House of Cards: Chapter Ten

“Rebellion on all fronts -- Claire, Zoe, Russo. I must not lose my resolve. I will march forward, even if I have to do so alone.”

The failure of the Watershed Bill was a setback for Frank. Unused to not having things go his way, we watch this hour as he tries to bring the pieces back together so that he may continue on his quest to harm those who have harmed him. The problem, of course, is that many of his allies have deserted him and, this hour, we watch as Frank deals with the “rebellion on all fronts.”

It has become clear through the past nine episodes that what Frank and Claire have is a partnership as opposed to a more traditional marriage. Yet, both now feel as though the other has not kept to his or her part of the bargain. The fight is fascinating to watch. Frank comes into Claire’s space, into her world, and tells her that what he wants, his goals, are more important than hers. The proverbial final straw, Claire steps away from Frank and begins to explore the other options open to her.

I am not a huge fan of Adam Galloway as his character seems to only be in the story so that Claire can have someone to shag. I believe the story of their affair would be much stronger if we understood better what exactly it is about him that so intrigues her and why she made the choices she did. She is obviously happy with Adam (is this the first time we have heard her laugh?) and she admits that she sleeps better with him. She embraces the bohemian lifestyle, smoking pot and dancing with a woman. So, why did she give up this lifestyle to be Frank’s partner? The only thing that is clear is that, as soon as Claire feels that Frank has let her down, she goes running to New York.

Her first stop, however, is to Zoe’s apartment where she is condescending and calculating. She knows exactly how to get a rise out of Zoe, and she does so. What makes this scene so powerful is that Claire’s actions are more mannered and deliberate than Frank’s have ever been and, as a result, she is much more frightening. Zoe’s face throughout is fascinating to watch. She has never been afraid of Frank; she is of Claire.

It is Claire that shows Zoe the truth about her life. She is sleeping with a married man and she lives in an apartment that is one step up from a hovel. Granted, Zoe is not the greatest housekeeper in the world, but Claire entering her home, flicking through her clothes and telling her the cold truth opens Zoe’s eyes in a way that nothing else has.

It becomes clear in this episode how similar Claire and Zoe are. They have both joined forces with Frank and, as a result, been successful. Claire is the wife of one of the power elite; Zoe now as a byline in the New York Times. And, when they feel as though Frank has let them down, they turn to a male friend with whom they can have real sex, not whatever it is they do with Frank. Both explore in this episode what might have been. I’ll be interested to see where they both end up.

Speaking of which, where is Peter? Although watching Peter’s descent into alcohol and sex was sad to see, what was truly horrifying about this series of events was who orchestrated the whole thing. Yes, the idea was Frank’s, but is Doug that tied into him? Here is another question that the show has failed to answer. Why would Doug be willing to do what he did without even questioning it? He takes a young woman, who looks on him as a father, and prostitutes her for the price of some new furniture. He takes a young man, whom he is sponsoring in AA for the love of God, and gets him to drink. There is a level of evil here that is breathtaking.

I realize that I have not written a great deal about Frank in this review. Interestingly, although he was on screen a great deal of time, his was not the story being told. Instead, we watched how the others in his orbit reacted and we watched him set the wheels in motion as we begin to come up to the end of this season. A strong episode that provided some answers, but more questions. Three out of four half racks of ribs that are brain food.

Trump Cards:

-- Another similarity between Claire and Zoe is that they are the only two people who call Frank ‘Francis.’

-- Frank, trying to pass off Claire’s anger and resentment as hormone induced (“Is it the hot flashes?”), is unbelievably crass and unfeeling. It is astonishing how little Frank knows, not only about women, but about the woman to whom he is married.

-- Claire towering over Zoe and asking her if there were a spider she could trap gave me chills.

-- Frank playing chess by himself was symbolism served with a sledge hammer. More subtle was the conversation he had with Doug while he was playing. The best part, however, was Frank moving the queen across the board just moments before the story cuts back to Claire.

-- Although the Big Three were the main focus of the episode, Frank is still working to manipulate Remy and Linda. When the latter says that she doesn’t know how she’ll repay Frank, I almost wept. No, no, my dear. As Chief of Staff, I would really hope you would be more politically savvy than that!

Speaking Frankly:

Frank: “I have zero tolerance for betrayal.” Interestingly, he says this just moments before he discovers that Claire is the one who betrayed him.

Claire: “Maybe you’re not that naive. A lesser woman wouldn’t have opened the door.”

Frank: “We never played chess before, have we?”
Doug: “I don’t know how.”
Frank: “You want me to teach 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.

7 comments:

sunbunny said...

By far, my favorite episode yet.

The whole Peter thing was painful to watch (I was just starting to like him, damn it!) but very interesting and very dramatic.

In the scene where Frank was in Claire's office and they were arguing, his accent COMPLETELY disappeared. Was that intentional or a mistake on Spacey's part?

Zoe has a box of Poptarts in her fridge. Who refrigerates Poptarts?

Thanks for doing these reviews, Chris. I would've given up on the show a long time ago if I hadn't had your reviews cheerleading me on. :)

Josie Kafka said...

"Who refrigerates Poptarts?"

Apartment Living 101: refrigerate everything you can. You never know if your neighbors will be slovenly enough to attract vermin.

I'm really upset with what happened to Russo, or what he did to himself (it cuts both ways, I suppose). The actor playing Stamper did a great job of showing just how little he liked what he had done, too.

ChrisB said...

UPDATE: An outstanding director's commentary that provided real insight into the episode and the first season as a whole. We get a lot of insight into the Peter character as well as some of the choices that the director and the actor made together to portray the ultimate downfall.

I recommend this one.

Dave said...

Just a quick note of thanks for your reviews, Chris. I'm just getting around to watching the show now and I've been making a point of reading your reviews between episodes. Much appreciated!

ChrisB said...

Thank you very much for your comment, Dave. I'm glad you are enjoying them.

Billie Doux said...

I was impressed that they immediately (and I mean immediately!) got the suspense out of the way, with Zoe telling Frank that Claire had sunk the bill. And I agree -- I also thought that Claire felt more threatening when she visited Zoe's apartment. Claire seemed so tall and overpowering and almost alien. As amazing as Kevin Spacey is, Robin Wright is even more so. What a role for her.

Marianna said...

Wonderful review! I was so sad to see Peter fall back into old habits. I've been more interested in him than Frank. I'm also intrigued by Doug's character. In the beginning of the series, I was ready to write him off as a horrible person just like Frank. But he's shown so much caring for Rachel and to a lesser extent Peter. In the AA meeting Doug said something about how he can't change who he is. I'm aware that that's a theme in AA, but I'm wondering if he thinks that this is who he is and he shouldn't try to be a better person.