[TV] House of Cards – Chapter 21 (S2E8)


Season 2 posterAll is fair in love and war, they say, and Remy Danton is determined to put the saying to the test. Claire’s dirty little secret is out in the open but honestly, the timing could have been worse. Stamper and Frank’s manoeuvring and hustling has gotten the Administration out of the iron fist of Raymond Tusk but Tusk’s assault continues on its multiple fronts. On the professional front, Tusk almost succeeded in pressuring the President to cave by diverting money to his opponents while on the personal front, Tusk has proceeded to drag Frank and Claire’s dirty linen out into the public. Of course, Frank too is launching offensives of his own – slowly but surely, bit by bit, he is beginning to tighten his grasp on the most powerful man on the planet, all while the man in question thanks him for it. The plot in House of Cards has been somewhat more complicated this season, diving as it has more and more into the specifics and intricacies of politics rather than the manipulative elements of it. It’s not a change for the worse, not really, but it does require more careful attention from the audience. At some point though, it’s going to truly beggar belief that President Walker can be quite so easily fooled and controlled. Perhaps that’s the point, or perhaps not; it remains to be seen.

 

It’s a brave man that would dare oppose Frank Underwood that blatantly; like every playground bully, open defiance only serves to reinforce the fact that disobedience must be punished. Lannigan  and Tusk have been confident about their latest gambit for a while now – each of their previous attempts have pushed Frank and Walker’s backs further and further towards the wall, so it’s understandable if they think that they might finally have landed a knockout punch. Unfortunately for them, Frank is not the kind of man who will let himself be backed into a corner, not yet at least. The Chinese option, via Xander Feng, is an easy one for Frank who really has never had anything against Feng personally but it does come with a fairly heavy price; the resignation of Linda Vasquez. Linda’s role in this season has been very much diminished compared to the first season and that is a direct reflection of Frank’s own rising prominence in the Administration but her instincts, have always been absolutely spot on. Her opposition to the building of the bridge is very understandable as well, left out of the loop, as she is. One would have expected a stronger fight from her when the time came but as one might expect, she was a team player to the end and decided to call it when it was clear that she had won. Frank’s respect for her is perhaps the most telling indication of how valuable an asset she really was, both for him and for the Administration as a whole. The question of who will replace her remains to be seen though it is unlikely to be anyone we are already familiar with.

How you interpret Claire’s interactions with Megan depend entirely on your opinion of Claire; is she a scheming, vile woman for essentially coercing Megan into testifying despite her clearly unstable mental state, or is she demonstrating strength by putting the bigger picture above the specifics of either of their difficulties and trying to actually enact some honest change for once? As always, the answer is most likely: a little of both. Claire’s motivation throughout this entire arc of hers has been politically motivated – at first it was motivated by avoiding the issue of abortion by diverting it into something bigger and later on, it became a way for Claire to regain some of the political influence she lost when she retired from the Clean Water Initiative. However, I like to believe that somewhere behind all of that, Claire isn’t really as cold and heartless as she would have us think; that she honestly does want to change the way the military deals with sexual assault and that her rather manipulative way of dealing with Megan’s nerves is just her putting pragmatism above pointless ideals, just like her husband. All of this brings us into some rather heavy territory: Megan’s experience has clearly left her damaged in some ways and she has her own ways of dealing with the issues that the assault left her with but politics is a notoriously uncaring field. It’s likely, if not certain, that Megan’s testimony would be severely undermined should it be known that she deals with her issues by looking for casual sex with strangers. It shouldn’t have any bearing on the matter, but it almost certainly will and so we have a decision to potentially make: should Megan lie in order to get a good Bill passed or should Claire and the others look out for Megan even if it means that the Bill will be defeated? In other words, does the end justify the means?

Speaking of issues, it seems that Douglas Stamper has a whole bunch of them. His protectiveness over Rachael Posner has completed its slow, inevitable transformation into creepy obsession. If, at any point, you find yourself sniffing a person’s sheets and you are not a canine, it might be a good time to reassess your relationship with the sheets and their owner. Doug’s creepiness, unfortunately, isn’t totally inexplicable. Between the enormous amounts of stress he has been under from Frank and his work and having to deal with his own confusing feelings towards Rachael (is he her captor, or her protector), it almost feels like Stamper goes over to Rachael’s place to reassert some sort of sense of control in his life. It’s very clearly unhealthy, especially in light of how Rachael herself has very recently embarked on a romantic relationship with that girl from work, whose name I have forgotten. The scene in which their feelings for each other became apparent was a little surprising simply because it’s unclear what the show would gain from these two particular characters hooking up, apart from driving Doug Stamper nuts and giving Rachael some reason to continue living her utterly lonely and miserable life. In all of this, we haven’t discussed the fallout of Adam’s painting of Claire being discovered but since that’s very likely to be the focus of the next episode, we will leave it alone for now.

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