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'Veep' finale goes extra mile to trump current news cycle

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By Brian Lowry, CNN

The following contains spoilers about the "Veep" series finale.

"Veep" earned a reputation for its uncanny ability to anticipate the news, dreaming up fantastic plots that somehow seemed to magically be mirrored by reality. After a closing flurry of episodes that consciously leaned into current events, the show closed at its most cynical and acerbic in an effort to trump them, zeroing in on its protagonist's utter ruthlessness in the pursuit of power.

The Emmy-winning HBO comedy aired its finale on Sunday, after a build-up in which former president and current presidential candidate Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) accepted help from the Chinese government, which reached out to her through the most unwitting of third parties.

The final episode picked up at a deadlocked, brokered convention, where Selina demonstrated her complete lack of principle. That included using the #MeToo movement to torpedo a rival, and throwing everyone close to her -- including her trusted aide Gary (Tony Hale) and own daughter (Sarah Sutherland) -- under the bus in her bid to retake the White House.

Written and directed by David Mandel, the episode seemed particularly true to a character whose commitment to winning has always overwhelmed any pretense of morality -- certainly in her private, hilariously foul-mouthed exchanges with her various minions.

The idea that the show could last seven seasons without designating Seliina's political party always felt a little too precious, but in the end, as the finale made clear, it was because there was no position she wouldn't abandon, no constituency she wouldn't betray.

"Why is this so hard? I just want to be president," she groused at one point, later describing the party platform as "a to-do list of things we're not gonna do."

Nothing summed up Selina's whatever-it-takes attitude more than her decision to choose the totally unhinged Jonah (Timothy C. Simons) as her vice president, overruling the pleas of everyone around her not to put such a loose cannon within proximity of the Oval Office.

Selina's closing scene -- a showcase for Louis-Dreyfus, as a sense of melancholy fleetingly crept across her face -- exhibited the smallest touch of regret, but was quickly shunted aside by a 24-year flashforward to her death. That felt a trifle tacked-on at first, until the brilliant final twist, which underscored something else "Veep" has reveled in from the beginning: the indignities endured by those in these positions, thanks to forces and events which they're unable to control.

In this case, it was Selina's legacy -- her CBS News obituary -- being abruptly shoved aside to make room for a bigger name: Beloved actor Tom Hanks, dead at 88.

Overall, the episode wasn't a perfect finish, but it felt completely in keeping with the concepts and values -- or specifically, the lack of the latter -- that "Veep" has wallowed in throughout its Emmy-winning run.

Granted, the series has always enjoyed a level of cachet among award voters and political power brokers that far exceeds its popular appeal, which was perfectly fine for HBO's purposes.

For those who have followed Selina's arc, the last episode felt not only like a fitting encapsulation of the show's roots, but very much tailored to the craziness of the current moment. While truth has at times seemed stranger than the show's fiction, "Veep" successfully conjured a wrap-up whose chaotic zaniness even this news cycle, hopefully, will be hard-pressed to match.

(HBO and CNN share parent company WarnerMedia.)