in Television

House of Cards 2×01 “Chapter 14” Recap

The Underwoods tackle two threats that could bring their plans to ruin. Francis grooms his replacement as Whip. Claire goes on the offensive.

I was among those (arguably) lucky souls who got into Netflix Original Series House of Cards way late. Like, “I binge watched the entire first season a few days ago” type of late. In retrospect I’m really glad I did that, because it gave me a much shorter wait time for season two – a season I’m really excited for.

We left off last time with Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey) finally getting what he wants and thinks he deserves, becoming Vice President of the United States… at the cost of Peter Russo’s life, along with a few other disgruntled politicians’ careers. Frank’s wife, Claire Underwood (Robin Wright), found herself in a bit of a legal pickle with an angry ex-employee. Meanwhile, Frank’s ex-fuck buddy/reporter ally Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara) was starting to realize her role as a pawn in the wily politician’s twisted games, and along with Slugline coworker Janine Skorsky (Constance Zimmer) and kinda-sorta-not-really boyfriend Lucas Goodwin (Sebastian Arcelus), is beginning to unravel the truth.

“Chapter 14” begins how “Chapter 13” ended – with Frank joining Claire on a late night run through the park. They return home to find Frank’s trusted right hand man, Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) waiting anxiously outside. Doug updates Frank on Janine and Zoe’s investigation into him, stating that they’re finding the right people, asking the right questions, and getting worryingly close to the truth.

The next day, Frank privately meets with congresswoman Jackie Sharp (Molly Parker), planning to make her his replacement as Majority Whip. He leaves her alone in his office along with some files on the two people who would be her main opponents, then moseys off to another meeting including the President and Chief of Staff Linda Vasquez (Sakina Jaffrey), where he pretends to have no idea who he’d choose to be Whip and suggesting it go to vote. Oh, Frank. You and your manipulative, asshat-y ways.

Elsewhere in the city, Zoe, Janine, and Lucas continue their lines of investigation. Zoe plans to ambush potential witness Rachel Posner (Rachel Brosnahan) at work, but Doug has already gotten to her – he came to Rachel’s workplace earlier and ordered her to quit her job, go home, pack a suitcase and wait for him to come get her. Still, Zoe is resourceful enough to scrounge up enough info on Rachel to try and track her down later.

Lucas meets with an old police contact who gives him the files on Peter Russo’s “suicide” but warns Lucas that he’s done, and to never contact him again. Upon reading through the file, Lucas notices that Russo was found dead in the front passenger seat of his car – which is obviously very, very suspicious. This is a plot contrivance that most viewers probably side-eyed in the season one finale, and yet none of this occurred to Frank Underwood. I mean honestly, dude, you’re already murdering him – you couldn’t take the time to just lug his body over one seat to make it look less staged?

Photo: Netflix

Photo: Netflix

Zoe, meanwhile, meets up with Frank at the park where he tells her to delete their phone history and gives her boldfaced lies in response to all of her questions. Apparently, Russo wasn’t in the passenger seat when he died; he’d had second thoughts and tried to escape via passenger side door. Well then, why didn’t he just open the door on the driver’s side? YOUR STORY HAS SO MANY HOLES, FRANK. Your parents raised you to be a better liar than this.

Claire wants to go to trial against pregnant ex-employee Gillian Cole (Sandrine Holt), even against her lawyer’s advice. She then used what Gillian told her about the pregnancy against her by calling up Gillian’s baby daddy’s wife – a wife who then accosts Gillian in the street to shame her for sleeping with her husband and getting pregnant. She also cancels Gillian’s insurance policy and threatens her to drop the charges against Claire and come back to work for Clean Water Initiative, or Claire will deny Gillian the medication and care she needs during her pregnancy. Damn, woman, that is ice cold. The Underwoods are such terrible people, and yet I can’t look away.

In a later scene, Claire goes to a fertility clinic by herself to schedule some tests, hoping that she’ll be able to have a child with Frank – only to cancel all those tests at the last minute.

Zoe and Frank meet up again, this time at the Metro, and Zoe agrees to a clean slate with him by clearing her phone of all his contact information. She then immediately starts asking about Rachel Posner and Peter Russo again because she’s like an awesome little reporter dog with a bone when it comes to people hiding info from her. Frank once again denies any involvement, but when Zoe won’t stop, he pushes her in front of an incoming train – AND JUST LIKE THAT SHE’S DEAD. I literally shrieked a little bit when that happened, I’m not even going to lie.

R.I.P. Zoe. I will miss you and your sneaky-reporting, thumbnail-biting ways.

Janine is understandably freaked out, and packs her bags to skip town – leaving Lucas the only one of the trio who can continue the fight against Frank Underwood. A Frank Underwood who, once again, comes out on top of all those who oppose him. And in the final minutes of the episode he finally addresses the audience in the way we’ve all come to expect – with a wry, “Welcome back.”

Welcome back indeed.

Photo: Netflix

Photo: Netflix

Rating + Verdict

All in all, a very strong season premiere of House of Cards. It was a slow start at first, but once the plot built up to the third act of the episode it was full steam ahead (train pun fully intended.) Several moments really stood out, like Claire’s conversation with Gillian, and Frank’s second murder (is he going to become the in-house White House Serial Killer or something now? Will he just go around murdering anything that questions him or looks at him funny?)

Besides those more overtly chilling scenes, the scene with Frank in his favorite barbecue joint – though quite short and serving little purpose other than for an extended metaphor – was a highly memorable moment (if a bit queasy). I’m definitely looking forward to continuing the rest of season two’s episodes.

Rating: A-

Memorable Quotes

Christina: I wouldn’t be sitting here if I wanted a shoulder to cry on.

Frank: These are my last few days before I never have privacy again, I intend to savor these moments for as long as I can.

Zoe: We can’t go after him for playing dirty. And that’s not news, half the fuckers in Congress play dirty.

Frank: I want the best man to win.
Terry: That sounds like a cagey bullshit non-answer to me.

Claire: I’m willing to let your child wither and die inside you if that’s what’s required. But neither of us wants that. Now tell me, am I really the kind of enemy you want to make?

Zoe: I took a chance, showed up at your house and placed myself at your feet. Crossed ethical lines, professionally, physically, and I hold myself accountable for that. Those were my choices and I can live with them. I’d like to move forward, but I need to know exactly what I was a part of, that… that I wasn’t a part of someone’s…
Frank: Finish your thought.
Zoe: Part of someone’s murder.

Janine: My entire fucking career, I have always chosen the tough stories. I have been fearless. But you know what? I’m really fucking scared this time. He’s got power, he’s got a lot to lose, and right now he is winning.

Frank: There is but one rule: hunt or be hunted.