Justin and I have spent the last month or so obsessing over Netflix’s House of Cards, after hearing constant rave reviews on the series. The show is only two seasons in, with a third season slated to be released in February, 2015. If you haven’t seen the series yet, I will tell you that you absolutely should watch, and be warned that I am going to give away some major points in this article. Stop reading now if you want to save the surprises.
In its first two seasons, House of Cards has forced me to question my own ethics and ability to judge the characters of others (even fictional characters). It is not very often that I can say so much about a television show.
Francis (Frank) Underwood is a malicious, conniving, and self-serving man, but somehow I’ve felt myself admire many of his qualities, such as his ability to maintain composure in high pressure situations, and his witty and intelligent argument and negotiation skills. His wife, Claire, is equally self-serving and evil, but has – at times – even had me fooled. I find myself hating Claire more than anyone else in the series. I can’t tell if she is over-acting her part, or if her character is actually so phony that it seems constantly forced on purpose. Her hands are always contrived into dramatic poses and gestures; even the way she holds a glass or cigarette irks me. And her perfect posture (shoulders back, chest out) drives me crazy. She and Frank have a passionless marriage of convenience and share a willingness to destroy others’ lives in order to improve their own; but I still somehow think there is goodness at the hearts of their characters. Like when Frank went to speak to Freddy face to face to offer his help (even if he was abandoning him publicly). Or when Claire fought to pass the bill for military sexual assault reform. Can these people possibly have absolutely and purely selfish motives? Or is some of their power, sometimes, used for good? I still can’t tell.
Another example of my complete inability to judge a character is Doug Stamper. Over the two seasons, I developed a kind of crush on him and his utter loyalty to his boss, Frank. I know he protected Rachel in order to protect Frank (and his own job), but didn’t it seem sincerely good-intentioned a lot of the time? Didn’t he seem to be really concerned for her well being? At least until he started creepily stalking her, I mean. And is he really dead? Was that one hit with a rock really enough to kill him? I hope not, but he seemed pretty dead to me…
The whole Zoe and Frank affair was awkward and creepy to me from the beginning. It grossed me out. And I still can’t believe that no one would thoroughly review the subway surveillance films to find the creepy guy dressed in all black (Frank) go hide behind the wall right before Zoe arrived to be killed. Wouldn’t they watch her lean her back against the wall and talk to “herself” in the moments before she “fell” in front of the train? Or can a man like Frank, in a position of such power so easily have these things overlooked or completely erased?
The political aspect of the whole show was and is fascinating to me, although I know there are layers of it that I will never fully understand. The Tusk scenario and the cyber terrorism are somewhat beyond my comprehension. I still don’t get what Lucas thought he was getting from that creepy hacker guy -some kind of incriminating proof that Frank killed Zoe? And I’m still mostly confused about the Chinese guy – Feng’s – involvement in Frank’s devious plan for the president’s demise.
The theme of Frank’s love for chess is so perfectly fitting, as most people in his life are mere pawns for his personal goals. Like Linda. And like Peter Russo. I so wanted Peter – the ultimate underdog – to overcome his past, and was actually sad when he followed the overwhelmingly obvious bait (a pretty girl and a strong cocktail) to his political and literal death. And I pitied President Walker throughout the whole two seasons: another gullible pawn in Frank’s game.
Oh, and can we please, please just discuss the awkward gay threesome between Frank, Claire, and Edward the secret service guy? I know there was some allusion to a gay relationship during Frank’s college years. And I’m all for LGBT (lesbian gay bisexual transgender) rights – this isn’t about that. I am curious about Frank’s sexuality. But, gay or straight: that threesome was weird. They didn’t show much of anything other than a kiss. But I instantly imagined what happened next, and I couldn’t stop having flashbacks of the Zoolander threesome scene with Derek Zoolander, Hansel, Matilda, a few random dwarves and some Maori tribesmen. I’m convinced that’s what happened.
And throughout the show the one thing Justin and I kept asking was, “Why?” No one seems to need money. Is pure and absolute power really seductive enough to make human lives seem worthless?
House of Cards is absolutely worth watching, as it makes you question people’s true colors and (sometimes surprising) ability to hide the truth. The show also makes you wonder about our country’s real political figures. While it is (one would hope) an elaborate and fictitious dramatization, it raises some simple questions like, “Does this crap really happen?” and, “What don’t I know about my real political leaders?”
Being an avid collector of quotes (or perhaps just a huge nerd), I compiled a few that I thought really summed up the show:
“Friends make the worst enemies.”
“Proximity to power deludes some into thinking they wield it.”
“There is no solace above or below. Only us – small, solitary, striving, battling one another. I pray to myself, for myself.”
And “I’ve always loathed the necessity of sleep. Like death, it puts even the most powerful men on their backs.”