Frank Underwood: Well it’s always a coin toss with the Chinese. But sometimes, standing your ground is better than giving in.They respect you more when you give a show of strength.
President Walker: Are you changing your mind on this Frank?
Frank Underwood: I think it is important that you do what you think is best. The American people voted for you as President. Not me, and not Raymond Tusk.
How easily the words flow from Frank.
Chapter 15 (Sn 2 Ep 2) of House of Cards opened with the pre-credits swearing-in of Francis ‘Frank’ Underwood as Vice President of the United States. It was a private ceremony conducted in Frank’s home. But not so private that we didn’t get to see it. Frank had refused to move to the official VP Residence at One Observatory Circle, so his home needed to be fitted out with the necessary communications, surveillance, and security measures. As one of the attending Congressmen said: It’s like a war zone in here.
The swearing-in went off without a hitch and the main parts of it had already been seen on the Season Two Trailer. However it did serve as introduction to the two men who would be competing for Frank’s old job as the Majority WHIP. Given that House of Cards (HOC) likes to include small seemingly innocuous, or unimportant scenes, that might later turn out to be instruments of foreshadow, we must record that the camera work, writing, and direction had Frank take a good, long look at a CCTV camera being installed in one of the rooms. You heard it here first.
We also got a good look at the squabbling Howard and Wes both vying for the WHIP position. Frank called it cat-fighting.
From there we get the marvelous opening credits which I never tire of watching. I always seem to wait for (and enjoy) that passing train which zips by so fast, that you can miss it with a blink. From there, we start off with the meat and potatoes of this episode which are basically:
a) the terrible trio of Raymond Tusk, Secretary of State Catherine Durant, and Frank Underwood head into the deep end of the pool, using trade talks, and other key subjects with China, like government sponsored cyber-attacks, theft of intellectual property (software) and so forth with the intent and purpose of Frank looking to replace Tusk’s influence over President Garrett Walker with his own. Frank doesn’t tell this to Catherine, but we can easily see how he twists her arm without her being even aware of it. And Tusk won’t say anything to Walker either – with the exception being that he suggests something of a soft-pedaling with China. Tusk’s business interests trump any concern he might feel about the public perception of Walker.
b) The battle for the WHIP position will bring Jackie Sharp into a key focus and prominence. You will remember that she’s Frank choice over Frick and Frack (Howard and Wes) the dueling Congressmen. Jackie will have to toss Teddy Havermeyer under the bus to become a valid contender even though he’s willing to back her. Wes will bow out in exchange for Ways and Means, and Teddy being embarrassed enough to step down. Even though Jackie likes Teddy who is played by David Clennon (once and forever the Prince of Darkness from his days as Miles Drentel on thirtysomething) she has to do it. Frank easily sidesteps her concerns.
c) Deputy Editor of the Washington Herald, Lucas Goodwin, believes that his lover Zoe Barnes neither tripped nor jumped into the path of the oncoming train. He believes that the Vice President of the United States, Frank Underwood, murdered her. He hasn’t any proof but he’s going to gnaw on this bone until he finds the answers he wants.
For those of you who listened and watched closely when Lucas was pleading his case to the police detective – we watched the Metro Station (Cathedral Heights) CCTV footage at real speed and then frame by frame. The detective is not buying the theory proposed by Lucas. He even says there were two witnesses – an elderly woman with failing vision (Macular Degeneration), and the train’s conductor.
Sorry – conductors have no way to see what happens at the front of the train. The detective and writers should have said – the motorman of the train.
Goodwin will later call in Tom Hammerschmidt, the former Chief Editor of the Washington Herald to bounce some ideas off him, and to hopefully generate enough interest by Tom that he would start digging on his own. But even that won’t be enough for him, as he will start on the path of hacking and searching on the Deep Web.
d) Then there was a big deal from Claire’s past and Frank’s present – The soon to be commissioned as a Marine Commander in Charge of the Strategic Command – Dalton McGuinness.
There was one of those key moments in this scene as well. Frank clearly congratulated the newly commissioned female Commander, and just as clearly, said nothing to General McGuiness. Claire makes Frank promise to not do any thing about McGuiness directly.
Before retiring she tells Frank, You’ll still hate him in the morning. Use that productively.
I think the episode was extremely well done albeit it seems as though this was a track-laying, or transitory episode. Frank has created a real wedge between President Walker and Raymond Tusk. While Walker may not realize it, we can see that Tusk has, at minimum, a strong sense about it.
Still it will be fun watching these two joust for a while. As for Lucas Goodwin – i can’t see him bringing down Frank. I think his stock is going to markedly decline and Jackie Sharp’s will rise.
As I said, this was not an episode of major events – but more likely, this was a road map of where we will be as we continue heading down the road.