Is there an informal, but universally agreed upon set of criteria for identifying a psychopath? Because I feel most, if not all, of Frank’s actions this episode would satisfy some part of those criteria. In this episode we move away from the relationships between the characters and start diving a little deeper into the plot. Why is Frank doing what he does? How much of what Frank does is part of his evil, albeit brilliant, master plan and how much is he improvising and putting together on the fly? There is some evidence in this episode to suggest that contrary to what all his dastardly asides would have us believe, he does not have everything figured out and contrary to what he might think of himself, he is not a good debater.
Before we look at the usual culprits and their plotlines, let’s take a gander at this Edward Meechum chap. If there is such a thing as a good human being in the House of Cards universe, Meechum is probably it. I mean, Donald Blythe and Michael Kern seemed like nice enough people too but there’s no point talking about the dead. Meechum is the simple soldier archetype – he is loyal and he is straightforward. He loves his job and apart from some minor trigger happiness, he is good at it. I wonder if he fired his gun because he feels a certain loyalty to the Underwoods above and beyond what he would to other employers? Or perhaps it’s evidence of his military background that he fires at an imminent threat, I don’t know. Still, he seems like a good sort and at first, I thought Frank’s decision to get him his job back was Frank’s way of showing that he understood Meechum’s value. The ending doesn’t disprove this so much as establish that Frank has his own moral code, however questionable it may seem. By the end of the episode there can be no question that Meechum now belongs to Frank.
I’m going to not talk about the most cringe worthy debate ever showed on television because yikes, did Underwood say debating was his strength? Instead, we’ll talk about Peter Russo, a man reborn and seemingly on the ascendancy. I question the validity of my previous (in past write-ups) assertion that Frank was literally the devil and was going use and discard Peter. I’m not convinced that that won’t happen but the way that Frank is encouraging Russo seems like he does wish Peter well. I guess though, that Frank is doing the right thing for the wrong reason – it would be great for him if Russo were to become a more powerful political pawn for Frank. Peter really seems to have got it together but it’s a little troubling to see him this happy; he doesn’t seem to realize that his happiness is entirely dependent on Frank’s goodwill. The second Frank’s backing vanishes, Peter is left out in the cold again.
Claire continues to behave in a very confusing manner. We know from last week that her marriage to Frank is unorthodox, to say the least, but as far as I could tell she was still very much invested in the relationship. They work incredibly well together and it seems like they are always on the same wavelength. Still, there’s this one line from her this episode that I particularly couldn’t make sense of: “I know your secret, and now you know mine”, she tells Steve. What is her secret? That she’s not faithful to Frank? That she doesn’t actually love him? I don’t get it – her little speech about Frank really getting her sounded perfectly truthful so now I don’t really know what’s going on in her head. Is she a super cold ice queen that’s more cunning and ambitious than Frank or is just a normal, still ambitious, person trying to deal with her life and relationship being what it is? Still, it seems cruel to tease the deathbed patient who confessed his love for you by just sticking your hand on his dick. She didn’t seem to particularly want him to enjoy it either and I don’t think he did – he seemed kind of traumatized. I wonder if Claire is taking her frustrations in life out on others – Claire is used by Frank twice in this episode for his own ends. First, he uses her in that god-awful debate and then he uses her to get Peter’s CWI platform going. Is she taking out her frustration on a helpless, dying man? Did poor, loyal Steve deserve that? Is that the fate that awaits Meechum?
Let’s talk about the ending of this episode and what it shows us about Frank. I don’t really like that Frnak had to lower himself to using violence as a negotiating chip. It weakened the episode’s conclusion because had Marty just kept his cool (though to be fair he has seemed like a character with a temper from the get go) Frank’s whole plan would have just fallen to pieces. If this episode showed us one thing, it’s that Frank does not really have it all planned out. There is no master plan and Frank himself is not infallible. The stakes have been rising throughout this season and there is no reason that they won’t continue to do so. We have yet to see Frank abjectly fail, utterly and totally, at something but we’re getting close. This week he was humiliated on television and he was forced into a corner, one that he could only come out of by stooping to his very lowest. Of course, the fact that he was not only willing and able to do that but that he made it work is proof that we were right about one thing: Frank Underwood will do whatever it takes to win.