House of Cards, Season 1, Chapter 2: Review

It's really hard to only watch one episode a week . . .

I am the furthest thing from a politico that exists. I have only been to Washington, D.C. once ten years ago for a wedding on ridiculously congested July 4th weekend. As I continue to watch and review House of Cards, I am reminded of what a remarkably scary place our nation’s capital must be to live and work in. Although I want to tear voraciously threw Netflix’s series as the entire first season is done and at the ready, I have permitted myself just one episode per week. To tell you the truth any more than that and I think I may overdose and begin to start watching CNN like some sort of political drone.

While in Chapter 1 we were introduced to Majority Whip Frank Underwood, Chapter 2 really begins to really show the power that the D.C. player wields. He is a titan fueled by being passed over as Secretary of State by the new President and is determined to ruin the current nominee. After some early morning ribs at Freddie’s, Frank meets with some power players for breakfast, but more importantly we are introduced to Remy Danton, a high-powered law partner and current lobbyist for natural gas. Upset, Remy has words with Frank over SanCorp and natural gas and the Whip manages to let his old employee know he will fix things. Frank is so well versed in the art of puppeteering that he is able to pull the strings without even knowing his end game. He may work for the USA, but Frank wants what he wants. If he does not get it he finds a way to ensure that no one undercuts him. Michael Kern is the pending nominee for Secretary of State and is still being vetted for the prominent position when Frank’s loyal aide Bob Birch finds an editorial from 1978. Kern was the editor of the college paper that released an anti-Israel editorial. While it is not noted who exactly wrote the piece, the bigger picture is that the then Editor in Chief Kern published it.

Birch calls the hard drinking, drug taking, whoring Congressman Russo (Corey Stoll) to find someone from the staff of the paper. Russo flies north to find one Roy Kapeniak, political zealot living in a remote shack of a home running a conspiracy website. At first Roy is reluctant to let the politician into his home, but Russo has brought tribute to Kern’s old college friend: booze and bag of blow. Russo is more at home in the shack doing lines, rolling joints and taking shots than he is in the hallowed halls of D.C. If anything he should be representing this district, not Pennsylvania. He gets what he came for from Kapeniak about Kern’s history and the particular editorial that will ruin the nominee.

Frank is “Deep Throat” to the spunky and fearless reporter Zoe Barnes determined to make a name for herself at the Washington Herald. When Frank feeds her her second national story and she decides to run with it, it is enough to bring down Kern, brick by brick. Zoe interrupts the editorial staff meeting when her elder political correspondent Janine Skorsky says the line of the show, “Hey Twitter twat, WTF?” Figuring Zoe is angling for her job, Skorsky knows she’s in trouble. She knows that the ingénue has some kind of inside source but cannot figure it out. While making an appearance on the political cable talk show This week with George Stephanopoulos, Kern is ambushed with the reading of the editorial, thus ending his run for Secretary of State. The Anti Defamation League speaks out, calling Kern an anti Semite and the Palestinian groups do the same, saying there was a Palestine before there even was an Israel. Well done Frank. All in a day’s work.

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The finesse with which Frank is able to pull off these machinations is remarkable. No sweat on the brow, no tantrums; he is a man in control of his destiny as well as others; even if they do not know it. He slips the name Catherine Durant to Zoe and has her run with it for the Herald. By the next day the name Catherine Durant is on the lips of every D.C. playmaker and analyst, leading to Zoe landing her first TV interview as she has now broken three major national stories. Claire Underwood is laying off 18 of her employees at her nonprofit clean water initiative, but man is she the ice queen. She forces her office manager to fire all of the people and when she is done, Claire comes in and lets her go. But like ice, Claire does not make it personal. Eventually the ice melts and it finds a place to drain.

Peter returns from his trip up north to Kapeniak and his office romance, Christina Gallagher, can see that he is stoned out of his mind. They definitely need to have more Russo and Christina-centric episodes because the Congressman is not necessarily a bad guy but he believes in excess. Drugs, sex and Rock N’ Roll may work in LA but in DC it can only fly for so long. Frank has taken on the full blunt of the pending education bill and has six of the finest 20-somethings in the country draft something that he can present to Chief of Staff Vasquez, who Frank actually hired. It is funny to see how Frank treats the six kids writing the draft, as they are not allowed to leave the chambers for days on end and really funk up the joint.

The more I watch, the more I am hooked. The temptation is there to gorge on Season 1, but with House of Cards I am playing it safe; keeping to a brisk one slice a week. Otherwise I would continue to indulge. It is the process of what goes on in a regular day in Washington that has become so appealing to me. If this is a regular day, how insane must it be on a bad day? I will continue to stick around to find out.




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