Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) has won the election. Finally. It’s only eight episodes in the making. Using small errors in the Conway campaign, they shattered the Republican ticket in the press to take Ohio.
From the concession side of the election, the conceding party does not want to give in. Will Conway (Joel Kinnaman) feels as if he has been robbed, both by the Underwoods and his advisor Mark Usher (Campbell Scott).
Frank, with his incoming favorable numbers as low as they are, informs his cabinet that he will be focusing on bridging the gap between the two parties.
With the hacker Aidan Macallan (Damian Young) still at large, Leann Harvey (Neve Campbell) is on the chopping block. Underwood loyalist Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) instructs Seth Grayson (Derek Cecil) to push her out of the administration.
Meanwhile, Harvey is already going to the press with the information on Macallan. Kate Baldwin (Kim Dickens) is given the tip on the hacker and starts to investigate. Macallan, in the hands of Russian President Viktor Petrov (Lars Mikkelsen), debates whether or not whistle-blowing will help him or not.
The Macallan situation is shades of Snowden with some parallels to the purported Russian interference in the 2016 United States election.
This episode, in general, takes aim at current politics more readily than the previous ones in the season. Frank’s monologue at his inauguration is essentially expressing the confusion and bitterness some felt coming off the 2016 election.
This topical approach is more in line with what House of Cards has become known for. It is a show that embellishes the worst assumptions about the political system, so it is only fitting that it would look at the current state of flux that is the electoral system.
As mentioned in my previous installment of this season recap, the most important character to watch is Mark Usher. As he plays inside the President’s administration, it is not yet clear who his loyalty is to. His character feels very much like a mix of early season versions of Stamper and Underwood himself. Ruthless and dedicated, we just don’t yet know to what.
This episode also sees the official sealing of the deal between the President and his personal trainer, a superfluous plot arc that continues the trend of the Underwoods’ hidden lusts. These lusts are never as interesting as they might read on paper. In a sense, they are added noise and titillation that only take away from the heart of the show.
There isn’t much to grasp onto in this season of House of Cards. The plot arcs of interest were introduced early on and then delayed until this episode. The election results. The Congressional war committee investigating the Underwood administration. The Washington Post investigation, which has had some minor screentime but still hasn’t hit any substantial pay dirt.
The back half of the season has the potential to pick up these strands and make something both explosive and implosive out of them. But we also might not get anything this compelling until the very last episode.
As always, thanks for reading!
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)