Saturday, February 15, 2014

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

Molly Parker as Jackie Sharp

PLOT SUMMARY: Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) is sworn in as President, while his house is upgraded with security features and his wife Claire (Robin Wright) interviews a new PR man called Connor Ellis (Sam Page).  Jackie Sharp (Molly Parker) denies her interest in becoming Majority Whip but under Frank's goading stoops to revealing that her friend and rival, Ted Havermeyer (David Clennon) has a disabled bastard daughter. Claire reveals to Frank that she was the man who raped her in college was the man Frank is about to install as a new General - Dalton McGinnis (Ray Bradbury). Frank's reaction seems one of genuine hurt and protection - his initial response it to refuse - but in the end he pins a medal on the man's chest. Frank manoeuvres the president (Michael Gill) into taking personal responsibility for the failure of Chinese trade talks, against Ray Tusk's advice, to Frank's delight. 

Meanwhile, the late Zoe's lover, journalist Lucas Goodwin (Sebastian Arcelus), tries to convince the police to reopen the case into her death, openly accusing Frank of her murder, but the CCTV footage shows no murderer - Frank obviously new his camera angles. Next, he reaches out to his ex-boss Tom Hammerschmidt (Boris McGiver), again accusing Frank, but Tom also fobs him off.  As a last resort, Lucas makes contact with a hacker to try to get hold of the phone records that will link Zoe to Frank and Frank to Peter Russo.   

COMMENTS: I have no interest in the banal Lucas peddling his accusations around town. And  I have less interest in Jackie's moral high-handedness in telling Ted she's going to let out the story of his love-child.  And President Walker is so easy to manipulate it's almost dull. The real meat of this movie is Claire's description of her rape and Frank's reaction to realising it was Dalton McGinnis. In a relationship that often seems about mutual gain and ambition - cool and efficient - it was a wonderful surprise to see Frank's visceral reaction - his need to violently protect and avenge his wife. In a man so used to letting morality slide to get what he wants, the fact that Frank does have a moral boundary is fascinating. But what's even more fascinating and chilling is that Claire, even as she reveals her pain and anger, tells Frank that he'll use that hate to sharpen his political appetites, but not on revenge.  She seems to have less moral sensitivity than him - telling him matter-of-factly that he will exploit the anger her rape has caused to further his ambitious plans.  It's a tour de force of writing and acting. 

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