Previously on House of Cards, ‘‘Chapter 39’
In a bizarre, eye-widening start to season four, former journalist Lucas Goodwin – who we haven’t seen since season two – is “helping” his fellow prison inmate, um, reach climax, through the power of words. Lucas hasn’t become an erotic fiction writer though; he’s using his skills to gain the inmate’s trust, in the hopes he’ll make a confession, all while the government listens in. This information is exchanged for Lucas’ safe release into the Witness Security Program.
After this mild distraction we’re back to Frank, who’s already unraveling without Claire, and it’s only been like an hour. Doug can’t get the First Lady on the phone, but they do figure out where she’s headed: Texas. Claire has gone home to her mother’s ranch. This “home” however, has furniture covered in sheets and a mother who has little interest in seeing her daughter. It’s a small bit of insight into how Claire herself may have become so cold and detached.
Claire didn’t go home looking to spend time with family and heal however; she’s there with a plan to run for Congress. A political strategist, Leann Harvey (Neve Campbell,) makes it pretty clear that running in this district won’t be easy for a “lily white” rich woman. There’s also the issue of winning over current Congresswoman, Doris Jones (Cicely Tyson,) who is about to retire and has essentially reserved the seat for her daughter, Celia (Lisa Gay Hamilton.) Frank, undoubtedly, will also be a thorn in the side of Claire’s new mission.
Doug is sent to intimidate Leann, but he lets the president do most of the talking.
Frank warns her to back off from Claire, but he just doesn’t have that same edge when threatening via telephone. Leann doesn’t seem too distressed in the moment, but when Claire meets with Doris and Celia, Doug is there in her place. The Chief of Staff arrived before Claire and made it clear that Frank was happily endorsing Celia. Doris and Celia are happy to also stand behind Claire in her run for Governor, not Congresswoman. Tricky, tricky, Mr. Stamper. When Claire tries to assert her power as First Lady, Doris is having none of it. Again, Claire is white and rich, and what’s worse is she barely has an understanding of the community she’s hoping to control.
Meanwhile, Heather Dunbar and her team know something is up with the Underwoods when Claire doesn’t show up in New Hampshire. Cynthia, Dunbar’s campaign manager, meets with Seth and offers him a job in the Dunbar administration, with an eventual position as Chief of Staff, if he’ll leak information that could tank Frank. Seth is feeling underappreciated by the Underwood’s at that moment and can’t help himself but seize the opportunity. Pretty soon, the media’s talking heads are reporting on domestic troubles in the White House.
When Claire and her mother, Elizabeth (Ellen Burstyn,) finally speak, it’s obvious that these women don’t have a loving relationship. The same goes for Elizabeth and Frank. The President has arrived in Texas to use his wife’s mother to get them back on speaking terms, but it’s not in a familial bond kind of way; it’s in a very typical, under-handed, Underwood kind of way. Frank shocks Claire with the news that Elizabeth has been battling lymphoma for the past three years. Frank suggests they use her condition as the reason behind why Claire hasn’t been on the campaign trail, to which Claire is surprisingly disgusted. Leann – who Claire convinced to come back – thinks it’s a good idea, though. It’s better for both Frank and Claire to shut down the rumor mill as quickly as possible. Claire wants Frank to stop interfering with her campaign, and as long as she shows up for the State of the Union, he will do so.
House of Cards S4E1
This was a fairly quiet start to season four. It feels like an extension of the endless plot building we saw in season three. There are definitely some interesting threads starting to form though, and some new relationships I’m eager for the show to explore. Most intriguing is the dynamic between Claire and her mother. Elizabeth obviously has a problem with her daughter’s marriage to Frank, but it’s clear she still hopes (and wants) her to outdo him.
I’m all for Claire-on-top, too, but I think she’s going about it in the wrong way. Yes, using her mother’s illness for her own gain was one thing (a downright appalling thing,) but using her white, rich, First Lady privileges to manipulate her way into Congress is going to be cringe worthy and anger-inducing. The one good thing that comes out of this situation is seeing some new female faces in the cast. Cicely Tyson and Neve Campbell, in particular, have already made a mark and I hope to see a lot more of them.
As always, I love watching Frank deteriorate. It was delightful to see him losing his shit so early into his separation with Claire. Losing the New Hampshire primary won’t be the only bad news he sees over the next 12 episodes. There’s no way Lucas (now John Carlyle) is going to be able to settle down and lead a new life, especially with his lack of Internet connections. I’m sure Frank won’t surrender too easily though. That violent dream he had of he and Claire beating one other, stabbing each other, and gouging eyes out, was a startling look into Frank’s psyche. It tells me he’s not done fighting.