Monday, March 9, 2015

House of Cards [s3, eps 13]

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.)

The show remains quite interesting, always troubling, and certainly engaging.  Symbolism was not as central this season; the show was more literary as the intimate drama between Frank and Claire unfolded through conversation and argument.  For me the black egg is the chief symbol of season 3 - that or Rachel's death.  Both connote death - spiritual, emotional, and physical. 

No matter how much they rationalize their career choices or try to make social change happen, these character satiate themselves on human suffering - even unconsciously on their own suffering.  In this sense the show indicts many American leaders today.  The political system in America is weak (and has been for sometime) because the individuals in that system make poor choices.  

There's one potential exception - at least on the show in season 3.  I'm really glad Remy got out.  It's always satisfying when you see people let go of what's not helping them.  I'd love to see a small sub-plot where he thrives away from the game.
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Is suffering really necessary?  Yes and no.  If you had not suffered as you have, there would be no depth to you as a human being, no humility, no compassion...  Suffering cracks open the shell of ego, and then comes a point when it has served its purpose.  Suffering is necessary until you realize it is unnecessary.
        Eckhart Tolle
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Chapter 39 - "Without me, you are nothing."

The west is upon us.  Rachel Posner returns.  It was great to see her character find a way in life - especially in the west.  It is where Americans go to start over.  I especially love the desert and its solutions to the complications of the modern.  

As I originally watched I thought to my self: in the real world, he kills her.  I kept watching and was slowly beginning to believe.  I wanted her to have a redemption from evil and him a redemption from error and sin.  We don't always get what we want.  Her death - her hair in the dirt - was a cold close on here character.  In dramatic terms, it is a cleaner end and makes Frank and Doug's stories clearer.

But Doug has lost himself in this choice.  Even a warrior needs to have standards in how and who he or she kills.  It's a very sad moment for him.  He was emotionally connected to Rachel.  Although it is awful that he killed her, it is also an extremely self-destructive act on his part.  What's interesting to me, as well, is the question of where this behavior is originating.  This murder is likely his first.  

Recall that Tupac, Jesse Ventura, and others have astutely pointed out the Republicans and Democrats are basically gangs.  Just as kids watch and learn gang life in the hood, Doug watched Frank kill Peter in an indirect sense.  In season one, Frank says to Doug: "We will never speak of this."  I suspect it was in his acquiescence to Frank that Doug both learns of and took on a set of extremely bad values.  And now we see him practicing them.  

On to Claire...

Season one has Frank and Claire in more independent positions of power where they collaborate when needed over a late night cigarette in the summer heat of DC.  Season two is similar...until the scene when Frank and Claire host the then President Garret Walker and his wife for diner.  From that moment, Frank and Claire smell blood and see opportunity - particularly as a team.  They soon dismantle the Walkers (almost unrealistically).  Season three starts to look at the internal contradictions of the Frank and Claire team. 

Claire yearns for a career not only for herself but in case her husband fails as President.  Under that pressure and having been thrust further into the limelight and drama of international politics, she is waking up to the life she has been building for years.  As I wrote earlier, this internal questioning began with Private Hennessey in season two and furthered with the Michael Corrigan suicide in Russia - when she was literally in the cell.

Claire is suffering and her suffering is driving the drama for now.  Season four - at least a part of it - will have to resolve her unhappiness.  On the one hand, her conscience has awakened a bit.  On the other hand, she wants a purpose driven life and she largely does not have that as she plays second fiddle to Frank.  Hence his line "Without me, you are nothing".  Right before she leaves Frank, Claire has the picture of the mandala in her hand.  She is questioning whether or not she wants to let go of the suffering.

House of Cards [s3, eps 7 to 12]

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.)
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The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.
        Einstein
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Chapter 33

All I recall in this episode is the slow creation and ceremonial destruction of the mandala - obviously a metaphor for the impermanence of life.  Frank of course misses the final ceremonial and asks for a picture.  (There's actually a lot of understated symbolism in this episode - the renewal of vows and the picture Frank and Claire take for the official portrait.  But it's all bullshit.  They look silly in white.  And even more silly re-affirming their marriage.)

Chapter 34 - "This place ain't for you and me."
At the risk of sounding like a Liberal douche, here is a piece with Robert Reich discussing Walmart.  I like Robert Reich a lot.  I also like shopping at Walmart about as much as I dislike Walmart's corporate values.  Why do I bring this up?  Heather Dunbar's attack - and ultimately Beau Willimon's - on Walmart is great.  It is true that we literally subsidize the income of Walmart and the Waltons.  How does this shit just happen?

"This place ain't for you and me.  It's good to have dreams as long as they ain't fantasies."  Freddie's words.  They are both sad and refreshing.  They are sad because he is kinda capping his grandson's ambitions.  But they are refreshing because perhaps he knows the truth that political actors at that level have weak morals.  Also, his simple directness in determining the income of the job opportunity that Frank offers him is also refreshing.  He just wants a j-o-b.

Chapter 35 - "It's you're hands on the wheel."
That is what Remy is told as he takes a minor character to the airport.  It's a great line.  He nearly gets arrested a few minutes later for DWB.  Remy is slowly figuring out he is not really in the inner circle in any sense.

Chapter 36 - "Are we friends?"
Tom Yates flirts with the President.  Meh...  The Yates character has great potential.  But he's a bit of a lowly weirdo.  It would have been much more interesting if he was a straight arrow / straight edge artist-writer.  It would have been a change of pace and provided a great juxtaposition.  He just looks like another creep in the mix.  He does make one great point: Frank and Claire don't know how to give straight answers anymore.

Chapter 37
I left public policy around 2005 out of disgust.  And I empathize with Remy.  Perhaps he should not have left.  He had a good job.  He was already in very deep in terms of moral compromises.  Everyone has their final straw.  What is so disappointing is that he is kinda carrying Jackie's cross not so much his own.   

Chapter 38 - "You're finally one of us."
When Dunbar tries to blackmail Frank she took a big risk.  She had great moral power, which is a true power in this world.  In this small choice, however, she undermines herself greatly.  She was a high integrity person in a low integrity domain.  And that gave her an advantage that no one else had.  That's why she offered Jackie "nothing" for her endorsement (in chapter 37).  That's why she was such a compelling character and candidate.  IMO if you're going to cut moral corners, you better have experience with it.