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Mr. Arkadin

House of Cards

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There's always a leak.

 

The season was supposed to drop on February 27, but users noticed that it became available Wednesday afternoon. After a short period of time, the list of episodes disappeared. However, episodes that were already streaming remained streaming—so those who loaded the episodes before they were yanked presumably can still watch them. 

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The Atlantic:

 

The Season 2 premiere—the return episode for arguably the most significant and successful season of streaming television in history—was a bustling, impeccably executed ballet of intrigue, climaxing with one of the most shocking TV deaths of all time. This premiere is gloomier, slower, and far less fun. Yes, there’s an early moment of camp villainy that recalls the old “F.U.” cufflinks moment. And yes, David Fincher’s trademark prettiness is still there—the scenery shots look like museum photography, and faces are captured in aching detail; in one early scene the camera lingers close in on a distressed character’s eyes, to vibrant and disturbing effect. But now that Underwood must govern a nation, the intrigue is necessarily of a different, more delicate sort: The question isn’t how high he can climb, but whether it’s possible he could fall.

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The Atlantic wrote:
: The question isn’t how high he can climb, but whether it’s possible he could fall.

 

"I've reached the top / And had to stop / And that's what's a-bothering me." -- 'I Wan'na Be Like You (The Monkey Song)', The Jungle Book.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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The Atlantic argues that the British are better at political satire.

 

Underwood has no meaningful ideology or purpose beyond the acquisition of power. Like his predecessor, he occasionally dabbles in homicide, but he poses no evident threat to the body politic itself. Two seasons in, he has not yet sought to start a war or turn back the clock on civil rights or otherwise realign the course of the nation. He’s a pro-Establishment centrist—essentially a southern-fried version of Steny Hoyer, the current Democratic whip. What’s so scary about a guy like that?

 

Meanwhile, this happens just in time for the new season, suggesting that "what's so scary" might be that Underwood is actually better than what US politics has.

Edited by NBooth

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They brought Doug Stamper back. Guess I might watch the whole season after all.

 

That's not much of a spoiler, by the way (name's in the opening credits), but it's a nice surprise if you don't know already.

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Five in. Digging it. I kind of like how the whole FEMA conspiracy theories (as in The X-Files) gets appropriated here. And seeing Claire Underwood talk to a male ambassador in the restroom--while conducting business--was a tremendously enjoyable example of her appropriating traditionally masculine ways of negotiating--that is, it's a power-play that in this sort of show is usually reserved for men (I have no idea how many power-plays actually take place in the men's room)

 

EDIT: I just realized that Russian president, Viktor Petrov, is played by Lars Mikkelsen, who played Charles Magnussen in SHERLOCK. Petrov also a substantially more magnetic figure than Putin--he's the kind of guy Putin wishes he could be. I can't imagine Putin being quite as openly self-aware about how calculated his macho pose is, for one thing. The name Viktor Petrov, by the way, is taken from a Ukranian Soviet writer. This continues a long-standing tradition of Western entertainments naming Russian characters after novelists (see also the Bond series, in which most of the heads of the KGB are named after Russian novelists).

Edited by NBooth

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NBooth wrote:
: This continues a long-standing tradition of Western entertainments naming Russian characters after novelists (see also the Bond series, in which most of the heads of the KGB are named after Russian novelists).

 

See also Chekov in Star Trek (though he's admittedly missing an 'h').

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So I guess there's going to be a season 4, then

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Currently watching Season 3, Episode 4:

 

When Justice Jacobs says he'd rather stay on the Supreme Court, Underwood gets up, walks to the camera, and says, "Must I destroy this man? ... No. I won't." And then Justice Jacobs says "Excuse me?" or something like that, and then Underwood turns around and speaks to Jacobs, beginning with the words "I won't..."

 

Is this the first time someone has "heard" Underwood's asides to the camera? If so, interesting it would be the person who's suffering from Alzheimer's who hears him.

