Friday, February 27, 2015

HOUSE OF CARDS - Season Three - Chapter Thirty-Five

COMMENT:  I had just been thinking how irrelevant Remy Danton had been to this season - a token black man in a white series.  And suddenly this show tackles the race issue head on with a stop and search. Will it have the balls to follow up this storyline, though?  Or will it just be a crush to get Remy and Jackie Sharp back into bed together?  Otherwise the Stamper storyline creaks it's wheels into the final act & the Russian-Israeli diplomatic fracas seems to be plausibly escalating.  Less insider political chicanery than I would've liked but a good tense and subtle episode.

PLOT SUMMARY:  Russian casualties in the UN peace-keeping mission cause a diplomatic crisis.   FU needs Yates to finish the book more than ever now as part of his campaign but he notices something is off.  Petrov refuses to allow the allies to investigate the attack so Claire asks the Russian Ambassador to help her back-channel the diplomacy.  The Ambassador accuses Petrov of having engineered the attack to isolate the Russians, as he never wanted the peacekeeping force. 

HOUSE OF CARDS - Season Three - Chapter Thirty-Four

COMMENT: A rather blah episode that mechanically gets Frank to the point where he'll openly declare.  Very Tab A into Slot B.  The hurricane metaphor was especially tired and there was none of the lyricism or visual imagery that made earlier episodes great. Maybe the small role accorded to Robin Wright also has something to do with the lack of tension.  Moreover, the predictability of Yates and Kate sleeping together is just low-grade writing.

HOUSE OF CARDS - Season Three - Chapter Thirty-Three

COMMENTS: As predicted, Claire's comment that she shouldn't have made FU President has pushed him over the edge. This episode therefore plays as a gentle romantic drama as Frank and Claire bicker and then make-up, reunited forever.  It's a gentle episode, lacking in real political bite, and I wish they'd have pushed this storyline further.  But I loved the almost elegaic feel and the delicacy of the monks' art and its echo to the earlier religious themes in the season.  It feels to me like a major theme this season is how far humans have the right to take the action of gods - the power to take life - and the concepts of mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation.   So this episode is wonderful - but it does feel tonally different to the rest of the season.

HOUSE OF CARDS - Season Three - Chapter Thirty Two

COMMENT:  The directorial touch of having the camera close up on Claire's face as she hears her husband and Petrov immediately spin the suicide of Corrigan is superb.  I keep detecting flickers of a separation between Claire and Frank and it's fascinating. And with the immediate apology to Petrov, surely FU has crossed the rubicon?  For her to tell him she should never have made him president is powerful stuff.  Superb.

HOUSE OF CARDS - Season Three - Chapter Thirty One

COMMENTS: What seems like another holding episode where the pieces are put in place on the chess board.  I must say that I find the UN story rather dull, and once again Claire's manipulation of the Russian ambassador seems to easy, compared to her deeply felt setbacks in season two.  A nice tidbit about the Underwoods not sleeping together. I hope that goes somewhere.  By contrast, what I don't want to see go anywhere is the supposed sexual tension between Jackie and Remy. Dull, dull, dull.  Finally, great to see Kim Dickens cast as the White House press correspondent for the Telegraph.  Other than that, however, this is not an episode that is either visually striking or particularly wickedly intriguing. 

PLOT SUMMARY: Francis declares unemployment a national emergency & so has FEMA report to him. DC is declared in a state of emergency & FU promises full employment in 12 months. FU  persuades House Majority Whip Jackie Sharp to declare against him & so lure the women's votes away from Dunbar before then backing FU. Remy Danton also pressures Jackie to marry her boyfriend Alan to ensure a family image and she succeeds in getting engaged. Remy, her ex-lover, is clearly jealous.  Congressional leaders threaten to pass a law preventing FU's use of FEMA funds but he sounds unworried. 

HOUSE OF CARDS - Season Three - Chapter Thirty

COMMENTS:  Does Elizabeth Dunbar really have the charisma to be the antagonist to Francis Underwood?  She doesn't seem to carry the weight, unless I'm missing something to come in later episodes?  Ironic though. The British series was marked by the delicious straight-to-camera moments of clarity from Frances Urquhart.  In this remake we have had very few of them, but one of the most powerful is that which we get in this episode, when he refuses to destroy Justice Jacobs.  How ironic then, that for FU, no good deed goes unpunished. It will be interesting to see if he's the one who leaks the news of the Alzheimers.  What should we make of the final scene too?  I rather liked FU pissing on the grave of his father, but spitting on a Crucifix?  Is that needlessly provocative or genius TV?  The final line, "Well, I've got God's ear now!" is marvellous, vintage Underwood.  I nearly wrote Urquhart then, which shows just how much more spiky and dark FU is in this season, and how much closer to his truly evil British precursor.

HOUSE OF CARDS - Season Three - Chapter Twenty-Nine

COMMENTS: Just about the most exciting thing about this episode were the closing credits showing a spoof MTV-style video for a Pussy Riot-style anti Russian government punk song.  The rest of the episode was just well-made but essentially rather dull opening gambits in a diplomatic war between the USA and Russia.  Claire's manipulation of the Secretary of State is almost laughably easy and the tension caused by That Kiss is immediately undone because we know Francis and Claire are so tight.  In other words, this is a holding episode - the writers are just getting all the pieces in place on the chess-board before truly beginning the assault. Dull but necessary.

PLOT SUMMARY:  President Underwood receives a state visit from the Russian President Viktor Petrov (Lars Mikkelsen) but Petrov refuses to back Francis' Middle East peace plan.

HOUSE OF CARDS - Season Three - Chapter Twenty-Eight

COMMENTS: Now THIS is the House of Cards I love - deep political tactical manoeuvring with the focus very firmly on the relationship between Frank and Claire Underwood.  The twin challenges they face are her UN nomination hearing and his Presidential nomination and we see them set pieces in place to achieve what they want.  The highlight of this episode was, for me, Frank's resignation speech.  It is deeply radical and even more blunt than Thatcher would've attempted at the height of her power.  It's in this speech that this remake comes closest to the radicalism of the British original.  Frank condemns entitlement and calls time on the bloated welfare state. It's superbly audacious rhetoric and a superbly audacious plan!  I wonder how the American viewing public will take it!