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Has House Of Cards Shown Us Everything In Its Bag Of Tricks?
Or will an election and some new characters spice up this slow season?
What should be a very exciting episode of House Of Cards -- the one in which the Presidential election is decided -- falls flat. I mean, there's built-in drama! At the end, there should be a winner and a loser, and given this show's history, the outcome is actually uncertain! And yet, by keeping the focus completely on boring old Frank and Claire, all the tension is sucked out of the episode. In fact, at this point, there are many characters who need to get into some sort of shenanigans (political, sexual, or murderous) or disappear forever. Let's rank the characters at this point from most interesting to least.
- Sean Jeffries
As the new addition to Tom Hammerschmidt's investigative journalism team, Jeffries is still an enigma. His only experience is in the Style section, but Tom has been told he can talk to anyone, anywhere, and now that their paper has published an indictment of the Underwood administration, Tom can't get that kind of access himself. Jeffries cozies up to Press Secretary Seth Grayson as the election results come in, hoping for some sort of scoop, especially if Underwood loses and Grayson can cut ties. But even more importantly, Jeffries seems smart and savvy, and his motives aren't clear. Is he really interested in taking down Underwood, or is he just trying to make a name for himself? Can he get absolutely anyone to talk, and who will be next on his target list? He's also the only character on the show that seems to have a sense of humor, so that's enough for me to rocket him to the top of the list.
- Mark Usher
Campbell Scott's mysterious political consultant/PAC leader/question mark has inserted himself into the Conway campaign at Hannah's request. He's outwardly confident that Conway will win, but he's also constantly taking phone calls in the bathroom. Why the bathroom? Does he like the acoustics? Does he like the privacy? Is he a fan of Italian marble?
- Seth Grayson
I've never had much use for the Press Secretary, but now that he's talking to Jeffries and generally acting shady, I'm reminded of the season where he leveraged his knowledge of Claire's abortion to get a job with the Underwoods. Or maybe, given the current real-world administration, it's just nice to see someone who understands how the push-pull relationship between the government and the media actually works, and how to answer questions without scolding the reporters for asking them. Anyway, Seth's got one foot out the door, and knows where at least some of the bodies are buried.
- Catherine Durant
I was going to rank her much lower until I remembered the brief scene between her and Frank in the Situation Room. I'm still not quite sure what was going on there -- she seemed to be insinuating that Frank was going to lose the election and that she knew something he didn't? She also followed orders by delivering Frank actionable intel about domestic terrorists to help with his quest to disrupt the election, but she didn't seem too happy about it. Having been burned by the Underwoods before, is she completely under their thumb, or is she showing signs of independence?
- Patti Whitaker
We only get a brief glimpse of the Chair of the Democratic Party in this episode, but she's one of the first people to tell Claire that even if Frank loses (which looks likely at that point), Claire can still have a political future. And there are people in the party who actually want that to happen. Could Patti be an ally on a future Presidential run by Claire Underwood? Or, at the very least, has she planted a bug in Claire's ear that might bear fruit in the future, to badly mangle that metaphor?
- Hannah Conway
Hannah has so much potential as a career woman and mother and wife, and a young, hot possible First Lady, but the show is so busy with all the other characters that it feels like she never gets her due. This episode is mostly just her sleeping with her husband to try to relieve his tension, watching the election returns, and recording a video for his supporters once the results are thrown into question. Let's dump some of the old wood and make room for an actual independent storyline for Hannah.
- Will Conway
I think he spends the entire episode working out, based on the fact that his shoulders seem to get wider in every scene. Is he taking HGH or something? After a few moments of elation when Frank calls to concede the election, Conway spends the rest of the episode staring blankly into space once it becomes clear that neither he nor Frank is going to earn enough electoral votes to become President. The whole PTSD issue and the fact that he's obviously hiding something about the incident that earned him military accolades might be interesting in the future, but he needs to step it up.
- Aidan Macallan
The most nervous hacker of all time reluctantly causes some sort of internet/cellular disruption, at Stamper's request, to give Frank something to blame on ICO. Along with the stampede or riot or whatever in a Tennessee voting center, this gives various swing state governors enough ammunition to suspend voting and makes the entire election go haywire. I'm kind of over Macallan's reluctance to continue doing the Underwood's dirty work. You'd think, at this point, he has enough evidence to take his stories to actual law enforcement (or to Tom Hammerschmidt at the very least) and take a plea bargain to bring down Frank and Claire and Doug and Leann.
- Tom Hammerschmidt
His bombshell article exposing the corruption in the Walker and Underwood administrations didn't have the huge impact he hoped for, but Hammerschmidt is still plugging away. He's serving as a TV commentator on Election Night, even if his screen makeup isn't quite perfect. I think there's more to come from him.
- Leann Harvey
I'm glad to see that Neve Campbell has learned to speak without exhaling on every syllable as she used to on Party Of Five, and her wardrobe is A+. But where do her loyalties lie? She is protective of Aidan, but also seems to take Claire's side over Frank's. Perhaps she she is just savvy enough to see whose fortunes are on the rise? Will her feelings change if Claire decides to stick with her husband?
- Doug Stamper
Stamper has been such a disappointment so far this season. He's still seeing (read: fucking) the widow of the man he basically killed so that Frank would move up the liver donor list. He's still doing whatever Frank orders. He's still squabbling with Leann like siblings. I get that the show needs someone to do Frank's dirty work, but we've seen this guy completely loyal to the Underwoods, then not, then on a downward spiral, then recovering. Is there anywhere left for the character to go?
- Claire Underwood
The only reason Claire is this high on the list is because she seems intrigued by the idea of ditching dead weight Frank and running for President herself in four years. That probably wouldn't happen this season anyway, unless they do a massive time jump, but her tired relationship with Tom and her expected electoral machinations aren't doing her ranking any favors.
- Frank Underwood
I really don't get Frank's motivations this season, and perhaps all will be revealed in time. He works hard to suppress voting by goading state governors into creating voting centers, but voter suppression typically favors Republicans, and he's a Democrat. I hope there's a long game at play here because that action makes no sense. And then, once the election has been disrupted and no clear winner has been declared, Frank gives Claire a big speech all about how "the American people don't know what's best for them" and they need him to guide them into doing what's necessary and right. It's basically the Frank Underwood thesis statement that we didn't need, five seasons into the show. We get it. Having the main character make the subtext into text isn't interesting, and it's insulting to the viewer. The only part of Frank's future that I'm potentially looking forward to is the continued hints that he's aging and his health isn't great, and the possibility of Claire ditching him to make her own fortunes. Otherwise, I don't know what else I need to see from Frank Underwood.
- Tom Yates
Ugh. This guy. He's the actual worst. He's that guy from your senior English seminar who thinks he's super-deep because he's read Bukowski and he likes to drink whiskey neat. His side relationship with Claire has ceased to be interesting because everyone knows about it, and no one cares. I hope he dies in a fire.