“Don’t know yet,” Dan says.
“Which is better for me?”
“White guy,” Kent chimes in.
“Fingers crossed,” Selina says.
It’s an exchange with a profoundly uncomfortable amount of relevance to the present moment—a scene whose casualness chafes against the very real truths that lurk beyond the comfortable confines of the television screen. (It will be followed up by another one, in which Dan explains that Selina’s body man, Gary, is late delivering the smoothie she has been craving because of a shooting at a Home Depot that led law enforcement to shut down the interstate. “Ugh, Jesus, Mary, and Jamba Juice, I really wanted that smoothie,” Selina replies.)
One of the darkest jokes in Veep’s satire is a structural one: how often “the American people” are talked about by these consummate Washington power players, and how rarely those people actually become part of the show’s action. Here is politics as pageant, and as sport, and as gamesmanship; almost never, however, is politics portrayed in the way most members of the American public actually experience it: as a matter of life and death. Politics, instead, in this cold environment, is notional. It is theoretical. It is the stuff of thoughts and prayers. In Veep’s fifth season, the congressional candidate Judy Sherman—she is seeking the seat the death of her husband, Harry, left vacant—publicly acknowledges that “guns can be dangerous.” Stating reality with such little apology angers the NRA and thus helps to crush the widow’s campaign.
In the new season, the idea is further sharpened. “Leon!” Selina shouts to her comms man. “I need a statement! Spokane.”
“Standard ‘thoughts and prayers’?” he asks.
“Bull’s-eye,” she replies, failing to see the sad irony.
Later, a Wall Street Journal reporter asks during a press gaggle, “Madam President, how do you respond to people sick and tired of politicians offering nothing but thoughts and prayers when it comes to mass shootings?”
The candidate who has spent much of the episode trying to answer the question of why she wants to run for president in the first place also lacks a reply to this extremely predictable query. “Um. Well. Uh,” Selina stammers. “My heart goes out to the families of the victims. And I want to offer them my, uh—mindfulness? And, uh, meditations unto the Lord on their behalf.”
The exchange serves as an indictment not just of Selina Meyer, but also of a political status quo that so often seems unable to see beyond—and to think beyond, and to act beyond—the rote familiarity of thoughts and prayers. Veep, on its surface, satirizes Washington; at its best, though, it stretches to accuse an entire political infrastructure of the kind of apathy that can culminate in tragedy. The day Veep’s new season premiered brought another American shooting: On Sunday, the rapper and entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle was murdered outside Marathon Clothing, the store he owned in L.A. There were two other victims of the shooting, as yet anonymous, their prognoses not yet known. No suspects have been named. But thoughts and prayers have been offered.