Sunday, May 10, 2015

REVIEW: 'Veep' - Selina and Her Staff Chaotically Search for a New Running Mate in 'Convention'

HBO's Veep - Episode 4.05 "Convention"

At the party convention, Selina and her staff scramble against the clock to avert a major internal crisis. Amy grows increasingly infuriated with the president's new advisor, Karen, who is coaching a nervous Catherine on her First Daughter speech to the convention. Back in D.C., Dan recruits Jonah and Richard to pose as influential Washington insiders.

The fourth season of Veep so far has been pretty phenomenal and hilarious. Selina in charge of the country as President has been a comedic gem that gives so much weight to her actions. What she does now will make a difference because she has all of this power. That's why it is so effective when so many potential running mates turn her down for the job. Selina can boast about all that she has accomplished during her short tenure in the office so far. And yet, she still needs to find a new running mate after the scandal in the current Vice President's office bubbles over.

Vice President Doyle has a right to be outraged and furious with Selina. She and her campaign used private information to target families who recently lost children for her Families First bill. It's a scandal just waiting to happen and create even more chaos in her office. However, that news hasn't escaped yet. Selina and Ben are able to keep Doyle quiet because of the scandal occurring in his own office with Teddy frequently groping Jonah. Granted, that has been Teddy's only defining characteristic of the season so far. It's still pretty humorous that that is the thing that gets Selina exactly what she wanted: Doyle out so she can strengthen her ticket against her strong opponents. Sure, it comes with the indecency of Doyle having to proclaim that health problems with his prostrate are forcing him out of the job. But it is a celebration for Selina and her staff nevertheless.

A celebration that does not last for that long. Because they are all at the party's convention, Selina needs to find a new running mate immediately. It would be a huge misstep for her to give her big speech to the whole party without them knowing who will be standing beside her while she is in office. So while she's ecstatic that Doyle is walking out the door and won't create any headaches for her, she needs a replacement as soon as possible. It's easy to understand why she would look to her opponents in the primary race first. Both Danny Chung and George Maddox are personalities that the American people are aware of. And yet, both turn the position down because they don't want to serve under Selina. She has the argument that the vice presidency is just one step away from the presidency which they both desperately want. Even that isn't enough for them to be willing to compromise their core values in order to work with her. That's how ineffective they think she is at the job.

It also leads to the wonderful introduction of a new character who will likely be a huge focus in the next half of the season: Senator Tom James (played by Hugh Laurie). Laurie's appearance on the comedy has been teased for months now. He finally shows up and is a delight the first second he appears on the screen. He is able to make small talk just as effectively as Selina. And yet, he also seems to be a bit more genuine and blunt than she is as well. Selina and Tom do have a history together. The only skeleton in his closest is the fact that he once slept with Selina. That's initially why Selina doesn't want him as a candidate for the job. She doesn't want to deal with that awkward tension. However, when the two of them finally sit down and she asks him to serve as her VP, that's not an issue at all. They are capable of just handling themselves as professionals and it is wonderful - especially when she forces him to retell how he accepted the position to every person of her staff who walks into the room.

It's also important to note that the only reason Selina starts to view Tom as the only real contender left for the job is because of an epic outburst by Amy. This truly is a fantastic episode for Anna Chlumsky. Over the course of this episode, her frustration and rage towards Selina's new legal advisor, Karen (Lennon Parham), grows and grows - until she simply can't take it anymore. In her defense, it was frustrating seeing just how non-committal Karen was about every single decision that needed to be made. She made it a point that everything needed to be carefully concerned and thought about - which is something Selina and her team just don't have time for because they need to find a new VP. And yet, Amy is the only person who seems to be bugged by it. That's what leads to her big outburst. She had been campaigning for Tom James throughout this entire process. And yet, no one wanted to take her seriously. She had a breakdown which ultimately cost her her job as campaign manager - even though Selina would follow through on her suggestion. Because of Amy, Selina has Tom ready to serve as her VP.

But that also creates uncertain for Amy's future. During the celebration of Tom saying yes, he asks Selina who her campaign manager is. She immediately points to Kent. That conversation never occurred. She simply said the first person who she saw in the room who would be capable of the job. Kent obviously could be an effective campaign manager. But it also brings up the problem of him being Selina's third campaign manager throughout this whole experience. The previous two - Dan and Amy - are now completely disconnected from the team. It's been interesting seeing Dan continuing to work in the industry as a lobbyist. But will the same apply to Amy? Who knows. But Veep always finds a way to land on its feet in the strongest and most cleverly comedic way possible. So I trust what the show is doing with its characters right now.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Convention" was directed by Stephanie Lang with story by Armando Iannucci, Sean Gray & David Quantick and teleplay by Sean Gray & David Quantick.
  • Danny Chung really does enjoy telling the same stories over and over again. That's part of who he is as a character. He has Chung-mania-mania!
  • It was amusing watching several people of Selina's staff running into the same man in the hallway of the convention who wants to give them suggestions of who they should get as her new VP. And then, when he finally did voice his opinion, it was for Chung who had already turned down the job.
  • Selina asks Kent to let Karen go after she fully realizes how non-committal her advise actually is. What makes that scene even better is seeing Selina hiding just around the corner waiting for Karen to leave.
  • Even though they weren't at the convention, the upheaval happening there was severely effecting Dan's ability to lobby for a client with Jonah and Richard's inept help.
  • Teddy, how is fondling someone effectively serving someone's administration? Overall that was a very weird story that at least had a purpose in the end. 
  • Tom James: "Great convention. Best one in four years." That line explains so much about his character so quickly.