House of Cards "Chapter 16" Review: We Have a Quorum

By Cory Barker

Feb 15, 2014

House of Cards S02E03: "Chapter 16"

Hey, do you guys like parliamentary procedure? If so, then "Chapter 16" was the House of Cards episode for you! I'm not necessarily one of those people, and it's pretty easy for me to grow disinterested in the kind of political wheeling and dealing that was on display in this episode. It's not that House of Cards brings us an unrealistic portrayal of how things get done in Washington (though, I guess the fact that things do actually get done on this show makes it completely unrealistic); more often, it's that the series introduces us to random oppositional figures who we know little about, and then expects us to care about why they're an obstacle to whatever Frank is trying to accomplish that day. 

"Chapter 16" did that with Benito Martinez's Republican leader and the sudden IMMEDIATE necessity to push through some entitlement reform that would raise the retirement age, with a larger goal of preventing a government freeze right around the State of the Union Address. It was a little frustrating to follow all of these things all at once, especially because they sort of came out of nowhere. In Episode 2's focus on the Chinese and cyber security, I don't recall a reference to entitlement reform. While the Chinese issues were mostly dropped here, this other stuff suddenly meant that everyone was losing their mind before the State of the Union. And because we weren't previously acquainted with Martinez's character and the orney member of the Tea Party who wasn't totally willing to budge on his position, the urgency—something that "Chapter 16" really tried to emphasize—didn't come through as well as it could have.

However, one thing that I've realized now, having returned to House of Cards after several months, is that I almost always think characters are underdeveloped, that the stories are kind of silly, but still, the show is just so inherently watchable. Though I wish it took itself less seriously, I've decided not to worry too much about those things because hey, Kevin Spacey makes the best of his material, and the political maneuvering works well enough—and those elements were absolutely on display in this episode. The big parliamentary procedure set piece here seemed pretty aware of its own silliness, and so the stampede of senators entering and exiting the senate floor, some of them eventually in handcuffs, was just pure fun. We need more of that kind of stuff in the real senate (or if it already happens, I need to pay better attention to it). And, the more lying and scheming between Frank and Gerald McRaney's Raymond Tusk, the better. The Cult of Tusk!

Moreover, though it came a bit out of left field, I appreciate how House of Cards appears to be pulling even more from some real-world issues to build out its storylines. I'm pretty sure this episode had already been filmed before the actual U.S. government shutdown that lasted for 17 days in October 2013, but some of the politicians' assertion here that the government should shut down to "prove" a "point," or so that the Republican party could "win one," is the kind of posturing and rhetoric that drives the American public insane. Maybe I'm paying more attention now, but it feels like House of Cards has made its politics more precise in Season 2, or at least shifted them closer to what I imagine actually happens in D.C. Although I guess it's easy to think that when Frank is actually working and not pushing people in front of subway trains, huh?

With the strong focus on the entitlement bill, most of the other characters only had a few moments here and there. Claire, seemingly recovered from her run-in with the man who raped her, hired Connor Ellis (Mad Men's Sam Page) to manage the Underwoods' media coverage. It's hard to not immediately hate Connor for the kind of stuff Page did as the awful Dr. Greg on Mad Men, but it'll be interesting to see how Frank and Claire do—or don't—work the media in their new roles. 

Meanwhile, Doug struggled to keep Rachel under his nose now that she's working at a call center and talking to people on the bus. That's not going to end well, for multiple parties. Though it seems like Dougie might have a little thing for Rachel, no? And speaking of "things": The president is probably getting it in with Christina. Great decision by everyone involved there.

And Lucas, ohhhh Lucas. He's so deep in that deep web, yo. The "work" he did in the last episode got him a contact with a notable hacker, which led to some amusing scenes where he was forced to do various things to prove his interest in the Underwood case, and that he's not a cop. Thankfully, the notable hacker is played by Jimmi Simpson, who lightened the mood almost immediately when he appeared on screen. Lucas looked so strung-out, and his naivete about the internet was fun enough. Let's hope that partnership continues for a few more episodes. 

This was probably a necessary episode, one that set some baselines for the political climate that Frank will face through the season. And though Frank did come out ahead at the end, it worked for me. Apparently I only enjoy the scramble for votes if it means politicians are dragged onto the floor in handcuffs. But the war over entitlement still has work to do in the House. Until Episode 4!

What'd you think of this one? How is your marathon proceeding?


Note: Due to waning reader interest in our episodic coverage, after Episode 7, we skipped ahead in our reviews to the finale. However, the discussion pages for Episodes 8 through 12 will remain active for anyone looking to chat about those installments individually.

S02E01: House of Cards "Chapter 14" Review: Happy Birthday Mr. (Vice) President

S02E02: House of Cards "Chapter 15" Review: Welcome to the White House

S03E03: House of Cards "Chapter 16" Review: We Have a Quorum

S02E04: House of Cards "Chapter 17" Review: Quarantine My Heart

S02E05: House of Cards "Chapter 18" Review: Beating on that Backchannel

S02E06: House of Cards "Chapter 19" Review: Power Play

S02E07: House of Cards "Chapter 20" Review: A Tale of Two Families 

S02E08: House of Cards "Chapter 21" Discussion

S02E09: House of Cards "Chapter 22" Discussion

S02E10: House of Cards "Chapter 23" Discussion

S02E11: House of Cards "Chapter 24" Discussion

S02E12: House of Cards "Chapter 25" Discussion

S02E13: House of Cards Season 2 Finale Review: New Desk, Same Frank

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  • ben45tpy Feb 23, 2014

    Episode 3: Enter the Tea Party. It's good they brought the Republicans closer to reality and it was very easy to enjoy the handcuff chicanery. I've enjoyed Cory's reviews and one point that I think is spot on is that the show is inherently watchable despite its shortcomings.

