That Final Joke in Veep: Why It Resonated and What It Might Mean

The show spent years displaying the selfishness, ego, and ignorance of our nation’s fictionalized leaders, only to seemingly pull back in its final moments.

Spoilers ahead for the series finale of Veep….and the whole rest of the show

Veep ended Sunday night, wrapping up its seven-season run with a bang. Most of the episode revolved around the national convention of Selina Meyer’s (unnamed) political party, showing the extreme depths to which the show’s anti-heroine was willing to stoop, but it ended with a couple of surprising time jumps. The first took us from her nomination to her presidency, where Selina is surrounded by the “incompetence” she has always proclaimed over her staff, but none of the friends we watched her make over the years, as she has driven them all to hospitals, other careers, or, most tragically, prison.

The next time jump takes us 24 years into the future, to the funeral of Selina Meyer. After some funny and poignant moments catching up with the rest of the cast, aged by makeup, the scene cuts to a newscast by our own Mike McLintock. Mike starts to give a personal eulogy for Selina, when he is interrupted by the breaking news of another death—beloved actor Tom Hanks. And Selina is forgotten.

It’s a hilarious moment, but also a thought-provoking one. What point are the Veep writers making with this ending?

A Flash in the Pan

The decision to end with a time jump and a funeral in the first place is an interesting one, and it really serves to put into perspective Selina’s life and career. All the unspeakable things she did (and said) in her attempts to hold on to power are a flash in the pan of history. It’s a tragic way to end the series.

It’s also quite shocking. The show spent years displaying the selfishness, ego, and ignorance of our nation’s fictionalized leaders, only to seemingly pull back in the final moments and show how very unimportant Selina Meyer ultimately was in the grand scheme of things. In the show, as in real life, both are ultimately true and it doesn’t have to be either-or; yes, world leaders have too much power and wield it carelessly, causing real damage to our planet and its people, but power changes hands, regimes fade, and things continue. The system may be broken, but the world keeps spinning.

Although it would have made for an incredible alternate ending if Selina somehow caused armageddon.

Upstaged, Even in Death

The show’s tail end, its final joke with Tom Hanks, makes another point, aside from being a clever callback. Not only is Selina a blip in the history books, but she’s forgotten in favor of the death of an actor—someone who, on paper, is less important than her. This may simply be a joke about the attention span of Americans, who care so much more about entertainers than politicians, but something deeper, and slightly meta, may also be going on here. The show itself was not created by politicians after all, but by artists—entertainers like Tom Hanks. In its final moments, Veep is saying, “Guess what? Actors are as important as world leaders, maybe even more so.” If Selina’s legacy is less important than the way she treated people, then isn’t someone like Tom Hanks, who spent his career bringing people joy, worth remembering more than a monster like Selina Meyer?

It’s a point in favor of kindness, which the show has actually always had on its mind. As hilariously cruel as almost all of the characters have consistently been to each other, the underlying message the entire time was to show the folly of their ways. And though Selina Meyer may have faded quickly, Veep and its memorably despicable yet strangely lovable characters will not soon be forgotten.

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