Friday, February 21, 2014

House of Cards [s2, eps 4, 5, 6]

SPOILER ALERT. The first entry reviews episodes 1 to 3. The next entry reviews 4 to 6; the next entry reviews for 7 to 9; the next covers 10 to 12. The final review is here.

You can put wings on a pig, but you don't make it an eagle.
        Clinton, 1996

Chapter 17 - 'Private Megan Hennessey.' / 'I'm not Frank Underwood.'

That was a crazy episode. Much of it was unexpected. The themes of rape as well as a woman's reproductive system have obviously become critical to this season. On the one hand, I'm glad Claire is sticking it to McGinnis rather strangling the victim in her memories - to use her language. And yet you get the clear sense that she's using the whole situation and twisting the truth in just the right fashion to open up a new venue for her to operate; admittedly Ashleigh Banfield (as herself) prompts the issue. However, when Claire tells tells Megan Hennessey that she and the VP will protect her, I sensed that promise would go unfulfilled.

I very much liked it when Sharpe told the legislators sniffing around for pork that she expected their votes and that they should be looking for handouts. You get the sense that although she can throw Havemeyer under the bus, she is actually not a person without character altogether. I suspect that will be her downfall. She is too authentic - too focused on real solutions.

Both the fake (or electronic) cigarettes and the real ones were great. The fake ones say we move and adjust with the times. The real one say we can still get dirty.

Chapter 18 - (no title)

We're officially deep into season 2. This episode laid the groundwork for future episodes rather than followed through on its own ideas. Not surprisingly it was also perhaps the first episode this season that relied more on symbolism than words.

I still don't know what to make of the first scene - the gasper scene with Xander Feng. (Gasper is a new word I learned this week.) What was the point of the two Anglo prostitutes - male and female? I rarely come up with nothing. Rarely. Cliches abound - billionaire does what he wants to who he wants and has graduated from ordinary sexual desires to unusual ones. But none of that really serves what I think are the existing images and ideas on the show. I just don't get it. And I'm not alone in that regard.*

When Frank looks into the camera early in the very first re-enactors scene, you can sense he thinks the whole re-enacting thing is absurd - like he's saying 'what are these idiots doing?'** What's interesting is that he eventually buys into it - so much as to take up a new scene creation hobby in later episodes. I like that transition - when he meets his ancestor Augustus and starts to take an interest. He responds to the earnestness and authenticity.

What's most interesting is when he buries his ring - without looking at the fourth wall. He is either putting something behind him or asking for help from his ancestors. His mistake is having a meeting with Feng at the burial site.

PS - I just glanced at an article on The Wire saying the deep web and China are boring subjects. I don't know what the actual fuck they are talking about. Technology and China will likely define so much between now and the dawn of the 23rd century. Americans are deeply ignorant of understanding the Chinese personality and the greater policy aims of China. The subject couldn't be more interesting or important.

PPS - 'It's far easier for you to destroy me than the other way around.' I feel like that's something I'd say but people in general don't talk that way. Seth Grayson will prove fascinating I suspect.

Chapter 19 - 'So you're saving yourself.'

Lucas Goodwin just got served. That was sad. To see honest, good people fail to understand the rules and potentialities of the powerful is truly sad. Rules of the game. 'It's not what you know; it's what you can prove.'

So Raymond Tusk does have balls. Finally the private sector character shows a hint of realism when he shuts the power off.

Is it Kevin Spacey or Frank Underwood that can't handle a baseball for shit? I think it's Frank but I'm not sure. I believe it's in the BBQ joint where he appears ridiculous as he flails the ball to Tusk.

One of the most depressingly sobering and scary scenes in nearly the whole series is when FBI agent Green shows up and successfully threatens the shit out of ex-reporter Janine Skorsky. What a total bummer. It made me want to re-evaluate the federal government overreach stories such as the 2013 IRS scandal, TSA abuse, and border patrol abuse. It's so depressing to see how much this show lines up with reality. On a related note, Doug Stamper clearly has access to Skorsky's phone - hint NSA, hint FBI. (The fact that people like Stamper exist is amazing and troubling.)

Here is my question: would a reporter (Hammerschmidt) really have the balls to ask a sitting VP if he killed someone? I would. But would a mildly successful reporter really do that. I doubt it. (In watching this scene I was brought back to the first scene of the entire series when he suffocates that dog.)

My favorite part of the whole episode was when the bodyguard Meechum seems to take offense at the familiarity that exists between Frank and Freddy - the BBQ owner. I definitely want to know more about Mecchum's opinion of the world he helps to protect. My guess is he will look the other way at some rather serious stuff later this season.

The theme of control and woman continues with Doug and Rachel. I accidentally found out something about how that unfolds. I hope she does what I think she does. Last scene: Rachel asks Doug 'are you hungry?' Last frame: Doug looks at Rachel and realizes that most intimate and meaningful relationship he has with any woman on Earth is with a woman he professionally coerces.


* Furthermore, I like the actor playing Feng as an actor - as an artist producing emotion and drama. He is excellent. But the notion that he exhibits anything close to a mainland Chinese persona seems totally unbelievable. I can't imagine it is a function of his talent. It seems like a failure in direction - not an enormous failure just a loss some realism that Americans would benefit from. I'm not saying that there is a single, monochromatic mainlaid Chinese persona but just as Americans have a certain vibe and focus so do the Chinese - so do New Yorkers, so do people from Beijing, Hong Kong, etc. Feng seems like just another American on the show.

** Personally, I think it's kinda cool - embracing history, honoring one's ancestors, learning, spending time outside - all wonderful. I'm not sure I would get involved because it seems to place an emphasis on the war and not slavery which is equally deserving of understanding.

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