'House of Cards' Season 1 episode 11: Things fall apart
Where we are:
"Chapter 11" is an interesting episode. The first time watching "House of Cards" Season 1, we were delighted at the breadth of Frank's machinations and also a clear demonstration of just how far he's willing to go in his rise to power.
However, upon subsequent viewings, it occurs to us that "Chapter 11" actually makes very little sense in the context of the season -- and it easily could have been a perfectly-executed turn of events.
In the opening few minutes of the episode, Frank reveals via one of his patented audience addresses that he was planning all along to maneuver himself into the vice-presidency. Which seems amazing as his entire plan is revealed.
Except for one thing -- the Delaware River Watershed Act. The failure of that act completely contradicts the idea that Frank has been moving his chess pieces so as to have Peter fail as the governor candidate, causing Matthews to step in and then causing the president to nominate Frank for VP.
In the episode where they're whipping votes for the act, there is absolutely no indication that Frank is anything but 100 percent on board with the act, even to the point where he yells at Claire about how his ambitions trump hers. Furthermore, he seems genuinely angry when the bill fails, he seems surprised to learn from Zoe that Claire was the turncoat and he yells at Claire (again) about how she has ruined everything.
Since the show uses Frank's asides to the viewers so liberally, it could have easily found time for Frank to tell us he was secretly tanking the bill. In fact, that's primarily the kind of comment those asides are for. Yet it did not.
What was Frank's plan, then? Have the watershed act succeed and then ... find some other way to have Peter fail as a candidate? If that's the case, why even have the act drafted and put forth to Congress in the first place?
Here's how the show could have easily fixed this problem: Involve Claire. It was, after all, Claire who tanked the bill by what she said to the two on-the-fence congressmen. How delicious would it have been to find out that Claire and Frank fighting was all for show and that her assignment was secretly to get the bill to fail by a slim margin? It could have all been revealed in one of their smoking-out-the-window tableaus and it would've been awesome.
Sure, we still would have had to suspend disbelief that Frank saw 20 steps down the road, predicting exactly how all of these dominoes would fall and that a vice president would relinquish his seat to go back to being governor (because honestly, that would never happen).
But taking those kinds of things at face value is what a political thriller is about. What is harder to take is that Frank planned all of this and yet still wanted the watershed act to succeed. That makes zero sense. And it frustrates us as viewers because it's an easily-fixable problem.
Anyway. It's at this point that "House of Cards" really sucked us in upon the first viewing, but then kind of lost us when we gave it more thought. It doesn't mean the show is bad; we still enjoy it. But it's irksome.
There were, however, some bright spots from "Chapter 11":
- We actually loved the juxtaposition of Zoe trying to fit into Claire's life by trying on her dress, fingering her perfume bottles, ruffling up her side of the bed, as Claire tried to fit into a life like Zoe's (albeit with more money) at Adam Galloway's apartment.
- RIP, Peter Russo. You were one of the few fairly likable characters on the show, even when you fell so hard off the wagon (the drinking we understand, but the cheating on Christina was a heart-breaker because we like her a lot). However, props must be given to actor Corey Stoll, who definitely earned his Golden Globe nomination. He did a stellar job all season, but particularly in "Chapter 11."
- Linda Vasquez knowing exactly what Frank is up to is a nice touch. It would be kind of awesome if she came over to the dark side in Season 2.
- You know who else we hope to see more of in Season 2? Doug Stamper. He's such an interesting character, as a do-anything lackey for Frank but also with a weird soft spot for Rachel the hooker. Also, we just really like actor Michael Kelly.
Zoe: "So what is this? Tying up loose ends?"
Frank: "Once someone is exposed, they're at your mercy."
Adam: "I can't be just a pitstop, Claire. Or some sort of escape or a top-off on whatever Frances can provide."
Peter: "When has your help ever helped me?"
Frank: "Whatever happens in the next few hours, whatever you hear. We will never speak of it."