By: Kyle Grubb
Again, there are episode spoilers ahead. You have been warned.
It’s frustrating, sometimes, with the way that these articles are posted on Facebook. The first 75 words or so are thrown up, accompanying the announcement of my newest thing. This means, of course, that if I don’t want to be a dick, I can’t say anything spoilerish in the first paragraph of so. This is fine when I have an “In Life” section to open with, but after the first episode’s review, what else am I supposed to say about it in that context? Nothing, that’s what.
And now that we’re passed that little threshold, here we go.
“We will reinvent the American Dream.”
This is a whole new side of Frank, and it’s damn entertaining to watch.
I’m getting ahead of myself, though. This episode wastes no time in showing just how much of a wall both Underwoods are forced to climb. Frank is now, arguably, the most powerful man in the world. There’s nowhere higher to aim for. It’s everything he wanted. The problem is, nobody else seems to want him there. Approval is still horrendous, AmWorks is finding opposition everywhere, and now the Democratic Leadership makes it known, very early, that they don’t want Frank running for office again in 2016. Needless to say, our pal Francis is not the slightest bit pleased about this latest obstacle. He does admit that he wasn’t surprised by it, though. Determined to not let go of his power, he seeks the money to stand up against leadership and claim the presidential nomination.
Meanwhile, Claire is stuck battling for her own place in the political world. In seeking to become UN Ambassador, she says a few things that were, let’s be polite here, probably not wise. Mind you, they were taken out of context, but, come on, it’s Washington; it’s a place run by children having pissing contests with each other. You have to expect that they’ll spit in your hair or accuse you of having cooties with the slightest opening. All of it proved to be a way to piss Claire off (screw you, Mendoza), and it worked. Suddenly her chances are looking grim, and she’s scrambling to climb out of this new pit she’s found herself in.
Thus begins the phone call montage, where both Underwoods are searching for allies anywhere they can find them. It’s interesting, again, watching the desperation these two are forced to deal with. At their wits end, each finds a way to deal with a stress: Claire needs to go out running, and Frank decides to throw a lamp and curl up into the fetal position. I don’t think we’ve ever seen Frank cry before, and it was a powerful moment seeing this man at his lowest. Of course, then Claire came in, stripped off his pants, and we finally get to see them get intimate without making a Meechum Sandwich. That whole scene felt really off. I’m not sure if it was supposed to be a tender moment, or a creepy one. Considering it’s this show and these characters, it might be intended to be both.
Then some stuff happens about eggs, and Claire finds out that she lost the vote. Obviously distraught in her very Claire-faced way, she’s forced to march before the press and admit that she failed. Frank, meanwhile, realizes that fighting against Leadership won’t get him anywhere. “You can’t fight physics.” Instead, plans are being drawn up. Speeches are being written. We’re obviously left out of the loop, all in building towards the dramatic reveal.
During all of this, we have Doug limping around his dark apartment doing whatever Doug does. He’s trying to get in contact with Frank, trying to stay useful again, but just can’t quite get through. He has ideas for AmWorks, how so smooth it past some of the opposition, but I’m less than certain that Frank’s going to read it. Instead, Seth is ordered by Frank to keep an eye on Doug, make sure he’s doing alright. It’s nice to see that Frank does legitimately care for Doug, something I’ve always suspected. That doesn’t mean I don’t think he’ll throw Doug to the wolves if he needs to, but he’ll definitely try to find another way first. For Frank Underwood, that’s practically a declaration of undying love.
Frank meets again with the Leadership, and basically tells them that he won’t run if they help him get AmWorks through to Congress. He says that by not running, he can focus on actually being a leader. He tells them to shut up and get behind him. This is the Frank Underwood we know, the man that’ll kill to get where he wants to go. He claims to want his legacy, to do something important. Of course, we know Frank better than any of these people. We know he still is aiming to run. He always has something up his sleeve.
Frank gives a speech to the American people, and basically comes out and says that the American Dream is a huge lie, he’s fighting to get them the jobs they need to actually take hold of their own destinies, and that he’s able to say all of this because he won’t be running in 2016. You could practically see the mic drop at the end. I actually watched this scene with an open mouth, trying to imagine a real President really doing something like this. Honestly, try and imagine President Obama walking out and dropping that speech into the country’s lap. Frank is making his move, one of those moves that most of us watch this series for. We don’t know all of the details, but everything is a calculation. This is his bid to hold on to power. Finding out how he’s planning on pulling that off? That’s just the fun to come.
Also, while all of this is happening, Jackie Sharpe is back and is making her own power plays. She knows, like us, that Frank isn’t going to give up, and she wants on board the Underwood Train. Jackie was one of those interesting characters in Season 2, who basically seemed like Frank, but with the tiniest bit of a conscience. Not enough to stop her from screwing people over, but you know. Now, the parallels between her and Frank only seem stronger. She manipulates both the media and Remy to help position herself by Frank’s side, and moving forward she will likely either be one of Frank’s greatest allies or most dangerous enemies.
Seth swings by Doug’s apartment, and they have a little chat about stuff. I still don’t understand why Frank chose to position Seth as Doug’s support net, considering the two had their animosity and rivalry for much of last season. It does seem like Seth is legitimately interested in helping out Doug, even if it is just because Frank asked him to, which was a pleasant thing to see. We was honest to Doug, though, that Frank probably hadn’t read Doug’s email. With Seth gone, Doug turns around and gets himself another shot of whiskey (literally). I’m not sure if this is supposed to be metaphorical, but Doug’s way of drinking is really weird. Just throwing that out there.
With Frank back on Cloud 9 and riding the “smug evil genius” wave all the way to the bank, Claire makes an impassioned speech about getting Frank to manipulate things and get another shot at becoming Ambassador. She expects a fight, knowing that it could make Frank look bad, but he barely seems to care. He agrees quickly, and walks off. Claire, far from happy, seems to get sick into the sink. She then cooks up some eggs, and stares at them while dramatic music plays. I admit that I’m not the brightest bulb when it comes to symbolism, but I feel like I missed something here? Is she pregnant? Is that why she’s having eggs and throwing up? Or is it just a metaphor for her… you know what, I have no idea. I’m just going to keep watching.
Also, there was some veteran who got his legs blown off by a drone strike. Frank decides to just tell everybody about it, because it seems like he just doesn’t give a shit anymore. It’s fun to see him like this, even if it doesn’t seem to make much sense, and I’m excited as hell to see what’s up his sleeve.
Both Spacey and Wright were on form tonight, as we saw slightly different layers of them than we were used to. Three seasons in, you expect to have a handle on main characters. Of course, this brand-new environment provides a whole slew of unique challenges and stresses, and overcoming them requires an entirely different playbook than we’ve been working with as of yet. It’ll be interesting to see if this extreme focus on these two, at the expense of much of the rest of the cast, continues throughout this season. Whereas earlier seasons had much more for the supporting cast to do and multiple storylines to juggle, Doug is the only non-Underwood to get any substantial focus so far this season. That being said, I’m only two episodes in. I expect that some other faces will demand some more attention once these balls get rolling.
Underwood scares the hell out of me sometimes, but I can’t wait to see just what he’ll do next.
Final Score: 8/10
Another Frank-ism for our enjoyment: