Veep, Season 2, Episode 5: “Helsinki”
Written by Ian Martin and Armando Iannucci
Directed by Becky Martin
Airs Sundays at 10pm (ET) on HBO
Foreign relations are a key aspect of any politician’s job, with the importance of maintaining a good rapport with the international community being the most important aspect of many political positions. With the comedic song about the various European countries that Selina Meyer sang at a private function making its way online last week ahead of a visit to Europe, courtesy of Jonah, the Vice-President’s ability to mend fences was sure to be put to the test, and it is this facet of the office that this episode explores, delivering another strong episode that fleshes out some of the show’s secondary characters.
Dan’s struggles with the media in Helsinki over the song and US-Finland relations is a great way for the show to illustrate Mike’s importance to the Vice-Presidential staff, as well as offer a reason why Mike’s personality is the way it is, or atleast why his personality makes him such a good fit for the role. With Dan and Amy’s skills and usefulness already apparent from the beginning of the show, and Gary’s key position on the staff coming to light over the course of the first season, Mike seemed like the only expendable member of the team for a long time, and this episode effectively dispels that notion, both in the eyes of the audience, and in the eyes of Meyer and her staff. How this affects Mike’s relationship with the group is worth looking out for in the coming weeks.
It was also good to see the show explore the White House dynamic independent of Selina Meyer this week. A lot of the political interactions through the show’s run have been seen through the lens of the Vice-President (understandably, as the show is titled Veep); Meyer, however, due to her political position, naturally influences the flow of conversation and what gets said in her presence. With a perceived non-entity like Mike, however, the political figures are free to say what they really feel without concern of his presence. It will be interesting to see the difference in how people like Furlong, Kent, and Cafferty relate to each other in Meyer’s presence versus how they relate to each other in other situations.
Meyer’s sexual assault at the hands of the Finn Prime Minister’s husband was also well-done. A subject such as this is not something to be treated lightly, and many movies and tv shows have mishandled the subject; fortunately, Veep uses it not as a way to undermine Meyer, but rather as a display of the hazards that come with being a woman in modern society, no matter what one’s political standing might be. With the increased serialisation of this season, it’s worth watching to see if this incident comes back later in the season, and in what manner it reappears, if it does.
Overall, this was a fantastic episode, and one of the more ambitious ones of the show, as it not only diverges the team into those working with the Vice-President and those working with others, but also effectively juggles three storylines. It is great to see Dan Bakkedahl’s Roger Furlong and Phil Reeves’ Andrew Doyle make return appearances, and the interactions between Kevin Dunn’s Ben Cafferty and Gary Cole’s Kent Davison continue to be hilarious, as the two characters make no attempt to disguise their contempt for each other this week. Dave Foley was also an excellent addition to the episode, and how Meyer deals with the spy hostage situation upon her return is worth tuning in for next week.
– Deepayan Sengupta