Our coverage of House Of Cards‘ second season continues with episode four. In this episode: Claire (Robin Wright) and Jackie (Molly Parker) take control of their respective narratives.
Let’s bitch it out…
‘Chapter Seventeen’ is dominated by two storylines: Claire’s CNN interview and the impending government freeze (nicely “ripped from the headlines” after last year’s US debacle).
Let’s tackle the latter storyline first, if only because it’s the least engaging of the two. We spend a lot of time with a waylaid Francis (Kevin Spacey) in his office during a possible anthrax scare, and as much as I love a bottle episode, I really don’t care about anything that happens in these scenes. The whole shut down feels like an artificial narrative construction because it feels like the writers needed to get Francis out of the way so that we can see how Jackie performs when he’s not there to help her. The question is whether she’s like Francis, or is she her own person? As Remy (Mahershala Ali) and the others soon discover, she falls into the latter category. Jackie doesn’t buy respect; she demands it. It’ll be interesting to see how this tough approach serves her in the long run – I think she may find that butting heads isn’t always the best approach to get her way.
As entertaining as Jackie’s newfound spine is, we don’t get to see as much of it as we should because we keep having to cut back to Francis as he tries to convince Donald Blythe (Reed Birney) to prevent the shut-down. This could have been interesting, but in addition to being dull, I found myself agreeing with Donald: every word that comes out of Francis’ mouth feels “fundamentally calculated” (isn’t that what this whole series is about?). Half of the time I wondered (and I imagine I’m not alone) whether Francis orchestrated the powder scare himself in order to secure more time with Donald. Even after watching the episode, I still wonder if that might be the truth.
That leaves Claire’s story as she elects to do a candid CNN sit-down interview by herself. It’s clear early on that there will be some kind of unexpectedly development, so it makes sense that both the lack of children (a scenario she and Sam Page’s Connor rehearsed for) and the rape (which they didn’t) come out. I really like Claire’s scenes, not only because I like Robin Wright and the character, but because this pays off the abrupt introduction of the rape from 2×02. It also highlights once again how good Claire is at holding her own in shark infested political circles. There’s a moment that the CNN interviewer clearly thinks she has Claire cornered, but by the end of the interview things have turned around and Claire is back in control of the story.
The fact that Claire is able to do so is hardly surprising (we’ve seen her get out of jams before). Connor’s reaction, however, is telling: when things initially go south, he tries to cut the interview short. This suggests that he doesn’t fully understand how capable the VP and his wife are. He hasn’t learned yet that they don’t need his protection!
- I live in dread of these Lucas (Sebastian Arcelus) scenes. As many suspected, Gavin (Jimmi Simpson) is a government plant who’s job is to lure web criminals into a sting. It’s all far too predictable and dull. Something needs to happen here ASAP. Can Lucas’ next meeting be at the Cathedral Heights metro stop?
- Jackie’s defining moment: “I’m not Frank Underwood.”
What are your thoughts on ‘Chapter Seventeen’? Is Claire as much of a masterful manipulator as Francis? Did our flawed protagonist orchestrate that powder scare himself? Will Jackie regret her hard nosed tactics? And does anyone care about Lucas? Have at it below in the comments.
House Of Cards is now fully available on Netflix. As a reminder, please refrain from posting spoilers from upcoming episodes.
See you back here tomorrow with a review of 2×05, ‘Chapter Eighteen’