Okay, I’ll admit it upfront: I don’t really know what I thought of these last two episodes. I know two things:
1) They didn’t “wow” me, and
2) They didn’t suck.
All right, now that we’ve gotten the pesky extremes out of the way, I need to start parsing the even peskier middle ground.
Things I liked:
1) The direction of the reporters’ storyline. Zoe has clearly been humbled by her experiences, and is owning up to her mistakes by treating her fellow reporters with respect and working together with them to uncover the truth. She obviously hasn’t lost her non-deferential streak and is perfectly willing to poke her nose around in places she ought not to be trespassing, much to the chagrin of my journalist brother: “Real reporters can get information without harassing people — that’s not heroic; it’s invasion of privacy.” I still like the other reporters better than Zoe, but I don’t dislike her nearly as much as I did in the beginning when I called her a diva.
2) The president not being TOTALLY clueless. Okay, he was still a little clueless and didn’t realize that Frank and Linda are working together and that they could figure out what he was scheming, but at least he was scheming instead of being the useless pretty boy he’s been all season.
3) The scene where Frank gets the tables turned on him by the president’s billionaire buddy and realizes he wasn’t sent to St Louis to convince the guy to take the Vice Presidency but rather to be vetted for the position himself. Nice to see that role reversal.
Things I didn’t like so much:
1) I felt like the resolution to Frank convincing the guy to support his promotion to the Vice Presidency was a little too easy. I mean, first he ran around in a panic trying to sabotage the billionaire’s fortune with some complicated scheme involving SanCorp, in order to gain the upper hand. That backfired, but for some reason the guy was sufficiently impressed with Frank’s failed scheme that he decided to support him anyway. So . . . yay, Frank?
2) I liked that Claire’s decision to enlist SanCorp’s help with the water filters came back to bite her when Gillian found out and rebelled at this deal-making and corporate sponsorship. But I felt like there was insufficient setup for the degree of Gillian’s anger and her decision to go after Claire with a false discrimination suit in order to sully her reputation and the reputation of charities like Claire’s. Peripheral but relevant to this: I also still don’t really understand what is so important to Claire about this particular charity and what she hopes to achieve with it. I feel like that’s a key aspect of her character but it hasn’t been explained yet.
3) All the cliffhangers! Netflix, I hate you. Everything is unraveling and we have to wait until you put up the next installment? GAH. At least they’re already shooting season 2.
Overall, something about these episodes did not feel as strong as the build-up to them. Maybe the success of Frank’s machinations to become Vice President seemed anti-climactic because of the too-easy execution, or because of the theory that the show has lost tension because “Frank always, always, always wins.” Also, I miss Peter Russo and his redemption arc and vulnerability and inspiration and little-engine-that-couldness, and . . . yeah.
Regardless, House of Cards on a bad day is still better than The Newsroom on a good day.