Episode 7 puts us officially over the hump for House of Cards Season 2, and you can see the wheels on the train starting to accelerate towards the home stretch. House of Cards is at heart a story about people and the ebb and flow of power that surrounds them as they interact with each other, and episode 7 is at its best when we’re examining those relationships.
The most interesting development for me was the fact that the Underwoods officially got the Walkers to take their guard down, perhaps for good. They’ve been making progress here and there all season, but after chowing down on ribs together, not to mention the bit with the punching bag, the Walkers seem to genuinely view the Underwoods as friends. The First Lady in particular is hanging on Claire’s every word. Whatever game is afoot here, it’s clear the Underwoods have the upper hand.
Now follow me on this: The Underwoods’ recent new hire confesses to Frank that he is a plant for Remy, who is now sleeping with Jackie Sharp, who is a trusted Underwood confidant in Congress. Congress meanwhile, has been stacked in favor of Raymond Tusk, who is Remy’s boss and Frank’s season 2 adversary. I can’t wait to see how the show manages to untangle this beautiful mess. Or maybe they won’t. Maybe everyone ends up tripping over each other and the entire thing just collapses to the ground like a bad game of Twister.
Episode 8 does little to move the story forward and I can’t help but feel that the writers decided that this episode is where they would fulfill the contractual obligations for all of the series lesser players. We’re reminded that Rachel still exists, but it seems like just an excuse to show some naughty lesbian sex with her Bible-thumping friend. The episode’s big twist is that Claire’s romp with Adam Galloway is now a national scandal. But honestly, if that’s the biggest Underwood secret that leaks out to the press this season, I’m pretty sure Frank and Claire are OK with it. Claire’s sexual assault bill falls apart when the other woman who was raped has a breakdown. Again, it just doesn’t feel like it’s going to mean much to the central plot when all is said and done.
Back in the West Wing, the battle between Frank and Linda comes to a head and Linda exits stage right in the episode’s most interesting development.
“I’ve never thought higher of her than I do at this moment,” Frank tells the camera. “She lost, but she played to win.”
Great quote, but it doesn’t really feel like it matters. Frank’s already demonstrated he can play Linda like a fiddle when he needs to. I suppose this is just removing one more obstacle between Frank and the President as Season 2 picks up steam.
Episode 9 features arguably some of the best acting in the series, even if the writing is a little over the top.
I mentioned in an earlier review that I’m not a fan of all of the high stakes journalism clichés that House of Cards seems to enjoy using. That said, this reporter from the Wall Street Telegraph is clearly no Zoe Barnes. The scene where Tusk gets all up in her face is a bit much, but I’m willing to look past that. Because Gerald McRaney. In the scenes where McRaney shares screen time with Kevin Spacey, it’s more about just enjoying the back and forth between the two and there’s very rarely a winner. But when Tusk gets a scene to himself, both the character and the actor own it completely, every time.
This episode’s other side story sees Freddie apparently bowing out after his newfound fame blows up in his face with some assistance from his son. You had to have an inkling that something was going to go wrong from the first time you saw Freddie discussing his franchise potential. The final scene between the two sums up Underwood as a character perfectly. There have been times when the show has sought to humanize Frank through his friendships, and I’d say that Freddie was the closest thing to a real friend that Frank had in Washington. But this is House of Cards. There is no friendship worth saving if it gets in the way of politics. I’m hoping maybe the two of them can reconcile somewhere down the road, but with Freddie selling the restaurant, Frank will have to find another comfort food for the remainder of the series.
Back to the main event, I enjoyed the Adam Galloway story in this episode but Remy’s sudden appearance in Galloway’s apartment caused me to sigh at my screen. Yes, writers, we get it already. Remy can appear anywhere at any time. He’s like Batman.
The scene where Galloway and both Underwoods are finally in the same room is one of my favorites of the season.
“We’re not your chess pieces,” Galloway says to Frank. Clearly, this guy hasn’t seen the last 21 episodes.
Robin Wright should win an Emmy just for the look on her face as her husband dresses down her former lover. Oh, don’t yell at him, Frank. Now I’m all hot and bothered. She quickly pivots though.
“We’re giving you an out, Adam,” she says. “If you choose not to take it, I will bury you.”
Someone make sure she gets another Golden Globe too, okay?
With a couple more crises put to bed, it appears we’re finally ready to move forward towards Season 2’s end game. Episodes 7 through 9 spent a little too much time on the supporting cast for my tastes, but I guess if nothing else, they provided Frank and Claire some opportunities to fine tune the methods to their madness. That’s practice I’m sure will be useful in the upcoming battles against Tusk, Remy and Feng.
Read Jason's review of House of Cards season 2 episodes 10-13 here!