Wednesday, February 19, 2014

HOUSE OF CARDS - Season Two - Chapter Twenty (spoilers)

PLOT SUMMARY: As the mid-terms approach attack ads sponsored by a PAC are skewering President Walker (Michael Gill) and his Cabinet. Frank discovers they are being funded by Ray Tusk (Peter Bradbury) via Native American casino owner Daniel Lanagan (Gil Birmingham). Frank realises that Tusk was bankrolling the majority in Congress all along, using Lanagan as a front, but can't tell the President for fear of looking incompetent. Stamper stakes out Lanagan's casino and hooks up with a recovering addict waitress. He finds a large group of rich Chinese gambling there and follows the trail to uncover Tusk's massive investments in rare earth metals in China. Stamper negotiates with Xander Feng (Terry Chen) to double-cross Tusk and fund the Democrats instead of the Republicans. Back in Washington, Frank attempts to buy-off Lanagan, but he says Tusk can offer more, causing Frank to really lose his temper.

Frank makes nice with the President, and the two couples have dinner with each other.  Claire Underwood's legislation is going to Congress sparking an argument over media strategy between Seth Grayson (Derek Cecil) and Connor Ellis (Sam Page). We realise that Seth is working with Remy when he asks for Connor to be lured away with a lucrative private sector job.  But even more tantalising, Seth gives Remy up to Frank and offers to become a double-agent getting back via Remy to Tusk.

Meanwhile lobbyist Remy Danton (Mahershala Ali) and Majority Whip Jackie Sharp (Molly Parker) continue to sleep with each other and we discover that she is stalling in finding co-sponsors for Claire's bill because she apparently does not want a media storm before the mid-terms. 

Claire's plan to set Mrs Walker against presidential aide and Peter Russo's ex-lover Christina has worked: the First Lady voices her suspicions and demands for her to be relocated but the President refuses. At dinner, the two couples eat ribs from the rib shack owned by Freddy Armstrong (Reg E Cathey), where Frank likes to eat. He was interviewed by the press earlier in the day and is now being offered lucrative deals to put his name on barbecue sauce. 

COMMENTS: Ok so now we're truly enmeshed in the high political arts and I love it!  Frank realises that Ray has created the majority he whipped, and in that momentary aside to camera, I feel there's almost a newfound respect!  I love the double-dealing with Feng and the way in which Frank elegantly handles the President.  I also like the sidebar that Remy and Seth are in cahoots  - and it makes me suspect his relationship with Jackie. And also, what really WAS up with that tattoo.  Now, is it plausible that Seth would give up Remy so easily?  So is this an attempted double-cross?  Remy is working for Tusk and so has an unlimited bankroll.  Should we truly believe that Seth really wants power instead? And is Frank that credulous?  Finally, I love the delicious irony of Frank telling the President that he's 'never going to survive his first term' if he doesn't relax!

Stylistically as we reach half way in the season, I have three things to see. One, I need more of Frank talking and reacting to camera - it plays to all of Kevin Spacey's strength.  Two, what's with the under-exposed broodingly unlit photography?  It's like Godfather II in here.  I know you're going for mood and moral obscurity but this is ridiculous. Third, cheaply ripping off the BBC TV series Sherlock's device of showing text messages as bubbles doesn't suit the elegant adult look of the show. 

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