Green Room

A question about “House of Cards”

posted at 11:43 am on February 25, 2013 by

There’s always one guy who insists on reading stuff about a show he’s watching even though he’s only halfway through it, so for the benefit of that one guy I’m going to tuck my question waaaaaay down below underneath a pile of asterisks. Don’t scroll if you’re trying to avoid spoilers.

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Question: If Frank’s plan all along was to sabotage Peter Russo’s candidacy for governor, why did he want Russo’s big watershed bill to pass? The bill ends up failing at the last second when the two liberals he threatened decide to vote no — at Claire’s urging. That would make sense if Frank had secretly encouraged Claire to work against the bill; having it fail proves that Russo’s a weak candidate who can’t build a winning coalition in Congress. But Frank obviously didn’t encourage Claire. They end up having a big fight in her office over the final vote. He’s royally and sincerely pissed that the bill tanked. Why? Is it simply because losing that vote was a blow to Frank’s credibility in the caucus too? That’s hard to believe given that he just shepherded through the big education bill. Or is it that he needed a feather in Russo’s cap so that his candidacy would gain traction, which would put even more pressure on Democrats to find a formidable replacement — namely, the VP — once Russo was sabotaged and dropped out? What am I missing here?

Bonus question: Why are there no Republicans on this show? I’m not complaining about that — literally every major character is a transparent sociopath, and Frank’s outright satanic, but it’s curious to me that in 13 episodes the only right-winger we encounter (I think) is the Rush Limbaugh-esque TV host who makes fun of Frank for his humiliating CNN appearance.

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I dunno. I was going to re-watch it for things I missed but DC and its depictions repulse me. I did rewatch the Brit original where they refer to the protagonist by his initials: FU. lol!

Blake on February 25, 2013 at 11:50 AM

If Frank’s plan all along was to sabotage Peter Russo’s candidacy for governor, why did he want Russo’s big watershed bill to pass?

Could he have wanted Russo farther ahead in the polls before he torpedoed him so that it would be an easier sell convincing the VP to replace him? Or it could be credibility with the caucus as you mentioned. It was a tough enough sell getting everyone to back Russo, maybe Frank wanted to prove to them that he wasn’t totally wrong about him before he pulled the plug.

Mitch Rapp on February 25, 2013 at 12:15 PM

I believe his plan was to build a real and competitive campaign then have it implode dramatically leaving only the VP able to save it. Russo’s watershed bill would have made him a juggernaut. Then when he inevitably went on a binger and quietly bowed out of the race the VP would save the day and party. Russo’s bill didn’t pass which weakened but didn’t kill his candidacy; however, more importantly it revealed to Frank that he himself was weaker than he imagined, which I think gave him the eventual resolve to take care of Russo.

jdbbb on February 25, 2013 at 12:20 PM

I believe Frank originally wanted to have Russo win the governorship. With Russo ending up in his pocket for getting him the spot, plus all of the political capital gathered along the way.

But then there was the one scene (you may have missed) when things were looking good for Russo where he challnged Frank, attempting to cut the puppet strings and pretty much declare his independence (he had been sober a good while and was gaining steam in PA).

Of course that didn’t sit well with Frank, that’s when the plan switched to sabotage.

Oxymoron on February 25, 2013 at 12:25 PM

Russo was a walking disaster. A couple of months doing AA was not going to put his demons under control. FU could have wanted the bill to pass and still ultimately plan on Russo to lose the race.

Blake on February 25, 2013 at 12:31 PM

Bonus question: Why are there no Republicans on this show?

They wanted to make a show about smart, ruthless, ambitious people who actually fight for what they want. A Republican would stick out like a sore thumb in that universe.

Kataklysmic on February 25, 2013 at 12:35 PM

Kataklysmic on February 25, 2013 at 12:35 PM

It’s only February and you have penned the “Snark of the Year”.

Well done!

Bruno Strozek on February 25, 2013 at 12:46 PM

Or is it that he needed a feather in Russo’s cap so that his candidacy would gain traction, which would put even more pressure on Democrats to find a formidable replacement — namely, the VP — once Russo was sabotaged and dropped out?

I think you nailed it here. He needed Russo to be a credible candidate and the Watershed bill was necessary to regain support with Russo’s hometown constituents. I think he believed he could unravel his candidacy given Russo’s personal foibles but wanted to make sure it was late enough that the VP would be the only one who could step in and fill the void. He banked on the distance in the relationship between POTUS and VP and the VP’s obvious dissatisfaction in his role as something he could triangulate when the time was right.

Why are there no Republicans on this show?

I am fascinated by this question. I can’t quite figure if this is a plus or a minus given the sociopathic tendencies of the Dem major characters. I could say a minus in that you hear the characters rail against Republicans and the low info types would assume if these Dems are this bad imagine how awful the Republicans must be. Nevertheless, having a Frank Underwood as Republican would be just awful for Republicans who can’t afford to sink any lower in public opinion. In that respect – count our lucky stars these sociopaths are all D’s.

I’ve seen people ask high profile DC folks how accurate the show is from their perspective. Just yesterday Dana Perino said she thought it was quite accurate. Media types, however, seem to take exception to the Zoe Barnes character. I guess it hits a little too close to home to have a reporter actually in bed with a high profile Democrat.

msmveritas on February 25, 2013 at 12:47 PM

House of Cards? I’m going to please the Gibson: “Never heard of it”

WisRich on February 25, 2013 at 1:00 PM

Some of the inconsistencies might be the result of trying to shoehorn the original British production into a U.S. framework.

