Wednesday, March 5, 2014

House of Cards [s2, eps 7, 8, 9]

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.

Men make history and not the other way around.  In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still.  Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.

Chapter 20 - 'Let's see if we feel anything.'

President Walker (aka Garrett) says to Frank let's pretend we're Truman, having just dropped the bomb, and see if we feel anything. Drinks in hand, they feel nothing. 100,000's of people very quickly died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and all they come up with a cynical laugh as though it's a silly parlor trick.

I'm not a bleeding heart Liberal. I believe in violence as a sacred and clarifying force in life both now and throughout history. But when I see characters bereft of feeling and thought in such a context, all I can do it pity them. I have long felt that half the problem is that our leaders - despite their cunning and sharp instincts - are ultimately asleep.*

Seth Grayson in Frank’s parlor. I love scenes where people remove layers of deception between each other; it illustrates just how many selves live in an individual and makes you wonder which self will rule the others. Grayson admits he is working for Danton but offers himself successfully to Frank. A star is born.

Freddy's exchange with the first and second couple just goes to show you how vastly different average, decent people are compared to the height of the establishment. Freddy's character is almost a caricature but it still works. He is the only one in the room who isn't more or less consumed by presentation and appearances and as a result he can still manage to have a content. I want to know more about Freddy.

What is Sharpe thinking by hanging up as she first calls Danton? If a well-dressed, successful, good looking Black guy with mad composure and talent tells you he wants to have a slightly more serious relationship, that call gets made the first time. If he was White, the sexes were reversed, or if they were of the same sex, that call still gets made the first time.

The stone cold manipulation of the first couple is truly disgusting. The bourbon, the mind games, and the food - it's all such a refined, slow, long hustle of a two seemingly innocent people. In the real world, Presidents do not trust Vice President; and why should they. When Garrett tells Frank to call him Garrett, he's lost his position.

"Your version of nothing was light years ahead of where I started." That's Dan Lanigan to Frank. #realtalk

Chapter 21 - 'She lost but she played to win.'

This episode had the best lines of any this season. Very powerful ideas in play. And not without major symbols as well.

When Linda Vasquez (the ex-Chief of Staff character) said she had a gift for Frank, I pressed pause: what will it be? As a woman of color with some degree of power, she has a specific ability to convey ideas to Frank that few others can. My guess is that it will not inspire Frank but rather remind him of a debt. But to who? So I press's to the President. She gives him the first Medal of Honor given to a 'Hispanic' American. (Corporal Joseph H. De Castro did in fact live and earn the honor.) She reminds Frank more or less to look out for the President and the remember the significance of the office. She shakes his hand and says goodbye. Vasquez is all class - a rarity on the show; she is perhaps the most charactered political figure on the whole show.

Another powerful quote: "at 200 bucks a pound fuck tradition" - speaking of some rare cut of meat and the question of prayer before eating. I must sound like a judgey asshole myself but that's no way to talk about prayer. It's just plain wrong. Dan Lanigan can be a baller but he doesn't need to be tasteless.

A third quote: 'I never expected much from the world. It's not a fair place.' Need I say more. (That line was said by Rachel's house guest.)

So now Claire is succeeding in getting the first couple into therapy. Such manipulation is grotesque. Therapy is fine and productive for many people but the way she involves herself in the 1st Lady's thinking is unbelievable. Frank and Claire are like two velociraptors upending the psychological lives to two seeming adults - to make matter worse: it's not that inconceivable.

I've been resisting the urge to write about Remy Danton - for many reasons, for most being that he is a character that has evolved slowly this season. Remy is, in short, awesome but unfortunately he is on the wrong side at least in terms of the narrative itself. HOC is coming back for season 3. Tusk will almost certainly have to lose in a new and special way. What will happen to Remy? He'll probably just get another gig. Why I like him... he is so direct, so clear, so measured, and so honest in a game that generally exhibits none of these things. Remy Danton as a serial monogamist is also great; it enriches his character yet more.

Seth Grayson is another great character. That he would refuse 1/2 payment for a job 1/2 done is poetic common sense. Remy and Seth are bagmen - one for money, the other for power. It'll very interested to see if Remy has sided with the right cause in season 3. My guess is that he will prevail in the long, long run.

Claire meant it when she hugged Megan Hennessey. When she tells Megan "you're not letting me down", it is the first moment Claire expresses true compassion on HOC.

You know when a wealthy White woman - Tusk's wife - says 'fuck it', she means it. What has Raymond Tusk got on Frank? I was hoping for something bigger than Claire's infidelity. They can weather that. Most people don't really care about who the politicians and wives sleep with as long as you look like you're in control.

The President is being played hard. If people find out he's in therapy even for something small, he'll never recover. It didn't make the rules; I just study them.

Chapter 22 - 'It needs to look messier.'

For all of Seth Grayson's work as a deception artist, he's a truth magnet - with Doug, with Remy, and with Frank he uses truth to connive and re-assure. Generally, the endgame for a guy like that is failure or a colossal life of deception - both would prove entertaining.

Adam Galloway just had his ass handed to him. "You and I are just pawns Mr. Galloway." Remy has the courtesy to (as always) speak a truth and call him Mr.

22:59. Is Raymond Tusk about to kill someone? False alarm: he's just threatening her life.

When Frank enter Freddy's apartment I sense something horrifying was about to happen. 33:51. And it was horrifying. All the talking aside, Frank ended that friendship because his station required it lest he wish to lose that station. Freddy should definitely take the money or at least admit that it is pride stopping - which is respectable IMO. In the end Frank can't acknowledge his hypocrisy and disavow regret. He's not that cold. He might think he is but he is not. Claire might be.

The sacrifice of Freddy is sad but he did kill two people and he failed to equip his son with knowledge and skills to move forward in life. Freddy is among my favorite characters. He's a character I identify with (for now) and wish I didn't.


* After completing this series, I went back and read it. I wish I had written that "I suspect violence is a sacred and and clarifying force in life".

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