House of Cards 3×01 & 3×02: I will not be a placeholder president

Frank Underwood

What’s ol’ Frank Underwood been up to since he weaseled his way into the Presidency at the end of Season 2? Is Doug dead-as-a-doornail at the hands of Rachel, his unwilling captive? Where even IS Rachel?! Is Claire Underwood still the mysterious Ice Queen whose feelings even she doesn’t seem to understand? Well how ‘bout we stop asking stupid questions and find out!

3×01, “Chapter 27”:

It’s been only six months since Frank became the POTUS and the public is already convinced he’s a sociopath, so Frank pays a visit to his dad’s grave in an attempt to convince America he has a heart. After revealing his detest for the man in an aside to the camera, Frank proceeds to rage-piddle on dear old dad’s headstone. Another fun surprise: Doug’s not dead! It takes quite the solid skull to survive a few blasts with a rock. I’m both impressed and mildly convinced he’s actually a zombie now. This episode is, weirdly, primarily dedicated to Doug’s long, painful road to recovery – made even more painful by his inability to be prescribed painkillers because of his alcoholism. Doug is itching to get back to work and sets up a meeting with Frank. He is so dedicated to punctuality that, instead of cancelling the meeting, he splints his arm with a wooden spoon and duct tape after falling in the shower and breaking it. That’s love, people. Or at least Doug Stamper’s version of it. This is the first time seeing Frank in six months (though Claire swears Frank visited while Doug was essentially comatose) and they have a touching moment sitting on the desk together in the Oval Office. Then Frank tells him to go home and rest because he’s useless now.

frank and doug share a moment

Netflix

Frank’s ‘America Works’ program, a radical jobs plan, has ruffled the feathers of both parties. Frank is quite the conservative Democrat. He’s willing to cut the ‘Bedrock of the American dream’ – Social Security – to put 10 million people to work. And why is unemployment so high in Underwoodsian America? Is it 2008?  I want to know more, but it doesn’t seem to matter because America Works is clearly Frank’s attempt at leaving a legacy, so the details don’t really matter. Unsurprisingly, Frank’s power is going to head. He screams at his colleagues, ‘Speaking as the PRESIDENT, who chose this team and for whom it works…,’ Presidentially whines that he’s not getting his way, and then has Remy quietly fire a guy who dared disagree with him.

Claire is not satisfied with her boring role as First Lady and wants a real job, probably one without the word “Lady” attached to it. Does she want to run for President in 2016? That thought crossed my mind when they were dancing around the subject of her ambition, especially since Team Francis refused to disclose whether or not he was planning on running in 2016, much to the dismay of the Press (all together now: ‘Ask me again tomorrow!’). But, no such luck. I somehow doubt Frank would ever concede to that, anyway. Instead, Claire wants to be the US Ambassador to the United Nations so she can eventually run for an unnamed ‘office.’ Frank isn’t pumped about his wife’s pesky ambition and tries to dissuade her by showing her how hard his job is by approving a drone strike that kills several civilians. Her reply: ‘I still want it.’ Of course you do, you beautiful, unstoppable Ice Queen.

Netflix

Netflix

Meanwhile, Doug terrifies a Rachel-eque prostitute by revealing a bourbon-filled syringe when they’re about to get rough, but then he just asks her to squirt it into his mouth. Hey, whatever you’re into, guy. Just remember that alcohol needles are a gateway drug.

The first episode was unexpectedly dry. I know all premieres can’t feature journalists being pushed in front of subway trains, but this premiere featured mostly nothing. I believe it was intentional; this is the kind of show where everything is deliberate and meaningful. It can get exhausting trying to figure out where they’re going. I’m a little worried this season will end up spinning its wheels, since Frank has literally reached the peak of power in America. What does he have to strive for now? Avoiding the placeholder title, yes, but… we’ve done the Frank as President thing. What now? Let’s discuss it immediately.

 

3×02, “Chapter 28”:

Claire interviews for UN Ambassador in front of the Senate. Hector Mendoza pushes her buttons by insinuating that Claire’s support of the Sexual Assault Bill pits her against the military. He gets her to say ‘the US Military is irrelevant,’ even though she clearly meant within the context of this conversation, chastises her for being un-American, then calls her a ‘hothead’ for standing up for herself. He says, later, ‘I was trying to rile you up and I succeeded’ and admitted that he was testing her suitability for the role. I hate him. My crush on Claire Underwood aside, that kind of blatant manipulation is an infuriating nod not only to the current political atmosphere, but to general attitudes towards women. Maybe a UN Ambassador should (diplomatically) be able to call a jerkface a jerkface when that jerkface is twisting her words just to gain leverage with the dumb American public who can’t put quotes into context. It’s annoying that people can’t see right through that and call him out on his BS. But instead she gets disciplined for failing to maintain her composure and demonstrating her lady-feelings.

Netflix

Netflix

Both Claire and Frank do damage control for their respective Major Problems in a split screen. It isn’t going well. We see Frank cry. Frank Underwood. CRYING. He can feel the power slipping away and it’s a rare moment of vulnerability. Claire is clearly uncomfortable with this, so she decides to screw the power back into him. It seems to work! Vaginas are magical like that.

During the Congressional voting for UN Ambassador, Claire has to choose the eggs for the Easter Egg Roll. You know, the serious political work of the First Lady that Claire just adores. There’s an unusual black egg, engraved with the POTUS and FLOTUS signatures, that she’s holding when she finds out she was not voted into the UN Ambassador position. She absentmindedly steals the egg on the way to deal with the press, and hands it off to Frank.

Netflix

Netflix

The egg is clearly some type of symbolism I should probably understand, but don’t. It could represent power transferred from herself to Frank, or perhaps something about womanhood and power because eggs = fertility. Whatever. The symbolism is so heavy-handed that it makes me want to throw up a little, almost like how I feel when I eat real eggs.  Frank gets frank with America (GET IT?), telling us our dream is dead because of entitlements. Then he announces that he will not be running for President, so you should believe in America Works because he’s not just doing it to get re-elected. He’s not like those other politicians, he’s a cool politician. And we totally believe him because Frank never lies or deceives anyone.

And then Claire makes symbolism eggs.

house of cards eggs

Netflix

 

Victoria Fisher

Victoria Fisher

is a freelance writer and glitter connoisseur based out of her Adventure Time onesie in Michigan. She frequently apologizes to her husband for watching ahead without him in whatever TV show she’s unreasonably obsessing over. She’s lost a lot of husbands this way. Give her money to write stuff for you here or read about feelings on her blog.

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  • JMcQ

    How did I not know about this blog sooner