House of Cards Season 4, Episode 2: Review | Ep. 2 | Aired Mar 04
Now that Claire’s plans for Congress are out in the open, at least within the Underwood administration, the power moves can truly begin. Where the first episode of this season largely focused on setting the table for the coming season, catching us up on where Claire and Frank stand with one another, the second episode sees the backdoor dealings and political strong-arming begin.
It’s not just the familiar players getting in on the action, though. Claire’s mother, Elizabeth, seems to be shaping up to be a major part of this season. As the episode begins, she’s sitting around with her snooty Texas friends, plotting the downfall of Frank and his presidential bid. She tells her friends that they need to start backing Heather Dunbar, discreetly, with their money. Elizabeth’s immense wealth is the power she wields, and it seems like she’s more than ready to wield it with full force against Frank.
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Also getting into the mix is Jackie Sharp, though she always seems one or two steps behind the rest of the pack. That’s why she’s eager to hear out Celia, Doris Jones’ daughter, who approaches her with a pitch about her mother’s plan for a breast cancer center in their district. She says that if Jackie’s willing to help out, they could set up a super PAC that would help Jackie’s campaign, staring with a cool $3 million. Tempting, to say the least.
Still, it’s Claire that seems closest to landing the support of Doris Jones. She hasn’t yet convinced Doris that Celia should wait to take over her seat, allowing Claire a two-year run in the position, but things are looking up. Claire is still insisting that she can help Doris with the breast cancer center, so long as she keeps things between the two women and doesn’t let Frank and his staff in on the deal.
Of course, the first rule of House Of Cards is to recognize that everyone is in this for themselves. Thus, it doesn’t take long for Doris (we presume) to turn right around and call Frank about Claire’s plans. We don’t get to hear the conversation, but it clearly influences the events of the episode. It forces Frank to change his State of the Union address at the last minute, and it’s clear something is up when Frank menacingly tells Claire he’ll help her campaign in any way he can. Yeah, I don’t think I trust him.
Meanwhile, Jackie is pondering Celia’s super PAC offer. Still, she’s unsure about who’s involved and how it will affect her, so she asks Remy for help. She mentions a few different names, and some ring a bell to Remy. In particular he remembers Leann and agrees to poke around in her business and see if he can get a sense of what she’s involved in. At this point, no one knows for sure that she’s working alongside Claire and prepping her for a big political run.
The State of the Union
All the political maneuvering comes to a head at the State of the Union. Claire first suspects something is up when she’s seated next to Celia, which is a little out of place. What she doesn’t know is that Frank asked for Celia to be placed there. What could his plan be?
While Frank is delivering his rather cheery and optimistic State of the Union speech, Remy finds Leann watching the broadcast in a nearby bar. He strikes up a friendly conversation, but his intentions are soon made very clear to Leann. It’s clear that he wants information about what she’s doing for Claire, what she was doing in Dallas, and how it all ties in to Doris’ district, as well as Jackie’s campaign.
Leann is seasoned, though; there’s a reason that Remy’s old employer couldn’t secure her services back in the day. She doesn’t let anything on and leaves Remy sitting alone in the bar, even seemingly blackmailing him with information about his relationship with Jackie. Considering that we saw a man taking pictures of both Jackie and Remy as they left their hotel earlier, it’s clear that Leann knows exactly what she’s doing and is staying ahead of all her foes.
As Frank’s speech continues, he does more than just address the political climate of the United States. Finally, his plan is revealed. He publicly announces that he’s helping Doris Jones get her breast cancer treatment center, and at the same time he backs Celia as her successor in the 30th, essentially ending any bid Claire may have had.
While Claire heads to the airport after the speech, she realizes that Doris must have approached Frank behind her back. There’s no other explanation for how Frank would have known about their deal. That suspicion is essentially confirmed when Frank calls her back to the White House. He says that while he doesn’t want her to run, the reason he derailed her potential campaign is because he thinks it’s too early for Claire to make a move.
Of course, that’s not really true. Frank is just worried about any threat to his power. He basically says so when he says he doesn’t want Claire to get “dangerous.” Claire agrees, saying that maybe she jumped the gun. Really, though, she’s just appeasing Frank, and it looks like we’re set for a fierce battle between these two. Frank tells the camera a story from his childhood about how he can’t stand people who don’t appreciate what they have, and the story parallels his feelings about Claire. He wants her to be submissive, to just stand by and appreciate being part of his success.
Claire is much stronger than that, though, and she has plans of her own. While a confrontation with her mother suggests that she may have trouble getting Elizabeth’s financial support, Claire isn’t backing down from a fight. She threatens to sell the estate to pay for Leann’s services. Claire’s on a mission. As she tells Leann after they both realize they have no shot of beating Celia in the 30th, they need to think bigger for this cycle. Claire has a plan; the rest of us just have to sit back and wait.