Saturday, February 28, 2015

House of Cards [s3, eps 1 to 6]

SPOILER ALERT.  The first entry reviews episodes 1 to 6.  The next entry reviews 7 to 12 and the last reviews 13.  (Last season's reviews start here.)

From the moment Claire ran in the cemetery in season 1, I have found the HOC's symbolism striking.  For me Frank's ring was the ultimate symbol of season 2.  It represented Frank's calling upon his ancestors to strengthen his political power.  That's what meeting Confederate Corporal Augustus Underwood and burying the ring was all about in season two.  Season three takes a literary and poetic tone...
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Our society is run by insane people for insane...objectives... [W]e're being run by maniacs for maniacal...ends.
        John Lennon, 1968
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Chapter 27

Doug's injuries invite a new theme in HOC - namely the injuries of the political warrior.  Doug, Remy, and Jackie all wear thin - psychologically and emotionally - as their political destinies unfold.  Doug's injuries embody his complete dedication to Frank and all the suffering that comes with their game of power.  He is a warrior - not for a high (or ethical) aim but he is none the less committed.  Doug represents the political operative class from G. Gordon Liddy and Charles Harrison to Barry Seal and Oliver North.  

Chapter 28
Claire is drawn to the black egg.  No surprise there.  She completes the metaphor in the final scene when she cooks the fresh eggs.  The black egg is Frank and Claire's decision not to have children and their overall ability to rationalize the destruction they bring on other human beings.

Chapter 29
For some reason I don't buy how this show articulates foreign characters.  Xander Feng from season 2 and Viktor Petrov in this season both seem off.  Terry Chen, who played Feng, is a Canadian.  Lars Mikkelson, who plays Petrov, is a Dane.  I grew to like both characters and their acting but not a first.  As I recall, this episode was preparation for much of the drama in season 3 and delivered little in terms of explicit symbolism.

Chapter 30 - "It's something isn't it."
Frank is looking at all graves at (I assume) Arlington and says that line: "It's something isn't it."  Remy responds, "Yes, it is."  It was a rare moment when Frank sees things as a ordinary person might.

Just when I thought show was getting a bit boring, Frank spits on Jesus.  I am not much of a Christian.  And I object to much about the Catholic Church but I found this scene very offensive.   It's very ugly behavior.  What was interesting to me was that it was the prayer at Arlington that brought Frank back to the priest in the church.

Chapter 31
When Heather shakes Doug's hand and has him on her team, she invites corruption into her life; it is not a method with which she has experience.  The scene where Jackie shows Remy her wedding ring is also a sad one.  They clearly love each other - or at least that is getting more clear; and they can't find a way to express it.  She has entered a marriage largely for political purposes...how depressing!  It is again the theme of sacrifice among political operatives. 

Chapter 32 - "We are murders."
This episode is where the season starts to manifest.  It is also, no surprise, the first major death: the suicide of Michael Corrigan, an American gay rights activist.

When I first saw Claire say "We are murders", I thought she was relating Peter Brusso and Zoe Barnes to Michael Corrigan.  But I actually do not believe she knows the details of how Brusso and Barnes died.  Deep in her subconscious, she is figuring the score.  This scene is the second time when she realizes that she and Frank ruin people.  It all started in season 2 when Claire returned home from seeing a broken Private Megan Hennessey and she herself brakes down into tears.  Seeing her role in Megan's mental collapse was troubling.  (If you ask me, her self-questioning all started at the cemetery running scene - at least at a symbolic level.)

The main drama of season 3 starts when Frank and Claire argue on Air Force One.  When Frank defines courage, he says something to Claire about keeping her mouth shut, which is really about discipline not courage.  Courage is action in the face of fear.  Courage is really not the strong suit of either Frank or Claire.*  Courage is not in the wheelhouse of clever men.  My point is that they are both lost in moral terms and in terms of true leadership.  And in that sense they nicely represent American leaders today.

The fact is this disagreement over terms is central to the overall perversion of values and lack of clarity about which both Frank and Claire suffer.  The last scene in the season 3 confirms this interpretation.  It is the ultimate source of their suffering.  She is perhaps slightly more cognizant of the situation.  Her conscience is stirring ever so slightly.  It's also not completely a moral dilemma as she is just as troubled about the state of her career.
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*  Perhaps she more courage in that she went public regarding her rape in season 2 but she was also serving her and his careers.