Saturday, February 02, 2013

HOUSE OF CARDS - Chapter Four

Writer Beau Willamon; Robin Wright (Claire); Kate Mara (Zoe);
director David Fincher; Kevin Spacey (Frank)
Plot summary:  Democratic Whip Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) does his job, trying to gather the votes to get his Education Bill passed. He secures the support of previously intransigent Speaker Bob Birch by framing David Rasmussen, the House Majority leader, for trying to sage a coup.  Rasmussen is manipulated into resigning, clearing the way for the first African American Majority Leader, thus gaining his votes from the Black Caucus, Terry Womack.  Frank buys Womack by making Peter Russo close down the shipyard in his district, thus allowing the base in Womack's district to remain open. 

Meanwhile, at the Washington Herald, the proprietor, Margaret, over-rides the Editor, Tom, and orders him to promote, rather than to chastise Zoe (Kate Mara) for doing TV interviews.  However, Frank manipulates Zoe into turning down the promotion to Political Editor so that he can continue to use her, apparently sexually too.  She appears to tweet her Editor's inflammatory response, and is fired.

Finally, we learn that Claire (Robin Wright)  cut the jobs at her charity because she was unsure of a donation from her husband's campaign contributors, Sancorp. Lobbyist Remy Danton (Mahershala Ali) doubles the donation, but Claire is aware this obligates Frank, and turns it down. The people for whom she procured the Jefferson Ball tickets step in. She is willing to flirt with her former lover, photographer Adam Galloway (Ben Daniels), to get a donation. 

Comments: I very much liked this episode.  Screenwriter Beau Willamon deftly handles four related but essentially disparate fields of battle. This is the first time we see the President, and also the the first time we see Frank actually doing his job, which is to Whip Burch into line and get the Bill onto the floor without concessions. 

We also get more colour on Claire, which had previously been the most vague and thus uninteresting storyline. She had an affair with the photographer, but how far is she now flirting with him to use him, or because she is genuinely tempted by him. I also love the ambiguity about whether Frank and Claire know about how far the other will go to use sex to get what they want, and whether this is okay by both of them as they both understand what power entails. At this point, my impression is that they are truly in love, and with no illusions about each other.  My only reservation is whether Frank would be so stupid as to get involved with someone as nakedly ambitious and manipulative as Zoe? 

On a more minor note, I loved the chillingly pragmatic attitude of Pete Russo's children, taking it for granted that their father will have a mistress.  And I also rather like Franks' interest in gaming - first person shooters, no less!

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