Most of you noticed that FOX Sports Knoxville took a four-day weekend. This allowed me to sit on my ass and watch season five of House of Cards all day Tuesday.
As of Thursday, I’m through episode eight. But I’ll only write up until episode four. I don’t intend to drop major spoilers. In the event that happens, know it’ll only be episodes 1-3 for now. If you watch House of Cards and haven’t gotten through at least three episodes by now, that’s on you.
Season four ended with Claire finally breaking the fourth wall and honoring that she and Francis act as one. They are on the presidential ticket together and following the same game plan – using domestic and international fear to promote jingoism.
The newest season honors the final scene of season four, with Claire looking directly into the camera. This time, she is filming a campaign ad. As she speaks directly to the American public, she further preys on fear.
Several times throughout the season, we’ll see Frank and Claire purposefully seek examples of domestic terrorism so that they can scare the public into voting for whichever candidate takes a tougher stance on ICO (a fictional but not so fictional terrorist group).
Two notes on this: first, the entire House of Cards slight of hand reminds me of Barry Levinson’s movie Wag the Dog. The entire movie hinges on the thought of spinning, what many perceive as public disasters, into misdirection. Without getting too deep into the political climate twenty years after the movie’s release, that brings up point number two.
Just like professional sports, national politics exists on TV. Think about this. How many times have you been in an NFL locker room with players? Discussed the lineup with an NBA coach? Or substantiated through multiple sources why certain members of the Senate voted certain ways?
People gain their information, listen to opinions and form their own thoughts from mass media. Those who manipulate the system accordingly gain an advantage. That’s all Frank and Claire aim to do. It’s the same chicanery we fell in love with season one.
Midway through the first episode, Frank encapsulates that thought saying, “all those people want is someone to keep them from what they’re afraid to know.” Frank goes on a half-soliloquy about being the face of the American people. He mentions the masses outside the gates, staring at the White House and the scene ends with him singing “I Wonder What The King Is Doing Tonight” from the broadway musical Camelot. It is also worth noting that Camelot also serves as a metaphor to President Kennedy’s administration.
Other Kennedy associations a) using television to win the election b) being the face of a generation and the civilian mass Underwood points out.
The show uses Halloween as its theme for episode two, since the entire season centers around fear. Without giving away too much, key in on the final minute of the second episode. I had to watch it two or three times. But the scenes with Conway and the Underwoods underscores the battle we see and the battles we don’t.
For Frank and Claire, war exists where we perceive it to exist. The closer you think it is to your doorstep, the better.
Conway yells in anger that Underwood, “wouldn’t know what a real war if it jumped up and bit him in the ass.” But it’s not important that Underwood knows war, so long as the public feels under attack.
The point gets bolstered again and again. The Underwood ticket runs on protecting, supporting and fighting on behalf of the American public. Citizens need somebody to keep them safe from terrorism. Frank and Claire embody their protection and calculate public appearance to reinforce the notion.
To protect the campaign’s brand, Claire manages a situation involving Frank’s college friends. That’s right the history of a cappella groups and all-male military academy comes back to the forefront just as it did in season one. It’s no weirder to the storyline now.
Remember, elections only exist through TV.
The fact that Francis has personal matters he wants to bury surprises nobody. The entire show is built on covering up the previous incident, thus creating a… wait for it… house of cards. But the potentially-gay past now reoccurring becomes a storyline and about midway through the second episode Claire drops a, “the past doesn’t disappear on command, Francis. Not even for presidents.”
Alright, BIG moment about five minutes into episode three. Conway is doing a 24-hour live stream where citizens can ask their questions leading up to the polls. Obviously, a good idea for two reasons a) citizens get their questions directly answered b) no matter how small, it’s difficult to cover any lie for 24 hours straight on no sleep. So you’ve gotta tell the truth.
The writer Tom Yates, aka the guy who’s screwing Claire, correctly notes that it doesn’t matter what he says, “he’s modern. That makes the presidency seem accessible.” You don’t need me to tell you this is where all elections are headed.
For the sake of the show, it further pushes the point that the contents of words don’t matter so much as you look good saying them and reach the right audience. Remember, elections only exist through TV.
Season three ends with election results pouring in.
Other notes from episodes 1-3:
- Good deal of sex. Not a ton but enough. Stamper is still fooling around with the woman whose husband he killed. So that’s odd
- Stamper just an overall strange cat. Guy is obsequious to the point of delusion. But he’ll get shit done.
- The show highlights the odds at which the country’s press and offices stand. House of Cards has always exaggerated the extent of media being duplicitous. But the show makes you think critically about the meetings we don’t see.
- Also, episode one, 17:12 Will Conway at a VFW event in Knoxville, TN.
- Episode three, 22:37 second Knoxville mention of the season.
- In episode four, Knoxville becomes the most important part of the entire show.
Boomer Dangel hosts Overtime weeknights 6-8 pm on FOX Sports Knoxville. He promises to get back to all emails email@example.com.