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Review: ‘House of Cards’ Season 3 Episode 9 ‘Chapter 35’ Humanizes & Demonizes in Equal Doses

Review: 'House of Cards' Season 3 Episode 9 'Chapter 35' Humanizes & Demonizes in Equal Doses

EPISODE 8 REVIEW: ‘House of Cards’ Season 3 Episode 8, ‘Chapter 34,’ Makes the Possible Impossible

Morning Briefing:

Both Doug Stamper and Remy Danton came clean to their loved ones in “Chapter 35,” but neither went as well as the suddenly vulnerable tough guys needed. Upon hearing that Rachel is indeed dead — not that we believe this for a second — Doug’s slow fall off the wagon came crashing down. He’s drinking whiskey by the glass now and doing so in public places with frustratingly small basketball hoops. He calls the White House to inform the President, but doesn’t stop there. He also tells him of his drunkenness and plan to scam Heather Dunbar by working for her. Frank then immediately uses the information for his own gain, calling Dunbar and threatening her with the information, under the guise of caring for Doug.

Remy, meanwhile, let his emotions get the best of him with the cops and then his ex. First, he was driven to a blind rage by Iowa bigwig Harlan Traub dismissing him as a “chauffeur.” This caused him to speed, and then his frustration with the local cops got him thrown onto a trunk and cuffed. The blow to the head may have done him some good — emotionally, at least — as it led him to Jackie’s lobby floor, confessing his feelings for her without actually saying the words. Her reaction certainly could have been worse, but Remy nonetheless seemed ashamed of his humanity.

The same qualities cannot be applied to the episode’s A-plot. Frank engaged in a nasty back-and-forth with President Petrov after Russian troops are killed in the Jordan Valley while on a peacekeeping mission assigned by the unwanted U.N. In Petrov’s mind, Frank may as well have pulled the trigger, but Claire learns from her Russian counterpart it was actually part of Petrov’s plans to get his own men killed. Later, in a cruel bit of irony, Frank ends up sending one of his own soldiers to his death while trying to obtain evidence against Petrov. Neither leader shows as much compassion as their underlings, continuing the pessimistic streak of a series always pushing further into the shadows.

READ MORE: ‘House of Cards’ Creator Beau Willimon Gets Political About Season 4

Breaking the Fourth Wall

Frank kept to himself for most of “Chapter 35,” but what he had to say was wholly relevant when speaking out to the audience. First, he begged us to “slit his wrists” with a butter knife in order to avoid hearing about modernizing the food processing industry in Iowa. Later, he informed the audience at home that not only had Doug’s mother been dead for nearly a decade, but that he’d also attended the funeral. The former was funny — and timely — while the second spoke to the secret code between Frank and Doug as well as the depth of their friendship. 

Binge and You’ll Miss It

“Chapter 35” marked the second directorial effort from Robin Wright, who last helmed an episode in Season 2 (and will again get behind the camera for “Chapter 38”). Though not as Claire-centric as Wright’s first time behind the camera in “Chapter 23” or as visually striking as Jodie Foster’s episode from Season 2 — “Chapter 22” chronicled Freddie’s demise in torturous detail —Wright left her mark in a couple of key moments, including the rare pre-opening credits sequence in which she juxtaposed a peaceful Iowan countryside, full of corn, soybeans and cows, all keys to the upcoming presidential caucus, and Kate’s slow, rhythmic moaning as she had sex with Yates back in D.C. The distance and activity of each setting may seem utterly opposite, but Frank should be panicking by episode’s end because his ticket to Iowan voters got away. Why? Because Kate is getting hers and he’s not getting anywhere.

Made for Daytime: Thomas Yates’ (Sex) Face

I’m not going to be so crass to link to a screen grab of Yates’ less-than-emotive facial expression as Kate climaxes on top of him, but I will say this: the dude needs to be enjoying himself a little more. So far, part of Yates’ charm — well-captured by the textured bluntness of Paul Sparks — is his excellent poker face. He doesn’t seem to have a wide emotional range. Instead, he remains on an affably observant even keel. But in bed? With Kate Baldwin? At peak excitement? Come on, man. Even writers have to let loose a little sometimes. 

Ready for Primetime: Everything About Kate Baldwin

When coming up with the character of Kate Baldwin, I imagine Beau Willimon’s thought process boiled down to, “the opposite of Zoe Barnes.” Zoe was willing to sell her soul (and more) for a story — any story. She wanted the fame, the public eye and was ultimately doomed by her own greed. She wasn’t a great person, even if we could empathize with her from time to time (especially in comparison to Frank, her murderer). 

Kate, though, is the gold standard for reporting. She puts her profession over her personal life, as cited by her two failed marriages. Her relationship with Yates is both business and pleasure, as the two have yet to start talking intimately about anything. But above all else, she’s cunning and all knowing. Trying to sneak a campaign supporter aboard Air Force One? Not on Kate’s watch. Want to avoid her in the press room? Too bad. She’s asked someone else to file questions for her. Kate is turning out to be the hero of Season 3, but does that mean she’s doomed to a Zoe-esque fate? Not if this pattern keeps up.

Legacy Quote:

“I’m not Peter Russo. I won’t go like he did.” – Doug Stamper

The ghost of Peter Russo haunted “Chapter 35” long before Stamper dropped the taboo name to his boss. During the pilot episode of “House of Cards,” Corey Stoll’s character was pulled over for a DUI in a shiny black car, with an air of “I’m better than this” to the arresting officer that lead to a scenario ending in a scandal soon-to-involve Frank Underwood — much like what happened to Remy earlier in this episode.

As Frank’s Chief of Staff, Remy is on fragile ground. Frank already gave him a talking to about his relationship to Jackie Sharp, demanding more knowledge of the would-be VP from his right hand man. Clearly Remy is uncomfortable with the relationship. At first, it seemed like he may have tried to work her for information based on their past connection, but then we saw his true colors post-speeding ticket. He really does care for Jackie, and those feelings, combined with her lack of reciprocation, may lead Remy down a road to nowhere. No Jackie. No Frank. With his boss’ approval numbers still in the tank and the odds stacking up against his campaign proving successful, it seems far more likely that it’s not Doug, but Remy — a man loyal only until the check clears — who will be meeting Peter’s fate. 

Grade: B+

READ MORE: Review: ‘Archer’ Season 6 Episode 11, ‘Drastic Voyage: Part 1,’ Is All Set-Up & No Payoff

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