    There wasn't a whole lot else going on in this episode but I'm liking the Deep Web stuff a little more than I should be probably because I was hearing about it at work the other day so it's a happy coincidence that it's being explored here. On to episode 4!

  • No1Slayerette Feb 20, 2014

    All the parliamentary procedure in this episode was extremely tedious, and the childishness of all the senators involved quite irritating. It's a shame so much time was spent on this throughout the episode, since other every subplot was marginally more entertaining.

    I like the addition of Connor as the Underwood's media advisor, and despite Lucas' attempts to get into contact with a serious hacker being completely ridiculous, Jimmi Simpson also seems like a great casting decision as said hacker.

    This episode finally made me realise just how much I hate Doug. Rachel's storyline felt quite disconnected from everything in this episode, but I must say her call centre job and random bus encounter were appealing vignettes nonetheless.

  • dh4645 Feb 18, 2014

    I didn't totally understand what was goin on in the ep, but it was still very enjoyable. loved when the the Reps. ran out and locked themselves in their offices and then had to be carried back in. so weird.

  • loomis8813 Feb 16, 2014

    oh Christina, of course she is going to start something with her older boss. You think she would have learned something the first time around. I'm glad too that we are getting to see more of Frank's replacment whip and hope she has a larger role throughout the season.

  • MarlboroMagpi Feb 16, 2014

    I remembered Connor Ellis on Master of Sex and he was great there !

  • Mazzie Feb 16, 2014

    Cashew stole the show. I used to have a guinea pig. <3
    Since I am marathoning I can't remember which one had Chinese spoken in it. It didn't sound like Chinese. It sounded like americans trying to speak Chinese. At first I thought it's Korean.
    Marathon going great. I think I did my 6th one then I had to quit to bake a cake...but I'll finish it before I go to work. Probably...

  • MarlboroMagpi Feb 16, 2014

    It was Mandarin but the guy who spoke it was probably not born in china itself. The lady helping the reporter spoke proper Beijing Mandarin. I am in episode 11 now so I cannot remember which episodes too. I hope us discussing different accent of spoken Mandrain will not be considered spoilers.

  • Mazzie Feb 16, 2014

    How can an accent be a spoiler? I doubt every user speaks/learns chinese so they would even notice the difference...I have to say I'm a big sucker on proper language accents. If actor gets payed for the job at least what he could do is to learn how to read his lines in proper pronunciation...

  • BabeRuth Feb 16, 2014

    I'm on day two of watching it all. With the Olympics on and none of the networks willing to put their best stuff out there, this has been so much better. who wants to watch rich spoiled kids in the ice and cold, I want stories. This has made the network programs look like amiture night.

  • MarlboroMagpi Feb 16, 2014

    Same as me only I had to skip Banshee. I did catch up on Black sails and Helix.

  • BabeRuth Feb 16, 2014

    This comment has been removed.

  • OutrSpaceBonobo Feb 16, 2014

    Never seen a cuter guinea pig. Now I want one!!!

  • andreweather Feb 16, 2014

    Has the person writing these reviews watched the original series this was based on? Because the parts that I enjoy most are almost directly lifted from the British series (talking to the audience, the 'FU' reference, which was the original character's media nickname, etc) yet are things that the author seems to dislike about it.

    The original series wasn't about the characters either, the only one with real substance was the aforementioned FU, with everyone else being broad brush strokes at most, because it was FU's story and about his journey, everyone else was there to support it.

    The US version is very good, but honestly there were very little in the way of surprise (Russo's death in s1 was directly lifted from the British version, as was Zoe's, which was only shocking because it was at the start of season 2 not the end of season 1). I'm enjoying this one more because they are branching out a lot from the original material and taking it in a new direction.

    I suppose they are staying 'true' to the spirit of the original season 2 of HoC (which was about Prime Minster FU fighting the King), with Underwood fighting the President, but it's good to see some change.

  • dhaworth Feb 16, 2014

    I don't think he has. So, as was mentioned by someone in a comment on the first episode, Cory's giving credit to the showrunners for just keeping with the same story as the BBC version.

  • Homer1338 Feb 15, 2014

    This stuff does really happen. If I remember right It happened it Wisconsin's state house. When Gov Walker wanted to vote on that one union bill and had to put warrants out on all the Dem senators.(note: probably wrong on that. Didn't check the facts.)

  • Gonzai Feb 18, 2014

    That did happen, they just didn't drag the senators back to Madison in handcuffs. The senators went to Illinois so Wisconsin could not arrest them.

  • joeyazzi Feb 15, 2014

    My marathon is awesome, I can't stop... I'm watching episode 8 right now! Episode 4 was my favorite so far, can't wait to see what other people thought of it...

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