House of Cards: Chapter Fifteen

“One heartbeat away from the presidency and not a single vote cast in my name. Democracy is so overrated.”

Frank is now the Vice President of the United States. He is one step closer to the job he truly wants, so maybe he can sit back for a moment and relax. Maybe not.

Frank is in his new job for less than an hour before he is manipulating all the other power players. He gets the President, the Secretary of State, and the power behind the throne all whirling around each other by telling each exactly what s/he wants to hear. Pissing off China, however, seems a dangerous way to go about alienating these three from each other.

It is not only on the international stage that we see Frank working his game; he is manipulating the national Whip race at the same time. Jackie Sharp (what an apt name, I wager) is an interesting addition to this story. On paper, she has it all. She is a war hero; she is smart; she is beautiful. She sounds a lot like Zoe, doesn’t she? The comparison doesn’t end there. She is also a much younger woman who is allowing her ambition to blind her to the truth of the man with whom she is dealing.

There is a big difference, however. Zoe was an extremely damaged young woman who dealt with her issues by hiding them under a facade of steeliness and cynicism. Under it all, however, was someone who was still capable of caring for the people around her and someone who truly wanted to know the truth of the world around her.

Jackie, we learn, is as cold-blooded as Frank. By throwing her mentor and friend under the bus in such a spectacular fashion, she has shown her true colors. Like Frank, she will do anything and hurt anyone to get what she wants. Zoe was easily manipulated by Frank. Jackie, I believe, is going to be much more of a threat — especially if she is able to win the Whip job and gain some real power.

Another thing about Zoe, she had a man in her life who truly loved her. Lucas is a mess, barely able to function, barely able to dress himself and get to work. He is convinced that Zoe was murdered and he is going to prove it. It was nice to see Tom again, but here is another man who has been damaged by Frank. He looked awful and it is clear he is drinking too much.

It was interesting to see these two men fall into a familiar pattern so quickly. Lucas is the reporter, digging for the truth. Tom is the editor, wanting facts and comments on the record before moving forward. On one level, Lucas knows that Tom is right and begins to dig. The irony of the fact that Frank’s involvement in cyber security is what leads Lucas to the Deep Web is delicious.

The truly emotional moments in this episode were between Frank and Claire. On the one hand, I am furious at the fact that the writers made Claire the victim of a rape. This is a plot device that has been overused, the implication being that Claire is the way she is and has made the choices she has made because of this one incident in her past. While I am sure that being raped affected her greatly, Claire is also intelligent, beautiful, and (as we saw last season) capable of a deeply emotional and sexual partnership.

What this revelation did, however, was show us an interesting side of Frank. Claire and he have an odd marriage, but he does care greatly for her. His rage when Claire tells him the truth is palpable and I worried for a moment that he was going to kill McGinnis right up on that stage. The man may be a newly minted general, but he best watch his back.

The best scene of the episode, however, was between Frank and Claire in their bedroom. Frank is beside himself. Unable to distract himself from the truth, he seems beaten down by it. Sitting on the bed, his back is to Claire and his shoulders are hunched. It is Claire who tells him how to face it and what to do with the emotions he is feeling.

What the writers got exactly right in their portrayal of a rape victim was Claire’s use of language. Many rape victims are able to process the event and move on by creating a persona. In other words, the attack did not happen to me, it happened to her. This is exactly the language Claire uses as she lies in that bed talking to her husband. In spite of myself, I felt pity and compassion for this woman.

Another good episode, quieter than the last, but setting up some truly compelling stories that I hope continue through this season. Three out of four insecure internet connections.

Trump Cards:

— Two things I puzzled over last episode were cleared up. Claire gave up the CWI because she is now the wife of the Vice President. Of course, Gillian didn’t know that when Claire made the offer and, frankly, I didn’t think of it. Christina is working for Vasquez because Frank wants her to be there. Uh oh.

— Tom taps his ring the same way Frank does.

— The whole idea of China and cyber security was an interesting choice, especially as a great deal of the concern was around China spying on US corporate interests. The implication was that the US would never stoop to such a level. Forgive my cynicism, but come on.

— The video of Zoe’s death is harrowing.

— Rachel Maddow. Love her.

— The scenes between President Walker (Michael Gill) and Catherine Durant (Jayne Atkinson) are fun on another level. These two are married in our reality.

Speaking Frankly:

Frank: “So, how’s it feel to be married to the Vice President?”
Claire: “Exactly the same… Just louder.”

Frank: “If you don’t like how the table is set, turn over the table.”

Tom: “Grief demands an answer, but sometimes there isn’t one.”

Claire: “Every time I think of her, pinned down like that, I strangle her, Francis. So she doesn’t strangle me.”

Frank: “We have our fortress now.”

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.


Miguel said...

Rewatching in preparation for season three!

No real thoughts on the episode, other than it was pretty chilling what Jackie was able to do to her mentor. She definitely appears to be cut from the same cloth as Frank.

Great review as always Chris!

Miguel said...

Oh it's been so long since I've commented on this site, but I must say the new button to hit to prove you are not a robot is so much easier than entering all the squiggly numbers and letters.

It's the little things...