What fascinates me the most about this show is the ends to which the characters will go to achieve their goals. Not only will Frank and Claire do almost anything to achieve what they want, they manage to drag everyone in their sphere along with them. Those ancillary to them are used or sacrificed, without a thought to the fact that these are people they are hurting.
The Machiavellian machinations around the brick are a fascinating example, especially the second time through the episode when we know the truth. The episode opens with Claire inviting Ed in for coffee. The first time through the episode, it looked as if she were just being pleasant; it was, in fact, so that Doug could throw the brick. Doug is willing to go along with this plan (to the point of being shot at); Ed is just cannon fodder as we watch him lose his job.
Until, that is, Frank decides to step in and save Ed’s job. What a coup for Frank. He is able to save the job of a man who was manipulated by Claire into losing his job; but, Ed now feels as though he owes Frank. Yet another person firmly in Frank’s pocket.
The CNN debate was the best scene the show has done to date. Until now, Frank has appeared almost invincible. He has always been one step ahead of his enemies, leading them where he wants them to go. He underestimated Spinella who calls Frank out on national television for using his wife as a prop. For the first time, Frank has failed and he has failed on a massive scale.
This failure was something the show needed to do. Frank’s always being one step ahead was beginning to make the other characters look less than what they are, or at least what they should be. The stakes are higher and, therefore, the narrative tension is higher if we know that Frank can fail. Unfortunately, this failure doesn’t last long and Frank is soon back on top. While I think this was a mistake narratively, at least we got a glimpse of the other side.
One of the problems with a show that attempts to be sweeping and grandiose is that too many characters have to be developed in not enough time. The scene between Frank and the President should have been tense and exciting. The problem was the we don’t know the President at all or do we completely understand why Frank would show such hubris to the man so soon after the disastrous debate. Instead, we see Frank say, “no” and the President concede without enough background to fully appreciate why both would act in such in a way.
We did, however, get some character development in terms of Claire. We have had hints of what drives her, what motivates her, why she behaves in the ways she does. Although their relationship is unusual, she and Frank appear to have a real understanding, respect and love for each other. What Claire wants is to be an equal partner. Men like Adam and Steve, who want to take care of her and put her on a pedestal, do not interest her. While I understand Claire better after her visit with Steve, I like her less. To behave that way to a dying man who has just told you he cares about you is cold to the point of cruel.
Similarly, I really disliked Frank by the end of this episode. The scene with Spinella, while effective, was crude and nasty. To feel such glee at the death of a small child and then to use that death as political capital was even colder than Claire’s actions and I found myself feeling sorry for Spinella.
The final scene was revealing of both Frank's and Claire's characters. They have joined forces and they have won, nothing or no one else matters. Zoe will wait in vain for Frank; he will be making love to his wife.
-- The vowel game set to techno-music made me laugh out loud as did Frank asking how many characters there are in a tweet.
-- I mentioned in an earlier review that the show keeps throwing in these random encounters, the purpose of which I have yet to determine. This episode, it was the homeless man doing origami outside Claire’s office.
-- It amuses me that absolutely everyone in Washington carries an iPhone.
-- Interesting that in a episode that was so much about Claire and her motivations, Zoe had almost no screen time.
-- Peter’s run for the governorship will be fun to watch, especially as Frank pulls all the strings.
Claire: “I don’t mind that you improvised. I just wish you had done it better.”
Frank: “What’s better than a blank slate in the right hands?”
Frank: “Not an easy thing to say no to the most powerful man in the free world. But, sometimes the only way to gain your superior’s respect is to defy him.”
Frank: “From this moment on, you are a rock. You absorb nothing; you say nothing; and, nothing breaks you.”
ChrisB is a freelance writer who spends more time than she ought in front of a television screen or with a book in her hand.
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