July 22, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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House Of Cards “Chapter Forty-Four”

Season Four, Episode Five.

Could it be…am I actually enjoying House of Cards again?

Surprisingly, all it took was an episode where Frank is comatose and hallucinating.  Kevin Spacey doesn’t even have any lines.

It seems that Frank needs a new liver, and while Doug earns the Waylon Smithers Award For Excessive Employee Loyalty by offering up his own, most of the action centers around Claire turning out to be a rather helpful ally to in-over-his-head acting president Donald Blythe.  She’s secretly coaching him through conversations with Russian President Petrov and helping him make plans without telling Secretary of State Durant or Doug.

Now, in the past, I might have pointed out that Claire has a poor track record of dealing with Petrov, but quite frankly, since it was Petrov that forced Frank to fire her from her ambassador’s job, there is a sense of the inevitable dramatic justice if it is she, and not her husband, who finally shows that Ruskie who’s boss.

And she has a plan to do that, one Blythe likes.  She uses the old Underwood recruitment technique of first asking someone for help, and then when that offer is refused basically saying if you help you get rewarded big time but if you don’t, you get punished worse.  That works to bring Remy back as a go-between to Raymond Tusk, and it works on Tusk too.  Tusk will go see the Chinese to see about reducing those long gas lines.

Meanwhile, Sleazy Seth may have saved his job (he leaked one of those embarrassing photos) by revealing a way to bring down Heather Dunbar.  Dunbar met with Lucas.  Lucas’ suicide note hit the media, giving out all of Lucas’ accusations against Frank like the deaths of Peter Russo and Zoe Barnes.  Questioning the Attorney General (who knew about the meeting) will allow her to keep her job or get arrested.  See?  Reward or punishment.  It’s the Underwood way.

But that doesn’t let Seth off the hook with Doug.  No, he can physically threaten Seth’s life in a way that shows Seth who’s boss.  That felt good for the home viewer, I am sure.

Metaphorically hit by a rock.

Then, later in the same episode, Claire will put Doug in his place that’s every bit a feel-good moment as Doug smacking Seth around.

Again, metaphorically.

But still, while Claire proves herself rather masterful a politician in her own right, something that doesn’t feel forced this time, as she and Donald appear to bond, and Lucas’ reputation is ruined forever, in comes someone we haven’t seen in a while.

The sleepy face of justice?

So, Tom Hammerschmidt is back.  He’s inclined to believe the official story for now, that Lucas was off his rocker, that his own investigation into Frank Underwood yielded nothing because there was nothing to see.  I doubt they brought the character back just to do, well, nothing.

Frank and Claire have long needed a worthy adversary, someone who could credibly bring them down.  Raymond Tusk wasn’t it.  Garret Walker wasn’t it.  Peter Russo and Zoe Barnes weren’t it.  Petrov could, but it wasn’t his goal to bring the Underwoods down, and now he’s looking to lose in an international tug of war.  As a character, Hammerschmidt isn’t fiery or passionate in any serious way.  He doesn’t seem to have much of anything to lose.  The Underwoods have been collecting enemies along the way.  Someone just needs to put it all together.

If House of Cards is an overly-theatrical TV version of a Shakespearean tragedy, there needs to be a good guy waiting in the wings to bring the tragic hero down.  There needs to be a Henry Tudor or a Macduff, someone who isn’t as colorful as a Richard III or a Macbeth, but who is basically the balancing agent, the one who comes in to restore the rightful state of things for the country.  Bad leaders lead to countries that suffer on every level, and while House of Cards hasn’t gone that low, we have seen more than a few good people, people who cared or wanted to make a difference, get ground down by Frank and Claire’s relentless pursuit of personal power.  If the title means anything, then the power is easily removed.  If this is Shakespearean, then we may be nearing the fifth and final act.  Depending on how many seasons Spacey and Netflix want to carry this thing out, it needs to end at some point, and someone has to connect the dots that brings Frank Underwood crashing down in some way.

Now, granted, the show could end with the Underwoods walking off victoriously after defeating all comers, but somehow I doubt it will come to that.  We’ll just have to wait and see, but right now Hammerschmidt seems like the best bet to bring them down since he’s smarter, experienced, and perhaps not afraid to both tackle the problem and not stupid enough to take dumb risks like Lucas and Tusk were.  Again, we’ll just have to wait and see.