B+
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, and Sarah Sutherland
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, and Sarah Sutherland

Veep: “Detroit”

Selina contends with a Big Bad Wilf

Veep is back on the campaign trail this week, with Selina forced to tackle yet another difficult issue: guns. There’s a clear connection between this week’s episode and “The Choice,” which saw Selina crafting as non-committal a statement as possible on the hot-button topic of abortion, a fact not lost on the writers or characters. In “The Choice,” our leads needed to decide upon Selina’s public stance on abortion. “Detroit” keeps things fresh by focusing not on Selina’s position on guns, but the campaign’s desperate attempts to keep the Vice President’s head above water as her trip to a jobs summit goes from bad to worse.

Leading the team is new campaign manager Dan, who is already enjoying his freedom to berate Mike whenever possible. Dan has a tough day, with Selina’s new trainer/chew toy Ray (the entertaining and very game Chris Meloni) making more of a contribution than he does: A few more trips like this and Dan may well be out of a job. Dan’s promotion winds up being a blessing for Anna Chlumsky, if not Amy. Chlumsky is all over this episode, while Dan spends far more of his time offscreen, on the phone. Amy’s dynamic with Selina is explored, but her most successful moments come from her pairing with Gary. We rarely see her spend much one-on-one time with Gary, whose shoulder seems to be on the mend, and this makes for a nice change of pace. The running gag of Amy’s stress and tension is fun, particularly her reactions to the rest of the cast. Chlumsky has a great, tense laugh, and unsurprisingly, we learn this week that—forget hugs—Amy’s not even a toucher. Her face upon realizing her boss may be her best friend is priceless, as is Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ quasi-grimace as she overshares about her new relationship, and her response to Dan’s late episode attempt to pass the buck, “Amy said nothing,” is the most relaxed we see her all episode, at least until her massage.

The ensemble shines this week, as ever, and new addition Chris Meloni is a natural fit within the group. He may be a figure of ridicule (made clear by his musical taste, if “Muscle Mary don’t not understand smart guy world, huh?” left any doubts), but he does have one bright idea, the gun show. And at the very least, he is good at his actual job, helping relieve Selina, Gary, and eventually Amy of some of their pain and tension. More memorable are the returns of Catherine and Minna Häkkinen. Catherine’s contentious relationship with her mother remains a reliable source of comedy for the series (Happy Mother’s Day, by the way), and Häkkinen’s well-intentioned screw-ups propel most of the action. Sally Phillips is fantastic as the Finnish wolf, giving impossibly straight readings despite her often ridiculous dialogue and heightened, to say the very least, accent work. The contrast of Häkkinen, the honest and enthusiastic Finn, to any of our jaded leads is striking. Also great is Sarah Sutherland as Catherine, her instinctual punch leading to one of the episode’s best exchanges, as Selina congratulates her daughter for her newly discovered skill for violence.

Not every aspect of the episode is wholly successful, however. The scoring is lively and gives greater energy to sequences like the attack on Selina and Sue and Kent’s handling of yet another logistical nightmare, but the latter doesn’t quite come together. Sue (make that Susan) and Kent may be locked in the middle of some bizarre mating ritual (it’s nice to hear the others comment on this), but their scenes working out the logistics for Selina’s impromptu trip are overly sedate. There’s never a question as to whether Selina will make it to where she needs to be. Kent and Sue may like a bit of logistical foreplay, but there’s little build to their scenes, making Kent’s eventual relief at pulling everything off far less potent than it could have been with tighter editing and more fluid camera work. Despite this nitpick, “Detroit” is another excellent, laugh out loud funny episode that keeps Veep’s fantastic season three going strong.

Stray observations:

  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ line reading of the week has to be the hilariously venom-filled, “She was a vicious bitch and a fucking drunk.” She’s been an absolute delight this season and is surely a lock for another Emmy nomination, if not win.
  • Aside from the campaign, the biggest shift this season is the increased role of Kevin Dunn’s Ben. He’s on the team, so he’s on hand, but he’s distinctly less fallible than those around him, staying out of the interpersonal politics. He’s a confidante for Selina (and the closest thing she has to a peer), a voice of reason, and an audience surrogate, and having this character around to fill these storytelling roles has been tremendously helpful.
  • Mike gets some great moments this week, particularly his Queensbury rules parley with Jonah, his terrible Marimba America idea, and his utterly reasonable, “Jonah had a good idea. We never planned for that.”
  • Notably, both Joe Thornhill and Diedrich Bader’s Bill Erickson are nowhere to be found this week, as is Danny Chung. Does the show’s continuing focus on Maddox mean he’s not long for the campaign, or is he the frontrunner?
  • The line of the night is an easy to miss throwaway, as is often the case, this time from Tony Hale. After Amy brings up reenacting their day in therapy with dolls, Gary follows her up with, “I always hated that.” So much information in so few words, absolutely none of it surprising. Oh, Gary.

More TV Club