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Review: ‘House of Cards’ Season 3 Episode 5 ‘Chapter 31’ Introduces Two New Faces & One Old One

Review: 'House of Cards' Season 3 Episode 5 'Chapter 31' Introduces Two New Faces & One Old One

EPISODE 4 REVIEW: Review: ‘House of Cards’ Season 3 Episode 4, ‘Chapter 30,’ Grabs God’s Ear

Morning Briefing

What do you do when confronted with a resourceful, talented journalist who can’t be fucked with and is working against you? Hire a writer of your own. That seems to be the logic behind President Underwood’s strategy in Episode 5, during a time when he’s basically being attacked on all fronts. Even after meeting with lawyers to assure the legality of his actions — and threatening the head of FEMA to play along — Congress and the Democratic Party are both upset with Frank enacting America Works via his backdoor route. Claire is facing heat from Moscow about her own bill, and Heather Dunbar’s campaign is benefitting from the Russians’ seizure of a gay protester whose husband is now fronting for Frank’s opposition. Then, to top it all off, in walks Kate Baldwin, a Pulitzer Prize & Peabody winner who also so happens to be the mentor of Ayla Sayyad, who was unconventionally dismissed last week. She’s on a revenge rampage, and Frank’s solution is…to hire a novelist to write a tell-all about the AmWorks program? Okay, Frank. We’ll trust you…for now.

The David Fincher Shot

Though there are still plenty of notable Fincher-esque moments in the episode — including the exposition-heavy visual intro of Thomas Yates — let’s focus instead on the new Fincher favorite, Kim Dickens. Last seen in “Gone Girl,” the Alabama native has thrived playing smart, capable characters with just the right amount of down home charm to get things done. Fans of “Friday Night Lights” will remember her as Matt Saracen’s mama. “Treme” lovers will instantly recognize their favorite French chef. And “Deadwood” devotees will first recall her as the hostess of the Bella Union.

Dickens is certainly no stranger to great television (or films), and her addition here is more than welcome. She fits this world well, and her wholesome Southern roots should pair nicely with Frank’s wicked ways. More importantly, her powerful stance in this episode marks a definitive shift of power in “House of Cards.” Women are taking control. From Claire, who’s practically working Frank like a puppet, to Heather Dunbar to the missing Rachel Posner to the departing Ayla and now the incoming Kate, women are overwhelming the men in this show. Claire’s topping Frank. Heather is, too. Rachel has bested both Doug and the hacker Gavin. Now Kate is outflanking Seth. It’s a woman’s world, and we’re just living in it. Hallelujah. 

Breaking the Fourth Wall

Frank’s asides were rather standard in Episode 5, as he first glanced to the audience when discussing why D.C. Mayor Barnie Hull was put in office (he needs the “gumption” of “one bold mayor”) and last acknowledged us when hiring Yates to pen a book on America Works (more on that later). Neither meaningful or meaningless, Frank’s breakage felt more obligatory than relevant this week, which makes it closer to irrelevant in the end.

Binge and You’ll Miss It

I must admit, Jackie Sharp’s storyline in Season 3 has done next to nothing for me. Whether she’s betraying the President or joining forces with him, sleeping with her new boyfriend or teasing Remy, her actions feel far less relevant than when she walked on the scene with purpose and force last year. Yet her engagement is nothing to be ignored, if only for the heartbreaking reaction Remy had to seeing her ring. Their relationship clearly hasn’t played out yet, but how that affects the Underwood presidency is up in the air. Both are key pawns in his elaborate game of chess, and emotions could sway them to do — or not do — something drastic. Whatever the case, I’m hoping for Remy’s happiness to win out. He deserves a win after all this work.

Made for Daytime: Claire Peeing in Front of Alexi

Claire’s womanly power play with the Russian representative Alexi was simply too much and for too little. Yes, her seduction plus repulsion resulting in confusion knocked the overly cocky aide off his game, but it felt like too much of a show for the occasion. She had the upper hand in that conversation no matter where or how it was held, and showing him all sides of her feminine ways was far from a professional put-down after he insulted her credentials. This was a scene made to be talked about, but I would have forgotten it if not for this section.

Ready for Primetime: Freddy!

Let’s just set the record straight: everyone, and I mean everyone was heartbroken when Freddy lost his business in the Jodie Foster-directed episode from Season 2. Losing the lovable cast member was a blow that felt final, making his reappearance to close out “Chapter 31” all the more exciting. Freddy has not yet been used up, and while I don’t know how he’ll fit into Frank’s schemes (though it seems more likely he’ll disrupt them), I just hope he sticks around. The final shot could be viewed in one of two ways: as a closing nod to a character who would logically be in that line looking for work, or as a re-introduction to someone with much more story to tell. Either way, it was one heckuva kicker.

Legacy Quote:

“No writer worth his salt can resist a good story, just as no politician can resist making promises he can’t keep.”
– Frank Underwood

Not only was Yates’ introduction notably lengthy — in a short amount of time, we learned he was a frustrated novelist; a one-hit wonder who took side projects to pay the bills while his passion projects were largely ignored — but his courtship by Frank was surprisingly fierce. What does Frank know about this unknown writer we don’t? It’s not enough he wrote a compelling video game review — though watching Frank play a pink-hued tablet game was pretty damn funny. (The game, “Monument Valley,” has enjoyed a huge sales boost as a result of its inclusion.) He must have more to him, and it will be fascinating to see how Frank’s quote proves itself true or false. If true, Yates may save his career. If false, the curious writer may be the last nail in the Underwood presidency’s coffin.

Grade: B-

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