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House of Cards: 10 Thoughts On the First Three Episodes

Screen Shot 2014-02-20 at 5.52.36 PM.pngI binge watched all of House of Cards in a little over a day -- here are 10 thoughts on episodes 1-3.

1. Season 2 Has Definitely Not Mellowed Out the Underwoods

As season 2 begins, we revisit our favorite power-crazed couple on the most harrowing run of both seasons. We've been watching them jog for a year or so now, so you'd think their endorphins should be flowing and mellowing them out. But, obviously, you'd think wrong. And, as we left off last season, Frank is now the Vice President of the United States of America -- the perfect position for him to play the Iago to the President's Othello. It will be interesting to see how many schemes Underwood gets away with this season; on the one hand, he wields more power now that he's in the White House but, on the other, he has a larger security detail, which means less privacy for him to carry out his sinister plans in secret.

2. The journalist lovers hit some turbulence.

It looks like a rocky road for our Lucas and Zoe, who are drifting apart and having some seriously terrible sex. But as we learned last year, he is head-over-heels for her, and understands that not only is she a tough nut to crack, but she also has her own demons to deal with. Although he has trepidations, Lucas is loyal and willing to trust Zoe, even though his instincts tell him otherwise. He has to battle the foreboding he feels when Zoe tells him she's going to meet up with Frank with his respect for Zoe and her journalistic feistiness. Unfortunately (see below), his post-feminist, good-guy boyfriend trust comes at a terrible price.

3. Holy shit, Zoe is gone.

Although Francis told Zoe on an early walk "don't step out of the sunlight for no reason. Let's start with a clean slate," that, uh, doesn't really work out for her. In the last quarter of the first episode, Zoe meets with Frank at a sketchy metro station, where under his orders, she deletes all phone history she has with him. She explains her theories about his involvement in the death of Russo but now the sleuthing skills and drive that once impressed Francis threaten him. Demanding an answer, she looks up with him with a look of childlike hope and states, "I want to believe you Francis!" and then, BOOM. The unthinkable happens. Francis pushes Zoe off the platform and into a speeding train. Moral of the story: don't meet a sociopath in a darkened subway alley.

While it's rare for a show to unceremoniously kill off a main character, it does happen -- see: The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men. However, this one was a big surprise. Even though we always knew that Frank was dangerous, we never actually feared for Zoe's life -- she always seemed like his match. And now that she's gone, any hope of finding retribution for Frank's actions is shot. And although calculated, Zoe's murder was much more brazen and dangerous than that of Peter Russo. To him, the risk outweighed the benefit and he was willing to bet everything for it. As Frank said during the first episode, his motto comes down to "Hunt or be hunted."

4. But actually. We have to accept it -- Zoe really isn't coming back.

Anyone else initially think it was all going to be one big dream or that Zoe was somehow going to pull out of a coma with guns blazing? Nope! In the second episode, Lucas goes to the authorities to question the validity of ruling Zoe's death an accident and is shown the video of the moment of impact. It looks pretty cut and dry: Underwood timed it perfectly and knew exactly how not to be caught on camera. We're also shown the footage of her body tumbling gruesomely in front of the train. AHHHHH.

5. Poor Rachel!
Life sucks again for Rachel, and it doesn't look like it's going to get better anytime soon. After Lucas, Zoe and Janine connect her to the whole Russo death scandal and subsequently try to track her down, Rachel gets immediately whisked off by creepy Doug Stamper. Their relationship has always been really uncomfortable -- he seems to get off by being borderline abusive toward her. Installed in a shitty, air condition-less apartment by Stamper, she's now working as a telemarketer in a new town where she doesn't know anyone. But by chance, she meets Lisa, a sweet young woman who tries to get Rachel to join her Christian group. Though initially brushing it off, curiosity gets the better of her and she goes to a meeting. Will Rachel become a Born Again?

6. Lucas is on a downward spiral

The scene where he receives the news that Zoe has died was tremendously sad. Watching him grieve is almost worse than Zoe dying.

7. Fight or Flight: Lucas wants to fight but Janine takes flight

Janine gets some threats in the mail and runs off to live with her mom in Ithaca. She needs to get the fuck away from the corrupt, macabre funhouse that is Capital Hill. Her fear overshadows any rage she might feel about her friend's obvious murder. Lucas, on the other hand, is out for revenge because for him, it's more personal. Zoe was his girlfriend. His hopes and dreams of living happily ever after with her are shattered.

8. Jackie Sharp is a force to be reckoned with.

Jackie Sharp is the new shark in the tank. Lauded by Frank for her "chilling pragmatism," Jackie seems equally as power-hungry as he is. After Frank tantalizes her with the idea that she could take over for him as the Majority Whip, she winds up screwing over her House Colleague -- and father figure -- Ted Havemeyer, who had helped her enter the political arena in the first place. She decides to out his secret love child -- who has cerebral palsy no less -- effectively ending his political career and removing a roadblock on her path to becoming Whip.

That said, while ruthless, Frank's protégée isn't completely heartless. She appears to take the consequences of her actions much harder than the Underwoods do. How much will she be able to keep apace with Frank's maneuvering before she faces a real crisis of conscience?

9. We learn why Claire is as tough as nails as she is

This season we see more of Claire's vulnerable side via a tumultuous backstory. We learn that she was raped her freshman year at Harvard by a man named Dalton McGinnis who has now become an army general and is about to receive a medal of honor from Frank. After Claire tells Frank who McGinnis is, he flips out but ultimately participates in the medal ceremony anyway. It was nice to see this hot-headed, protective side of him. We needed a break from his monstrosity.

But back to Claire: although there's no telling what Claire was like before she was raped, it does seem like some of her toughness and calculative coldness stems from this life-changing event. In that moment she was powerless and it seems like she's been trying to compensate for that feeling -- and to regain a sense of autonomy and control over her life -- ever since.

10. Lucas is becoming obsessive about the exposé -- to the detriment of just about everything else

Lucas starts stalking officials, police, and even Christina (Peter Russo's former girlfriend) but just when he's not making any headway, he gets the idea to go down into the Internet underworld to look for clues and to access Frank's phone records. Oh shit.

While this plotline is juicy, it's almost unrealistic that everything is moving so fast. Especially when he meets up with a big-time cyber hacker who invites him to his fancy high rise apartment. You would think a hacker extraordinaire would be more selective. But, let's face it, the idea of hacking into the information base of someone as high up as the Vice President of the United States is pretty damn intriguing. But there's almost a sense of desperation in the way the hacker is so quick to move forward and reveal himself. Something is up and we hope it comes to light in the next few episodes.

Amusing Thoughts:

Even though Underwood hates birthdays, he gets a pretty sweet gift from his favorite security agent. Cufflinks of his initials, "F U." Team Francis or not, we can all appreciate that.

The power couple go back to smoking. After sneering at e-cigs -- "addiction without the consequences" -- Frank and Claire decide the "healthy alternative" just isn't good enough. We like their oddly adorable smoke breaks, anyway.

Apparently high-risk anonymous illegal activity must be done through Apple products. Apps are key. And iPads must be destroyed after reading. If only they were able to self-destruct.

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