House Of Cards: Chapter 4, Review

Chapter 4 takes us delightfully further down this rabbit hole.

Kevin Spacey’s Netflix series continues to delight me with the irony that the leaders of the free world may be some of the slimiest people in our country. And we elected them. Majority Whip Frank Underwood is still a man on a mission, keeping his vow from the pilot where he was passed over as the new president-elect’s secretary of state. So far, his plan seems to be working and Spacey plays Frank with as much gusto as any role he has ever tackled. This is in the two-time Academy Award winner’s wheelhouse and at the top of Capitol Hill is right where he belongs.I like to mention in my House of Cards reviews that, while yes I vote and do my basic civic duties as an American, I stay as far away from political arguments as possible. They only end in someone getting really pissed. At the same time, programs and films about politics fascinate me in the same exact way I am wowed at entertainment related to the medical field. And I assure you I have EVEN LESS KNOWLEDGE about the medical field than the political one. But back to Chapter 4. The episode continues to unpeel the onion that is Frank’s inner circle, including his overworked wife and Clean Water Initiative Director Claire, the doe-eyed spunky Washington Herald reporter Zoe Barnes (who plays his sexy rah-rah-rah USA cheerleader) and Frank’s loyal if not conflicted staff. Hell, even the president and his chief of staff are aware of Frank’s machinations and actually wait for his next move rather than pounce on the good old boy with an agenda. He seems to know something that none of them do: this is all temporary. Frank reminds me of a stricter and more experienced Bud Fox from Oliver Stone’s Wall Street (1987). It amuses me that although Frank is outfitted in all of the gadgets of the 21st Century, which Bud was not privy to, Frank is not a slave to them the way his constituents are. Frank has been after bigger game for well over a quarter-century and it is that personal touch that the majority whip devotes to his prey.At the crux of this episode is Frank making a major political chess move completely out in the open. Sometimes, the best way to steal something is to do it while everyone else just goes about their business. After all, aren’t our elected officials men of honor that we as a united people put at their respected posts? The main plot surrounds Frank, the Black Caucus and the Speaker of the House. Basically, Frank wants to remove an elder statesman out of a particular spot in the House. All Frank has to do is whisper the possibility to the doomed man and like a hot Twitter account, the information starts trending until it goes viral like the truth amongst everyone in Washington. The information is false, but it metamorphosizes from a cocoon to the pupa stages in the matter of a day. By the time of the “sit down” near the end of the episode, it is a full-blown butterfly. The old man does not know what hit him as Hurricane Frank blows through his entire political life simply because he wants to. His ultimate goal is the president; not to be president but to be the puppet master. There is nary a scene that Spacey does not own. He is not a big guy or intimidating in any physical way, but he is one of the most formidable figures in the history of TV. And the character also acts as the ambassador of Netflix’s grand experiment in “binge viewing,” which has caught on like wildfire.Also in the episode, Claire calls her old NYC photographer friend (and lover), Adam Galloway, to come down to D.C. and donate some photos for her Clean Water Initiative. He clearly could have sent the pictures, but it is apparent that Claire is after more than some 8x10s. After a flirty office visit, the pair meet up at The Mandarin, a posh D.C. hotel. As things get heated, Claire pulls away, insisting it was a mistake on her part.The plucky Zoe Barnes is still at the Herald, much to the chagrin of her grumpy Editor-in-Chief Tom “The Hammer” Hammerschmidt. At the behest of the owner of the paper, Tom is forced to give Zoe the White House Correspondent position, an absolute coup for any journalist under 30. Yet after mulling it over for a few days, she passes on the opportunity. Mostly, I think it is because she consults with Frank on the phone about her pending decision. While dancing around the exact issue, Frank conveys that as White House Correspondent, Zoe will be useless to him. When she finally goes in to her already super-pissed EIC to turn the job down, he starts to call her the “C” word (or as my Dad told me as a kid, the “See You Next Tuesday” word). As she is exiting his office, Zoe is on her smartphone, presumably texting or Tweeting something as Tom gets out of his chair to approach her. You get the feeling that he is going to smack the little brat. As you hear the “whoosh” of a message being sent, Zoe zings the line of the show. “Call me whatever you want, Tom, but you should remember, these days when you’re talking to one person, you’re talking to a thousand.” It is one hell of a scary and salient point she makes with that sentiment. If you are going to hastily exit a job in the 21st Century, Zoe modeled exactly how to leave on YOUR TERMS,Pennsylvania Congressional Rep. Peter Russo is continuing to have all sorts of problems. His flaky ex-wife has kind of “forgotten” about their two kids, leaving Peter to play Dad and Congressman. Frank comes over for a visit and breaks some terrible news about a massive shipyard in his district that needs to be shut down, taking 12,000 jobs with it. Peter is beside himself pleading with Frank that those are his friends and the very people that got him elected. But, what Franks says is law on this operatic and epic drama series. Plus, Frank has him by the short hairs after paying off the prostitute that rendered services for Peter. After a spell of sobriety, Russo leaves his apartment and his two small children to their own devices with a TV as the babysitter. When his girlfriend/Legislative Aide Christina comes by looking for Peter, she sees that he has simply left the kids and becomes irate. In the morning, Peter returns from an all-night bender and Christina’s rage is palpable. She has taken care of the kids and gotten them ready for school, but breaks it to Peter that they are over. I really dig Christina (Kristen Connolly) and not just because she has those beautiful Amanda Seyfried Manga-esque eyes; she is coming into her own as a woman in this episode. If I was a betting man, she will probably get back together with Peter, but I think this is a watershed moment for her character’s growth.The evening of Claire’s special visit, she returns home to Frank and he alludes to knowing that she has had this fling before. However, I do not look at Claire and Frank as a couple. It is more of an elegantly orchestrated arrangement of power. The next evening, as Zoe is downing Long Island Iced Teas at a local bar, she drunk dials Frank and the flirting begins. They dance around meeting in person and Frank has his driver take him to her hovel of an apartment. As he enters, Frank asks a slew of questions. “Are you cared for? Do your parents know you live like this?” Frank is very parental and this encounter is the furthest thing from how a liaison should begin. Zoe is dolled up with makeup on and wearing heels, causing me to realize that this is the first time we have seen the plucky journalist not in jeans and a hoodie. At Frank’s request, Zoe removes her heels and throws his suit jacket aside. Fade to black and credits.I was surprised to see that it would be Frank and not Claire that strayed. However, I am not yet 100 percent certain that Zoe and Frank actually got it on. Still, the show continues to purr and I maintain my intense interest. This is like the NC-17 version of The West Wing and I am damn proud to be of age after just four episodes.