As you get deeper into the second season of House of Cards, the show throws more super boring plot lines at you. When we're not keeping up with the Underwoods, we're stuck with lobbyists with hearts of gold, stalker wannabe boyfriends, and whatever is going on with China. After trying way too hard to figure out why we should worry about Xander Fang's rare-Earth minerals or the Deep Web, here's what we thought of episodes five through eight:
Warning: there are spoilers here.
Why Are We Supposed to Care About China?
If someone can explain to me what's going on with Xander Feng, the W.T.O., rare earth minerals, and how Raymond Tusk is involved, all in a way that a teenager would understand, I will buy you a beverage of your choosing. If you can explain it in a way that could make a teenager interested, the producers of House of Cards will (or should) buy you one.
Even with things like bisexual threesome and a very aggressive cocktail waitress who has no qualms about rubbing her worn undergarments in a complete stranger's face, I could not care less about this plot. I care less about this plot than I care about the one-note chin-stroking of Remy Danton.
I think part of it is buyer's remorse. I feel a kid who traded in a bunch of his sticky nickels for a comic book with no action scenes. The sticky nickels in this case were the fast-moving, riveting plots of the first season which have been swapped for the draggy anchors that are Raymond Tusk and Xander Feng. Perhaps it's selfish, but I kinda liked how the show views journalism and believe that Constance Zimmer and Kate Mara helped keep me intrigued. And I liked the idea and possibility of Claire's own goals for her charity being derailed by Frank's ambitions.
And all we got in exchange for those plots was Feng? Feng, in particular, might be the least-exciting bisexual billionaire money launderer that television has ever seen. I don't think it's necessarily his fault. The World Trade Organization isn't sexy. Neither is a discussion about rare-Earth minerals and government subsidies. Feng is also supposed to be a friend of Raymond Tusk, which is supposed to mean that he's a menace by association. But unfortunately, the only thing that we really know about Tusk is that he's really rich and doesn't like Frank Underwood. The the producers spent too much time on the wind-up, and didn't deliver the punch with Feng.
What might have worked, and what's more successful, is this voting controversy with Tusk and Co. funneling money to Republican lawmakers. For starters, it's much simpler. It has stakes. And it sets up the conflict more directly. Unfortunately, it took us seven episodes to get there. —AAS
The Stalker Boyfriend Thing Is Getting Old
Lucas, Lucas, Lucas. You would be ten times more interesting if you weren't obsessively trying to avenge the death of season one's most obnoxious character. Lucas fills the express-train-sized hole left by Zoe's departure, but where Zoe was completely selfish, Lucas's obsessed with avenging her death by uncovering the truth. Even Zoe was okay with Frank being a murdered if it meant more scoops.
The main problem with Lucas' Deep Web adventure is that it's another half-hearted attempt at creating an adversary for Frank. House of Cards has nothing but contempt for journalists — they live in crappy apartments, have sex for scoops, blindly do the bidding of politicians, and can only afford to wear hoodies. (Disclaimer: I don't own any hoodies.) It's never convincing that Lucas is ever going to do anything other than end up in jail and take the plea bargain, which he does. Thankfully, it only took six episodes. I still have hope for Gavin, though.
But speaking of pathetic, obsessive boyfriend-types, Doug has the same problem, in that his obsession with Rachel is his dull but defining story arc. His obsession with Rachel hasn't developed much. It went from protecting a tragic but beautiful young woman to the same, but with a Freudian element. He wants to have sex with her then cuddle and read a Tale of Two Cities.
There's the scene when she flat-out asks him if he wants to have sex with her, then pulls away. It's tense, exciting and, most importantly, Rachel is finally in control. But then the show tries to make it mean something, and Rachel tells the story of her Bible counterpart. She was beautiful, and Jacob worked seven years for her hand in marriage, then they had a son. Well, that's Bible-lite. I won't bore you with the details, but Rachel was barren for a while and Joseph had to be sold into captivity before he became a king.
Is House of Cards trying to tell us something by having Rachel paint an overly optimistic picture of the Bible — like, everything will always be difficult for her, or her Bible study sucks — or did the show just not want to bore you? Either way, that was a stab at depth, something the show struggles with. Doug is kind of an obsessive stalker, just like Jacob was, and it's getting old. — AJ