The time from the first season of Veep to now have given the show some welcome benefits. For one thing, the show's promising first season found an Emmy award for its star Julia Louis-Dreyfus (The New Adventures of Old Christine). Yet the show not only enjoys the chance for its ensemble to become more involved and engaged with its characters but somewhat subtly expand the universe of politicians and staffers while moving stories forward, and the overall product is fantastic.
For those unfamiliar with the show, the brainchild of Armando Iannucci (In The Loop) focuses on Dreyfus as the eponymous Vice President Selena Meyer. Her staff includes Chief of Staff Amy Brookheimer (Anna Chlumsky, My Girl 2), Communications Director Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh, Ted), Deputy Communications Director Dan Egan (Reid Scott, Amusement) and Selina's personal aide Gary Walsh (Tony Hale, The Informant!). Also returning are presumed newly promoted series regulars in Selina's secretary Sue (Sufe Bradshaw, Star Trek) and White House liaison Jonah (Timothy Simons). New additions to the cast for Season Two are longtime veterans Gary Cole (Pineapple Express), who plays Kent Davison, a Karl Rove-type with calculating emotionless decision making, and Kevin Dunn (Transformers), who is Ben Caffrey, the White House Chief of Staff.
The returning ensemble have their own moments which help convince fans of Veep such fun to watch, but more importantly there are moments when we see them away from their duties to serve as the pleasure of the Office. Gary has a girlfriend in Dana (Jessica St. Clair, Enough Said) who takes up more of his life than he realizes. And speaking of significant others, Amy has a boyfriend who quietly appears occasionally near the end of the season in Ed (Zach Woods, who is another from In The Loop who appears in Veep, with Chlumsky being the other) who may possibly have more of a role in the upcoming third season. Selina and her daughter Catherine (Sarah Sutherland) have relationships in Season Two as well with Selina's ex-husband and a fellow college student from Iran, respectively. Seeing them juggle these social components while wondering how this will impact Selina politically is both funny and slightly sad in a way in how much time and thought is taken up by same. It is an understated indictment of how Washington may work for these folks.
The social life of things aside, it actually is a lesser part of what propels Veep in its second season. For one thing, the introduction of Kent and Ben gives the writers a chance to put Selina closer to the White House than the first season and it works pretty well, to the point of setting up possible story ideas for Season Three. The return of Minnesota Governor Danny Chung (Randall Park, Larry Crowne) and Ohio congressman Roger Furlong (Dan Bakkedahl, This Is 40) are welcome, just as the new appearance of Secretary of Defense General Maddox (Isiah Whitlock Jr., The Wire) as one skeptical of Selina's experience and interaction with the military. That the show has set up these characters as solid and/or potential antagonists to Selina nicely and seems to show the confidence to add more if they need to depending on what they do with her is a testament to how confident Iannucci and the writers are about what they may be building on.
For what Veep does with its characters, that it still manages to show us the moments when the staff (not to mention Selina) experience various judgment lapses or moments of indecision and they still prove to be hilarious is just as encouraging. It helps with the guest appearances of Allison Janney (Touchy Feely), who appears in "First Response" as Selina's old friend Janet Ryland, who is now a prominent news reporter. In Helsinki, Dave Foley (The Kids in The Hall) appears as the husband of the Prime Minister of Finland, who does something to Selina that is stunning in its audacity and how it is handled the rest of the episode is brilliant. Veep alternates between character and ensemble development with its trademark moments of comic ineptitude and brilliant lines expertly.
The result of the second season of Veep should not have been a surprise to many; Dreyfus won her second consecutive Emmy for her work this year, along with Hale in a much-deserved turn with Gary. Chlumsky was nominated for her performance as Amy as well. More people are noticing the work that the cast and crew of Veep are doing and with its third season it seems to be reaching a point creatively that is challenging for all involved, and that is more than welcoming to see. Because for as funny as Veep is, and it has been so far, the best may be yet to come.
The show's second season enjoyed a ten-episode run and said run is split evenly over two Blu-ray discs, presented in 1.78:1 widescreen and using the AVC encode. Consistent with their original broadcast airings, the discs look good, with film grain present during much of the viewing experience though not so much as to distract. Colors and flesh tones are replicated nicely, including a scene where Selina has to wear a truckload of makeup to cover up some facial scratches. Image detail is solid albeit unspectacular and the source material is pristine, devoid of artifacts and there is no DNR to speak of. Solid work by HBO.
As expected, the show has DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround tracks for each episode and they are without any complaint. If anything (and without the handiness of the first season) the show seems to be a touch more dynamic in the second season, as a party celebrating the 21st birthday of Selina's daughter includes nice incorporation of bass that permeates through most any area Selina appears in during those moments. Dialogue is consistent and there is some modest yet sporadic immersion within the soundstage that makes for nice listening on the Blu-rays.
Compared to the first season, not a heckuva lot graces this set. The second season includes four commentaries this time (on the season's first, third, eighth and tenth episodes), though it is down from the dozen that grace the first set. There is a "core" group of participants for each in Iannucci, Dreyfus, along with executive producers Christopher Godsick and Tony Roche. Dunn, Simons, Cole and Walsh appear on the other tracks in various moments. The tracks are generally dry and devoid of a lot of information as the group are watching their work more often than not, though the eighth episode finds Iannucci participating while a Mazda commercial is apparently playing in his headphones. The tracks can be skipped. Deleted and alternate scenes accompany each episode and altogether run almost 40 minutes in total (39:48), most of which are just different attempts at something. Jonah schooling a substitute employee named Clint and seeing Amy's boyfriend smack down Jonah in a later episode are among the highlights of this excised footage. The only other extra to speak of is a code for digital copies of the second season via iTunes and/or Ultraviolet.
Like a flower, Veep sprouted onto the scene and people liked how it looked. In its second season it develops roots and pushes forward yet remains as funny and engaging as it did when it first showed its metaphoric buds to the world. This is the type of show you will have to go back to while watching it because of the jokes you miss because of laughing so hard at a previous line, and the trip is worth it. Technically the show remains good though could have used some work on the bonus material side of things. But whether it is here or its first season, new viewers to Veep can jump in easily and enjoy the ride. And should, because it is damned funny viewing.