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HOUSE OF CARDS Chapter 16 (Season 2) Review

I’ve been thinking a lot of thoughts that just had to be thunked. Nonsense aside, House of Cards has become the lynchpin of my pop culture debates at work and at home. If I’m talking about Lost, I’m talking about House of Cards as well. I’m even toying with a mindgame wherein I imagine Scandal’s Olivia Pope approaching Frank Underwood, offering her services. Frank then pats her on the head, smiles at her naivety, and tells her, “I think I can take it from here”. Then I simply just wish these two pulpy shows would merge anyway…Spacey’s POTUS is far more likeable. Which says a lot about Scandal’s version of the President, since he hasn’t even killed a dog…yet. My main point is to say that House of Cards, in my experience, has become the watercooler TV show much in the way that Lost was ten years ago. And that’s how I’ve been thinking about this show. Not in terms of content comparisons, but in terms of cultural hegemony.

Before Lost came along, I was (stupidly) boycotting television outside of South Park, King of the Hill, and The Simpsons. I didn’t realize then that there were some excellent offerings of hour-long dramas floating about. Then I went to college, planning to watch Lost as the first season trailers were blowing me away. I missed it. I blame alcohol and an unhealthy habit of going to a party every night. The next year, my buddy (fellow Invader Chris Baldwin), handed me the season 1 box set, placed his mitts on my shoulders and looked me square in the eyes. He said, “Michael, watch this immediately, then return it from whence it came, and we will discuss…over beer…and pizza…probably whiskey…bagel”. He said exactly that in my memory of that moment. So I did. I went to my dorm room on a Friday, popped it into my 14” TV/DVD player combo and watched. As the Sunday sun rose I rubbed my weary eyes and asked myself what many of us asked ourselves…”what…the…fuck?” I had binge-watched a season of a television series for the very first time. I did return to Baldwin’s house and boy did we discuss…and drink.

Enough about Lost for now. But worry not, my book, The Lost Generation: Pizza, Beer, Locke and Schmear will be coming out May 2015. It’s the follow-up to my first book, Paradise Lost: What does the Matthew Fox Say? You can tell me to shut up at any time.

“Chapter 16” begins with a bull penis and Underwood promising that he’s a matador. He then starts playing Raymond Tusk like a fool, which becomes one of the most important elements of Underwood’s current game of chess. Having seen the whole season, like I’m sure most of you have, it’s hard to believe that Underwood knows exactly how he plans to bring down Tusk ten episodes from now. But that’s what the binge-watching allows us to do, push on, consume at a high rate, and just shrug at the unbelievable aspects of the show.

Doug enlists his FBI buddy to control Lucas. This storyline offers promise and as I mentioned last week, sounds a lot like Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That’s a book that operates in a similar way. The main character has all the exact proper tools to get things done. It’s more about watching it and saying, “oh badass!” rather than considering the deeper motivations of character. Again, not a bad thing. Lucas is no Lisbeth Salander, however. He’s certainly no Frank Underwood. We can already tell his white knight act has no place in this world. Therefore, his doom is imminent. Any character that has ever crossed Frank Underwood does not end up in a good place. They just don’t. They’re set up to be knocked down. And we watch to see exactly that. Sort of like a reality show apologist saying they watch it just to see the crazy. They know there is no substance but that’s not why they’re watching it. You can go ahead and punch me for comparing House of Cards to “real” housewives. I apologize.

My wife once told me, over a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, that Doritos are made with a specific chemical that tricks our brain into wanting more…and more…and more. It’s literally a drug. There is no substance to a Dorito meal. It has no legitimate protein or fiber or healthy carbs. If they did, you’d have a hard time eating a whole bag in one sitting. House of Cards operates in much the same way. It’s delicious, sure. But you barely have to digest. If you were watching a show, week by week, that had a balance of proteins and fibers (3 dimensional characters and quality writing), you’d be forced to digest it over time, your brain belly considering each flavor note, before pooping out the show ready for your next meal.

Worst…or best metaphor ever?

Continuing the “politics without politics” aspect of the show, a Tea Partier shows up, butting heads with Frank. Nothing is said about how insane these people are as this fella is another bowling pin. The show never says anything about anything, really. It’s not ballsy to say that politics is shady and bureaucratic. And we never find much out about Frank as a human being that might give a foundation to his motivation. We just know he’s incredibly motivated. Again, if I was any other critic I might give the show a bad grade or complain. But I’m not. No grades. No point values. Because I don’t care. I know what I’m in for with this show and it delivers and delivers well.

After-Thoughts:

 

–       Rachel meets a new friend on the bus. People tap my shoulder or try to bug me on the subway all the time. That’s what headphones are for, though. Leave me alone. Seriously. Especially if you have a pamphlet.

–       That bird-avatar thing the hacker uses to talk to Lucas is what my nightmares are made of. That and a worldwide shortage of Oreos. Seriously though…what the hell was that thing?

–       Between seasons I kept thinking about Frank destroying some Tea Party asshole. Will they deliver?

–       Jimmi F’ng Simpson! He’s the hacker, Gavin Orsay. I love this guy. Every role I’ve seen him in is compelling in the creepiest way ever.

–       Let’s be honest, it’s pretty fun to watch politicians get arrested no matter which side of the aisle you’re on.

–       Rachel. I just feel bad for you, girl. Just an ex-lady of the night trying to make good.

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The Author

Michael O'Brien

Michael O'Brien

Michael graduated with a degree in Creative Writing with a minor in Film Studies from Western Kentucky University in 2009. He currently lives with his wife, two cats (and Netflix account) in NYC. He has published short stories on 400words.com and asouthernjournal.com. He has published poems in The Poetry Gymnasium by Dr. Tom Hunley and in The Roundtable.