House of Cards S02E04: "Chapter 17"


It looks like my dream of seeing a whole lot of Claire Underwood in House of Cards's second season is coming true, huh? This is a show that has a lot of dumb stuff going on, but there's a huge benefit to hiring powerhouse actors, in that if it allows you, a few times a season, to just let them deliver extended moments of tremendous acting (duh-doy). Although I don't yet know if Robin Wright deserves to win an Emmy for this "Chapter 17," I would say that she absolutely deserves the nomination she's going to get. And heck, this was only Episode 4. If she pulls out something better than this, I won't feel too bad if she grabs that trophy come August. 

What an interesting choice the show made with Claire's CNN interview. Claire is a character who we still know very little about, one who constantly keeps her emotions and her intentions close to the chest while her husband is out there slingin' it on Capitol Hill, and one who makes choices with rational and pragmatic thinking in mind. For both viewers of House of Cards and the American people within the show's world, I'm sure Claire seems "cold" and "calculating." And while those descriptors are absolutely true, Wright works pretty hard to fill in the blanks a little bit, even when there isn't much information on the page. And in a lot of ways, keeping Claire's history in the dark and then revealing it in this sort of fashion made everything we learned that much more powerful. Sure, it was a whole lot of exposition about Claire's family history and the early days of her relationship with Frank, information that we probably could have obtained earlier, with a less "HERE'S EVERYTHING" approach. But would the interview sequence have had the same kind of impact now? Probably not.

On a narrative level, the glut of information that came out during Claire's interview with CNN's Ashleigh Banfield was quite the bombshell. Not only was she forced to admit her pregnancy, but she so cunningly turned that admission into a story about her experience of being raped and how that altered her perspective on children. Of course, that second part wasn't really true—she didn't get pregnant when she was raped—but it was a damn fine story, and one that turned the attention away from the Underwoods' disinterest in children and toward the scumbag who assaulted Claire in college. So, Claire took what could have been one of the worst moments of her life, and a big problem for her husband's political career, and transformed it into a crusade against a high-ranking military official. That's how you change the message, y'all. 


Everything regarding the interview came together wonderfully. The episode built up to it very well, having Frank trapped in his old office due to a white powder scare and subsequent quarantine, all while Frank kept underscoring how he didn't want to do the interview. While there wasn't a sense that Claire couldn't handle the interview on her own, I got the feeling that something big was going to happen, otherwise it would've been a bit silly to focus on it so heavily. And with Frank forced to watch the interview unspool on TV, just like everyone else, the episode allowed both Underwoods to show a vulnerability that we rarely ever see. Wright was fantastic as Claire worked through the emotions of the interview and her plan to change the subject, and Kevin Spacey was similarly strong in the moments where Frank had no choice but to stare up at the flatscreen as his wife got grilled on national television. I don't think "Chapter 17" was meant to show us that Claire and Frank are less calculating than they are, but it did work hard to illustrate that they aren't just calculating politicians. Their personalities and their relationship is different than those we're used to seeing on TV (or Netflix), but as this episode showed, there's a fascinating bond and a history there, and I hope House of Cards keeps exploring it in Season 2.

And while Claire was putting rapists on blast on cable news, Frank, Jacqueline, and the returning Remy hustled to ensure the entitlement bill would succeed in the House. The quarantine kept Frank stuck in a room with his old rival from the education bill, Donald Blythe. Unsurprisingly, Blythe wasn't interested in Frank's conning, but the quarantine forced an opening between the two of them when Blythe began to talk about his Alzheimer's-suffering wife. Those scenes were also very strong, mostly because the writing and Spacey found some middle ground between Frank's attempts to use Blythe's ailing spouse as a bargaining chip and the tangible sympathy and respect he felt for Blythe's situation. It's always nice to be reminded that Frank isn't a complete sociopath. Remy and Jacqueline working together was pretty wonderful; Mahershala Ali and Molly Parker have a fun chemistry. House of Cards needs to give us more of Remy in action, as Jacqueline is quickly making her mark as the whip. Her idealism makes her the Not Frank Underwood the show needs in the political sphere, especially if she and Frank are eventually going to be opponents (which I'm sure they will).


Over on the DEEP INTERNET, Lucas got slapped around by the hacker, who we now know as Gavin Orsay. And wouldn't you know it, Gavin is actually working as a FBI asset. This is why you never, ever touch the Deep Internet, dude. 

This was the strongest episode of season to this point, by far. In fact, this might be my favorite episode of the series overall. If House of Cards can continue to deliver some more emotional beats like the ones we saw in "Chapter 17" and not simply focus on the political maneuvering, the show will be in good shape for the remainder of Season 2.


How'd you feel about this one? And how awesome was Robin Wright?



HOUSE OF CARDS SEASON 2 REVIEWS ON TV.COM

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


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 3/4/2016

Season 4 : Episode 13

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This episode gets big props for shaking up the formula a little. It started out as a FU manoeuvre-thon with tangential subplots but then became a sort of bottle episode alternating with Jackie doing the heavy lifting for once and most significantly Claire's interview. That was just a great sequence, especially the acting. I was worried Claire would implode there for a minute before she masterfully flipped the story.

I realised in this episode that the hacker guy was that weirdo creep from It's Always Sunny. At least he's a little more nuanced here.

