too cynical if put out earlier, but pitch and tone-perfect for our fairly half-witted generation. I mean, few shows can compare democracy to anal sex and have the Vice President of the United States say “I’ve tried them both, and they’re way overrated.”