Contains spoilers -- do not read unless you've seen House Of Cards Season 1, Episode 13
Sometimes smashing a sink faucet with a hammer is just smashing a sink faucet with a hammer. At other times, as in the finale of House Of Cards' first season, it means a whole lot more. Brute force might silence a dripping faucet, but it doesn't stop the underlying problem. Frank is surely going to find this out, across all areas of his life, in the second season.
Frank's acute anger is in itself a very blunt metaphor, illustrating how frustrated he is with his lack of progress. In fact, this whole episode is a boring, blunt instrument, and a straight-up plod to the end. For three quarters of this episode I knew exactly what was going to happen, and I kept looking at my watch. The Frank and Zoe plotlines are entirely predictable. We know that Frank is going to become vice-president (or at least nominated) by the end of the episode, but we have to suffer through paint-drying negotiations with Remy and other no-names (who even understands all this natural gas/nuclear/stocks crap, anyway?). Frank's meeting with Tusk at the end was so unnecessary -- their back-and-forth "debate" about loyalty and honour was really just a cock-fight. And somehow Frank, as a member of Congress, has the ability to negotiate the transfer of nuclear materials better than the President? Come on, House Of Cards, you can come up with a less ridiculous explanation than that.
We also had to sit through Janine, Zoe and Lucas's painstaking investigation of Frank, Peter and Rachel. I'll call them JZL and FPR for now, just to keep it simple. JZL is the worst. There, I said it. Whether it's Janine and Zoe quietly whispering in Slugline's office, or Lucas fawning over Zoe even though he loathes her past behaviours (this relationship is completely unrealistic, but I've ranted enough about that before), it's a tough slog, and it's painfully dull to watch. We, as viewers, already know about Rachel. We know her entire sordid history with Peter, so it's inherently stupid to make viewers sit through an hour of JZL searching and solving when we know the outcome. We know that they're going to eventually figure FPR out, so why make us sit through the process? Especially in the season finale! We could have just as easily assumed that Christina told Zoe all she needed to know at the end of Episode 12, since we're already assuming anyway. When JZL figures out the truth about FPR, as they're circling a lamp in a derelict room, I literally threw my hands up in the air. Come on.
The only segment of this episode that held my interest in any capacity was Claire's storyline, which, for the most part, has nothing to do with Frank's run for the vice-presidency or boring politics. Claire's story is ultimately about the life she's discarded to be with Frank, and all of the sacrifices, ethical or otherwise, that she's made. Gillian, who Claire fired in the last episode, is suing CWI for wrongful dismissal (on the basis that she's pregnant), and she will not settle. Even when Claire attempts to visit her and talk it out, Gillian shuts her down, and lets her know that this trial will be a national case, and everyone will know about her dealings with huge (and thereby inherently evil) corporations. Now that I write this out, I'm thinking about Dick Cheney's associations with foreign oil and arms makers, and how no one (save the big environmental groups) really noticed/cared. Even this storyline rings a bit hollow.
It's only when things get personal that they get interesting, and that's for about five minutes of the episode. At their wonderful little smoking window (I love these scenes), Claire ponders the bigger picture. While Frank is middling and selfishly planning his own journey, Claire asks, "What do we leave behind?" Sure, she's talking about not having any children, but also about their legacy. How will the Underwoods be remembered? At this point, they're a couple of heartless, rich elitists who have thrown numerous people under the bus to get where they are. Hell, Frank even killed someone. And who knows what's going to happen to Gillian, her unborn baby, Zoe, Lucas, Janine, Rachel, or even Remy? How many of them will end up dead in Season 2? I won't even get into the environmental and political ramifications of Frank and Claire's actions, which are many.
As a solution to her emptiness (or perhaps as a way to defuse the lawsuit -- don't put it past her, this woman has had three abortions), Claire wants to have a baby, even though we saw her endure the first symptoms of menopause throughout the season. Surely this isn't the best move, but Claire reeks of desperation. She hasn't even told Frank about the seriousness of the lawsuit for fear of his reaction. If analyzed properly, it's all Frank's fault anyway. He's the one who pressured Claire with Remy in the first place. I'm starting to think that Claire will ultimately be Frank's downfall. She may have fixed the faucet, but how many times will she clean up his mess? Eventually it will all end.
After such strong, powerful, eventful episodes like 11 and 12, it's a shame that the finale had to be so lifeless. Sadly, it leaves a sour taste in my mouth, and doesn't really propel my desire to watch Season 2. I'm not sure if I want to invest 13 hours of my life to reach the inevitable conclusion: Frank and Claire destroy themselves, with the help of all the people they've screwed over to get to the top. The fun moments of Frank talking to us, Claire taking names or Stamper being a wiseass are simply too few and far between. Even the sex on this show is, in a word, gross.
Breathing life into politics is a hard task, but it's been done better on TV before. House Of Cards could get there, but it needs a pretty serious overhaul.
Best Frank Quote: "Of all the things I hold in high regard, rules are not one of them."
You can stream House Of Cards at any time on Netflix.