Overall this episode was good for the series because it adds some versatility. However it's not my favourite episode because the big moments were peripheral to the main story of the show. Still it wets my appetite for the next one.
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"a lot dumb stuff going on"? I completely disagree. I couldn't care any less about Lucas.
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I agree completely that one of the primary pleasures of watching HoC is seeing the actors work. Robin Wright was great and I really liked seeing her character more fully developed, as opposed to the Origami Claire we saw in the first season. I also really enjoy Kevin Spacey in HoC because watching him in prior roles, I always had the sense that this was who he really was as an actor and we'd all have a better sense of that in a role more like this one.
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I'm in love with Gavin Orsay already! I would love to see a spin-off of him reluctantly going undercover and taking down cyber criminals as an FBI asset to ensure he's not imprisoned for his own crimes... Anyone else?
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Agreed Cory, best season of the season thus far. I wasn't a huge fan of the whole quarantine idea, but I understand that it served it's purpose in preventing Frank from attending the interview. I'm just glad Donald Blythe didn't fall for Frank's deception for a second time and actually called him out as a liar (because if he had folded under the proposal of more funding for dementia research I would have rolled my eyes at having witness Frank Underwood once again dupe a politician into doing what he wanted).

Jacqueline is certainly making herself known as the new whip, and while all the sexism references are clichéd, her devotion and passion for getting the entitlement bill passed makes me excited for what the series has in store for her character.

And yes, the interview was brilliant. Like you said Cory, there was enough emphasis placed on the interview to know something major was going to happen, but for Claire to reveal her pregnancy and abortion, only then to blame it on Dalton McGinnis was surprising and exciting to watch.
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I have only watched the first 5, but I fear for Lucas' life. I actually fear for everyone's lives at this point...

http://corleonesandlannisters.com/2014/02/19/house-of-cards-review-chapter-14-15-premiere/
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I agree this is one of the strongest episodes in season 2, but I still enjoyed the hell out of the whole season.
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Having seen the whole season 2, I agree there is one of the best episodes. I think the last 3 episodes were also very strong.

I think season 2 is better than season 1 as we get to see more deeply into different characters and there are more twists and turns.

As a show that is about politics and people mostly just talk, it managed to be very exciting.
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very good ep. loving this season...season 1 was better IMO, but i'm only halfway done (watched 14-18 yesterday.)
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I managed to binge watch during the afternoons. "Loading, Please Wait" became overwhelming in the evening. Loved the series even though every one knew Frank would maneuver himself into the presidency it was fun to watch the progress. Hopefully they show season three - it's supposedly in production
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From what I can remember, Claire's arc is one of the big changes from the original BBC version and does add a whole new layer to the story. I'm never sure how calculating she is with these things, or whether it's on the spur of the moment.
I think the other new area is Rachel's, but I'm less convinced about that.
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I've been limiting myself to only one episode a night. I just watched chapter 17, and next to the season premiere, this episode has become my favorite so far. Love how Claire handled the interview.
As for the anthrax envelope scare, I really thought either Frank or Claire divised that scheme as a way to buy more time to get the votes needed, but I was wrong.
Although I really enjoyed this episode, I'm hoping to see more of the back-and-forth power seizing between Frank and Raymond Tusk. Can't wait to see who comes out on top.
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ha, that was my first thought too...that frank sent it in to his own office to get more time.
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Very bold move by Claire and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. I'm glad there was an episode where she got to shine a little bit. It did seem odd to me though that she didn't really emote anything during that interview, at least pretending to be choked up at all, she just had her same intense face on and delivered all of her lines so coldly. It was kind of unnerving to watch, which I figure was probably the point.

I do think this show does a great job of layering emotions upon Frank and Claire. When Frank came home and gave her that smile he was proud of her for speaking out and because he loves her, but you couldn't help detect part of that smile was at how great this will play out politically for them.
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Well, somehow Franks part of this show is getting stale. Every episode, almost like on a TV-schedule-show, there is a hurdle of the week for him to jump over. And every episode he does. The writers should take a look at "The West Wing" for reference on how to keep it interesting. Your "hero" still has to loose every once in a while to keep things interesting and just partially realistic. To me Frank as a character has become boring and his actions irrelevant insofar as the result seems to predicatble at all times: he will come out on top, even in the short term.
And on the hacking side of things: who was surprised that the whole thing was a setup? I wasn't. It fits with the shows predicatbility. But Jimmi Simpson and his character are new on the show, so they are still interesting. I just hope the make his an interesting journey.
Carrie is the one light of the show that seems to be getting brighter, at least in this episode. Great interview scenes.

To me this was the episode that finally knocked the show down a few points. I'll still watch it, but not with as much enthusiasm or anticipation. After these 4 episodes, the season 2 is looking weaker than season 1 was.
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This episode is mostly about Claire (Robin Wright) though I am not sure why she is doing this now. I had a feeling she did not plan it but after she told the interviewer she had a abortion, she had to come out with a story so she decided to do this. It does make things very interesting.
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I think this episode is the one where I switched from hate watching House of Cards and resenting it's inferior-ness from the British version to actually liking the show on its own merits. Claire went from being my least favorite character to perhaps my most favorite now.
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