Peri Winkle on February 25, 2013 at 1:01 PM

I think another fair point on the question why there are no Republicans in the show is to look at who is making the series. Netflix – I am quite certain – data mined the preferences of their subscribers and thought right-leaning subscribers like myself would be automatically tuned out to another gross portrayal of Republicans.

D’s, however, enjoy enough of a boost in the culture generally so that an inflammatory portrayal of D’s in Washington would not necessarily turn viewers off right away. There are sympathetic D characters who come across pretty well who might resonate with D’s who would watch the show. Russo’s girlfriend comes immediately to mind as does Gillian Cole. The Cole character in particular probably resonates with liberal elites who see themselves as brilliant soldiers on a mission to save the planet.

msmveritas on February 25, 2013 at 1:06 PM

Another made for Netflix show, Lilyhammer, is kind of conservative too, maybe Netflix sees an untapped market.

clearbluesky on February 25, 2013 at 1:24 PM

Why are there no Republicans on this show?

In the BBC version FU feeds a rising star of the Labor Party some information to damage the Prime Minister so that he can eventually become PM. I imagine this device will be a part of the second season when Frank’s ultimate plan to be POTUS is revealed.

David Combs on February 25, 2013 at 1:32 PM

Republicans??? Never heard of ‘em.

Tom Servo on February 25, 2013 at 1:42 PM

Just wrapped up the series this weekend.

Mention is made that the plan needs to “be accelerated” with Russo’s implosion.

It’s mentioned that since Episode 1 the ENTIRE plan was that obtaining the VP slot….this is a major plothole, IMAO.

Once all is said and done, you’ll be able to connect the dots from event-to-event…from losing out on SOS to “winning” VP. But the dots make no sense…

**SPOILERS**

**SPOILERS**

**SPOILERS**

If Frank’s entire plan hinged on the VP slot (the current VP being the former PA GOV.), then there’s NO WAY that Russo was a pawn from the beginning.

Russo (Rep from PA) became a pawn only AFTER his run-in with the law. From that point, Frank could utilize him to his needs…but some how it just HAPPENED to be that said pawn fit PERFECTLY into the plan out ousting the current VP.

Rusty Shackleford on February 25, 2013 at 1:42 PM

Was the outburst in Claire’s office kabuki? Clearly, they share everything with one another as Claire let Zoe know. I think Frank had to string Peter, Peter’s staff, and the others along just enough to believe and go all-in, then feign shock when the bill fell apart at the last minute. Then he crawls back to the VP with an “you were right all along” attitude that plays into the Veep’s ego. Master manipulator. Peter essentially self-destructs from after that vote. He was only a pawn after Frank knew he could manipulate him. Sad.

I’m comforted that there are no Republicans as well, in that all the “politicians” are truly sociopathic. It’s interesting that the only “normal” one, whom they’ve portrayed as naive, is the President. And how believable is the lack of staff and Secret Service agents around the POTUS? Only POTUS, FU, and one chief of staff to make the decision to outsource the VP? Really?

I finished the series last weekend…I couldn’t help myself. It was like watching a slow-moving train wreck. This fictional story doesn’t seem far-fetched from reality, huh?

What does everyone think about them shooting a Season 2? Will they do it? Where does the story go from there now that Frank has the VP, assuming he’s confirmed? It’s darker than West Wing, that’s for sure (not that I ever watched much of that drivel). The acting in HOC is spectacular though, especially Spacey and Wright. I’m not sold on the Rooney girl who plays Zoe. I find her acting one-dimensional and annoying.

I dunno. I was going to re-watch it for things I missed but DC and its depictions repulse me. I did rewatch the Brit original where they refer to the protagonist by his initials: FU. lol!

Blake on February 25, 2013 at 11:50 AM

Hah. I missed that one. Perfect description of Frank Underwood’s m.o.

conservative pilgrim on February 25, 2013 at 3:23 PM

Bonus question: Why are there no Republicans on this show? I’m not complaining about that — literally every major character is a transparent sociopath, and Frank’s outright satanic, but it’s curious to me that in 13 episodes the only right-winger we encounter (I think) is the Rush Limbaugh-esque TV host who makes fun of Frank for his humiliating CNN appearance.

You talk about sociopathy and evil like those are bad things. I can’t think of a single Dem hero in recent years (in real life) who isn’t one or both of those things. (Ted Kennedy…Bill Clinton…the guy who did nothing as four Americans died horrible deaths in Libya and who, as a state senator, opposed legislation that protected infants who survived abortion…) As long as the characters identify as Democrats, their “imperfections” are 100% excusable.

(And they’re probably still trying to figure out how to portray Republicans…if they’re too dumb, they might be sympathetic figures, and if they’re too evil, they might outshine the Dems. In real life, the contradictory descriptions of Republicans can fly fast and free. But in the shortened timespan of a show, an uneducated, gun-loving, religious-zealotesque, woman-enslaving, family-man type, racist one-percenter would be a tricky character to pull off.)

butterflies and puppies on February 26, 2013 at 3:07 AM