Veep: Detroit, review

Veep’s Selina Meyer picks a fight with 100 million jumpy people with guns.

HBO’s Veep episode, “Detroit” takes Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) to Detroit to deliver a campaign-making jobs announcement. She gets caught in the mire of international politics when the president of a country where people fuck snow drops a gun quote on an independent journalist and Selina Meyer’s daughter saves the day. Just another day in the world politic.

Veep blasts the Beltway like a true insider, yet it’s written by a bunch of foreigners. Brits, coming here taking jobs when America is pulling itself out of an economic hole exacerbated by cheap outsourcing. But there is nothing cheap about Veep, except the shots. This isn’t just a case of outsiders seeing U.S. politics for what it is, these political punsters popped holes in their own Parliament in The Thick of It. They are veterans and Veep is on its way to satirical history the way Aaron Sorkin ruled the scene for decades. “Detroit” isn’t even the best episode of the season. It might not be the best episode of the week.

This week’s problems, well, some problems, come from the ex-Prime Minster of Finland Minna Häkkinen  (Sally Phillips) , the outsider. Not used to American politics, she can give a double whammy to the vice president with the absolute best intentions. Dreyfus and Phillips have a tasty chemistry. Vinegar tits (my favorite “nickname” from Thick of It) and oily charm make for a spicy salad dressing. They seem to be moving forward while quickly backing up. They size each other up as they try not to look too close. Dreyfus hits paranoiac peaks and barely registers that she’s doing it. Phillips plays Minna as a self-conscious human being. That doesn’t work in American politics. Minna hobbles Selina’s momentum by screwing with jobs and guns, two very heated issues. Both loaded with real dangers.

It’s Selina’s daughter Catherine (Sarah Sutherland) who winds up saving the day by doing exactly what comes naturally to her: Exactly the opposite of what she thinks she is. She could have sworn she wasn’t a violent person, but there she is breaking a guy’s nose. She hates being a poster-child for rednecks and here she is an instant hero among them for punching Lady Liberty dead in the face. Veep finds the way to corrupt her very being.

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Veep is going to be a dysfunctional family show as Selina’s husband Andrew (David Pasquesi) and daughter Catherine (Sarah Sutherland) come on board. I like how the Veep writers always find a specific point of contention and push it as a final solution. Selina can’t stand having her husband around, she can barely stomach looking at his tie. She’s fucking her wellness guy, played by an arrogantly new agey Chris Meloni, though that secret got out pretty fast, and family time is complicated anyway. Catherine hates everything she is being asked to do and winds up guaranteeing that she’ll never stop doing it. Whatever it is that the characters hate doing most is what they’re stuck with. Politics is hell. Of course the family is going to come on board the campaign trail. It’s the last place any of them should be.

Amy Brookheimer (Anna Chlumsky) tells Ben Cafferty (Kevin Dunn) that she thinks she’s built up a friendship with the vice president. She tells the Vice President that, based on an hourly contingency, Selina is her best friend. Broad-shouldered Chlumsky plays Amy like she’s waiting for an execution. Her eyes are always tense and wary. You see Chlumsky searching every line someone is saying for what it really means because she knows it means doom somehow. Gary Walsh (Tony Hale) is forever blindsided. Everyone is powerless to do or say anything because Selina’s megalomania sucks every molecule of rebellious oxygen from her sycophantic crew.

Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh) gets sadder and sadder. He shows that he knows everything that’s going wrong just like he telegraphs that he really isn’t in any position, or in any mood, to do anything about it. He barely wants to pay attention. Dan Egan (Reid Scott) is a bullshit bulldozer. But he is self-bullied by how he sees Ben, a man who can write sound bites that make police horses cry. Watching Dan implode never gets old. At the job fair, he looks like he’s going to sever the top of his head with his clipboard.

Kent Davison (Gary Cole) was positively jubilant tonight, not just that fake exuberance he gets from manipulating numbers. And not just because we can see, in his head, that he actually worked well on a team with Sue (Sufe Bradshaw).   Jonah (Timothy Simons) is actually becoming a political player, in that he can ruin a play. He leaks the “too many guns” quote and helps George Maddox (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) hijack a photo-op handshake.

“Detroit” may not deliver any real solutions to the job or gun problems, but it shows that there won’t be any solutions coming from Washington any time soon. The more important an issue, the more people are divided by it and politicians hate circumnavigating those murky waters. It makes things so hard to talk around. Compromise is so much easier when it’s personal. Veep keeps all the worst promises all the lies embargoed.

“Detroit” was written by Kevin Cecil & David Quantick & Andy Riley and directed by Tim Kirkby. 

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4 out of 5