House of Cards: Chapter Seven

“There’s a value in having secrets. Creatures like myself, like Claire, like Zoe; we wouldn’t be the same without them.”

Secrets. If knowledge is power, knowing and keeping secrets is the way to achieve that power. At the end of this episode, Frank launches into a soliloquy about secrets; who may have them, who may keep them and who must reveal them. Although it comes at the end of the episode, it sums up perfectly what this episode is about.

Frank is perfectly aware of the power that secrets provide. This episode opens with the President signing the Education Reform and Achievement Act and giving Frank full credit for it. Frank is certainly playing the long con. By giving the President this win, he has ingratiated himself to the man and now has his support for the Russo campaign. Everyone knows that Russo is the wrong choice, but it is fun to watch Frank manipulate everyone to his point of view.

I like the quiet moments between Frank and Claire. Claire has been keeping secret from Frank the fact that she has entered menopause, but like so many other secrets, Frank has discovered it through observation. I like the way that he doesn’t use that secret against her; he just offers to help.

I’m not entirely sure what all the stuff around the origami is meant to represent. On an obvious level, it is the transformation of something ordinary into something beautiful. But, this idea doesn’t entirely work for me as Claire is hardly ordinary and already beautiful. The conversation she has with Peter about the objects was odd as well, but perhaps we are meant to see that Claire will see him on another level than just someone to be used in the ultimate power game.

Speaking of games, the one that Frank and Zoe are playing together entered a whole new level of creepy during this episode. Their sleeping together has always felt vaguely incestuous, but this took it to a whole new level. Frank’s jealousy of seeing Zoe with Lucas followed by his performing oral sex while she talked to her father was bizarre. “I’m going to try to come” made me groan out loud. Not to mention Frank asking her to wish him a Happy Fathers‘ Day. Just, ick.

I cannot see the motivation for either of them to behave in this fashion. Frank thinks that he can control Zoe, through access to him and to his information. Sleeping with her just feels like an unnecessary step too far, and one that someone as politically savvy as Frank would not make. Even his handing her the bill signing pen felt as though he were patting the head of a small child. Zoe obviously doesn’t value the thing; she and Frank used it as a corkscrew.

Zoe, on the other hand, remains an enigma. Why does she do what she does? We’ve known since the first episode that this is a woman who uses her sexuality to get what she wants, but how much is she really getting from Frank these days? She has passed on the biggest story he has ever given her to her former rival. Again, why? For me to find the Zoe character more compelling, I need to understand what is driving this young woman.

According to Frank, Peter is “trapped by his secrets” and Frank is trying to allow Peter to “set himself free.” It is no accident that he tells us this while releasing a spider that has been trapped in a glass. I like sober Peter and I like the choices he makes. Unfortunately, however, his ambition is blinding him to what is happening around him. I really wanted him to back out of the race, but Frank exploited another one of Peter’s many weaknesses -- his love for Christina. Now that they are sleeping together again, I am interested to see if Peter can maintain his sobriety to keep her with him.

Doug, always the holder of and fixer of secrets, now has one of his own. I’m not sure what the whole subplot of Sapphire/Rachel was meant to show us, except that it feels like a bit of set up for future episodes. And, would someone like Nancy really open up her house to a young girl so obviously strung out? Again, lack of motivation -- why?

Vice Presidents are interesting creatures. “A heartbeat away from the Oval Office,” how many of them do we remember unless, like Johnson or Ford, history thrusts them into that esteemed office. Matthews, whom we haven’t seen since the first episode, reappears and is obviously unhappy with the way he is being treated by the President. What he really wants is the big chair in the big office.

Peter, Matthews and even Lucas are used to show us one thing. Everyone wants something they can’t have. Peter wants to be governor; Matthews wants to be President; Lucas wants to be Zoe’s lover. This lust for what one wants but has not be yet obtained is a powerful force. It can be used to manipulate and control.

A transitional episode, the ERaAA is behind us and we are moving on to stage two of Frank’s master plan. While this was a good episode that set up the rest of the season, the final scene between Frank and Zoe weirded me out too much. Two out of four spiders trapped in glass.

Trump Cards:

-- I wonder if all Members of Congress use Apple computers and display them so prominently?

-- Doug’s schedule is intense. He goes nonstop from 7.30 until late at night. At least he has a break scheduled from 5.00 to 5.30.

-- Would the Secret Service really allow even the Vice President to walk into the Oval Office and sit behind that desk?

-- The report that Walter does on Peter’s past is astonishing. I’m not sure any of us would be able to stand up to that sort of scrutiny.

Speaking Frankly:

Frank: “Insecurity bores me.”
Zoe: “I feel the same way about condescension.”

Frank: “Generosity is its own form of power, Zoe.”

Walter: “I’ve been doing this a long time, Congressman. I know when I’ve scraped all the shit off the shoe.”

Doug: “Like everyone in this room, I can’t control who I am. But, I can control the zero.”

Frank: “There’s no better way to overpower a tickle of doubt than with a flood of naked truth.”

Frank: “After all, we are nothing more or less than what we choose to reveal. What I am to Claire is not what I am to Zoe, just as Zoe is not to me what she is to her father.”

Frank: “Aren’t you going to wish me a Happy Fathers’ Day?”
Zoe: “You don’t have any children.”
Frank: “Don’t I?”

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.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well, a somehow farfetched interpretation of the origami might be that Claire was the creator of something beautiful like a parent is the creator of a child. Further being the creator gives her back some of the power she felt to have lost when her body "decided" to enter menopause.

Maybe Zoe just enjoys being part of the big power play and demonstrates it on a smaller scale by handing over the story to her former rival. Even if she realizes that Frank does not giver her what she wants anymore it might be hard for her to get out of there (especially since Frank has leverage against her).

Anonymous said...

Can't help but remember in the UK House of cards when Francis would have Mattie(that versions Zoe) call him "daddy" in bed. Ick. This installment's incestual goings on was almost worse.
Anna

sunbunny said...

Is the origami related to the homeless guy in the last episode?

The last scene was just so icky. Going down on Zoe when she was on the phone with her dad was bad enough, but when he asked her to wish him a Happy Father's Day, I shuddered. Major ew.

I think Frank's giving the signing pen to Zoe and eventually using it as a bottle opener symbolizes how little he thinks of the president or of the vestiges of traditional power. Frank isn't president and he doesn't seem to want to be president. He's happy pulling the strings. Unlike the pitiable Matthews, Frank knows where the real power in Washington lies and its not where it seems to be.

Josie Kafka said...

Great review, Chris! I saw the oragami as the one useless thing in Claire's life: done simply for the pleasure of doing it, with no purpose or "power-value." I think that's why she pushed Russo to give some to his kids. She didn't know what to do with a useless object.

ChrisB said...

UPDATE: The director's commentary moved on to yet another director. This one was all about camera angles and acting choices. Not entirely compelling, but interesting if you are interested in the technical side of making a television show.