Caution: Spoilers for House of Cards season four, episode two ahead.
Episode two of House of Cards season four opens on a conversation between Claire Underwood’s mother Elizabeth (Ellen Burstyn) and a group of her perhaps monetarily influential friends. She encourages endorsement of Heather Dunbar (Elizabeth Marvel) for president so that her daughter may begin her own political rise once Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) is out of the oval office.
The episode re-introduces Russian President Viktor Petrov (Lars Mikkelsen), where a man fleeing Russia seeks asylum in the U.S., fearing for his life when an attempt to unseat Petrov goes south. To President Underwood, this appears like nothing more than a bad news item that could overshadow his State of the Union address.
On a more interesting note, the Underwoods continue their relationship cold war by skirting the issue with political talk. Seeing their marriage become another political obstacle for the both of them is an intriguing wrinkle that promises to play out into something more dire as the season progresses.
Another point of interest plays out in a scene immediately prior to Underwood’s speech, where we see the politics of something as simple as who people sit next to at the State of the Union. It is a small series of shots aided by a lack of dialogue.
Of course, the major punctuation mark comes during the speech itself, when Frank sabotages the chances of Claire’s congressional bid by highlighting Doris Jones (Cicely Tyson) and endorsing her daughter’s (LisaGay Hamilton) run for the position.
Surrounding the President’s address are some of the show’s key minor characters, moving parts in their own political games. The affair between Remy Danton (Mahershala Ali) and Jackie Sharp (Molly Parker) draws attention from a nosy camera, as well as Claire’s new campaign employee Leann Harvey (Neve Campbell), seeds planted for further complications later in the season no doubt.
This is how the episode as a whole feels. Seeds planted. The small moments of intrigue around the set-up are great, but these moments are few and far between.
Additionally, the notable absence of Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) in these first two episodes of the season is disappointing, especially given his character arc in season three, which put him front and center in multiple episodes. Of course, he has been relegated to a background role in order to introduce this season’s bevy of new supporting characters, but if he doesn’t weasel his way back up to the foreground, the show will lose an integral cog in its internal political machine.
As always, thanks for reading!
—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)
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