Veep, Season 2, Episode 3: “Hostages”
Written by Sean Gray and Armando Iannucci
Directed by Chris Addison
Airs Sundays at 10pm (ET) on HBO
Speeches are a key part of any politician’s career. A good speech can immortalise a politician, while a bad one can weigh down the rest of their career like an anchor. The amount of time politicians and their staff spend on the specific wording of any given speech, and the message it conveys, thus makes sense in this context, but nonetheless remains an absurd exercise, and it is this aspect of politics that Veep tackles this week, in an episode that displays the human side of Selina Meyer while turning the spotlight on the one-upmanship politicians play with civilian lives.
Watching Selina process the soldier’s injury was a great way to re-open the look at her humanity. Watching her navigate the halls of Congress on a weekly basis, it can be difficult to remember that she is also just another person, and often it seem Selina herself forgets the human cost of her actions, as even this episode displays in the flippant manner in which she talks about the hostages. But the realisation of the impact her decisions have upon hearing of the soldier’s amputation is a great way to drive home the fact that, while it may seem on a day-to-day basis that the Vice-President’s office is toothless, Meyer still does have control simply by virtue of being a high-ranking politician, and even a seemingly simple decision like what date to take military action on can impact the lives of Americans.
Watching the political wrangling that went into the hostage rescue, however, also serves as a great illustration of the thirst for power that politicians display. It’s fascinating to observe Meyer, Maddox, and Caffrey discuss the kind of language to use with regards to the hostage crisis, and spar over the knowledge and authority each has, but never once express any concern for the well-being of the hostages in question, outside of one off-handed comment. Even rescuing the hostages is greeted by Dan as a legacy point, and calculated in terms of its political viability. All of this makes Kent, ironically, the most honest character, as he does not hide the fact that every action he takes is directly influenced by public opinion.
Overall, this was another solid episode. It was amusing to watch Sue, usually the only unflappable member of the Vice-President’s staff, get flustered under pressure at the congressional hearing, and it’s good to see the character get an expanded story. The conflict between Gary and Dan for Meyer’s attention was also amusing, and is a good indication of how well these characters have been drawn, as it wouldn’t have worked as well if the two weren’t so well-known in the show’s universe. Cliff’s presence, in addition to being funny, serves to drive home the value of Sue, and on what issue Selina and Kent clash on next is worth tuning in next week for.
– Deepayan Sengupta