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It's too hokey. There is a correlation in House of Cards between # of episodes and hokiness. Having Claire become ambassador didn't work for me even if all to true to real life.

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Currently watching Season 3, Episode 4:

 

When Justice Jacobs says he'd rather stay on the Supreme Court, Underwood gets up, walks to the camera, and says, "Must I destroy this man? ... No. I won't." And then Justice Jacobs says "Excuse me?" or something like that, and then Underwood turns around and speaks to Jacobs, beginning with the words "I won't..."

 

Is this the first time someone has "heard" Underwood's asides to the camera? If so, interesting it would be the person who's suffering from Alzheimer's who hears him.

 

That stood out to me, too. It felt like the series was ignoring its own rules.

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Currently watching Season 3, Episode 4:

 

When Justice Jacobs says he'd rather stay on the Supreme Court, Underwood gets up, walks to the camera, and says, "Must I destroy this man? ... No. I won't." And then Justice Jacobs says "Excuse me?" or something like that, and then Underwood turns around and speaks to Jacobs, beginning with the words "I won't..."

 

Is this the first time someone has "heard" Underwood's asides to the camera? If so, interesting it would be the person who's suffering from Alzheimer's who hears him.

 

That stood out to me, too. It felt like the series was ignoring its own rules.

 

 

Or bending them. Eh, I'll spoiler this:

 

It was interesting to me, given how many parodies (read:

all of them) have had a joke about everyone hearing the monologues. The Alzheimer's element might be important and play into some ideas of how bound the other characters are to their own motives and moments. Certainly Frank's problem this season is that he's consistently mistaking ruthlessness for vision, to the extent that he loses sight of--or forgets--the end-game for large stretches of time. Claire does the same thing, and so do various other political opponents. The only character who seems relatively clear-sighted is Petrov, and he plays on the blindness of everyone around him. Forgetting--ideals, motives, goals--seems to be a theme this season, and such forgetting makes the characters subject to the manipulations of others. (And that forgetting can be deliberate or unintentional). 

 

So at a key moment here we have a man who will eventually--knowing how the disease works--forget even himself gaining a perspective that is usually reserved for the viewers--those of us who have an outside view and can, presumably, evaluate the characters with objectivity. The moment doesn't last, of course--as few moments of perspective do last in this show--but it's there, all the same.

Edited by NBooth

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Currently up to Season 3, Episode 5.

 

MLeary wrote:
: It's too hokey. There is a correlation in House of Cards between # of episodes and hokiness. Having Claire become ambassador didn't work for me even if all to true to real life.

 

Heh. For some reason this reminds me of certain complaints made about The Godfather Part III.

 

I will say, it's interesting how the change in setting -- the fact that the Underwoods live in the White House, now, and not that apartment they had in the first two seasons -- has changed the *feel* of the show, at least for me.

 

NBooth wrote:
: Or bending them. Eh, I'll spoiler this . . .

 

Great thoughts, NBooth.

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The criticisms in this Vox piece are outlined well. I agree with all of them. I would add though that the season makes the very poor choice of sidelining its most interesting characters (Stamper and Freddy), though (don't click unless done with season)

the total twist in Stamper's character in the last few episodes still doesn't work for me. His character in Season 3 is a cruel bait and switch. We are led the entire time to think he is changing, getting sober, turning over a new leaf like Remy - and then he goes full evil. This arc is telegraphed a bit, but there is some rug-pulling happening here for sure, which is odd in a show whose hook is articulating its character's schemes in great detail.

Edited by M. Leary

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Just started episode 8:

The way they just jettisoned Mendoza off-screen is strange. They had built him up as an important character early in the season. Did Benito Martinez get another job or something?

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M. Leary wrote:
: The criticisms in this Vox piece are outlined well. I agree with all of them.

 

Yeah, me too. And with your spoilered point too, which kind of dovetails with Vox's "up-and-back" point.

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Just started episode 8:

The way they just jettisoned Mendoza off-screen is strange. They had built him up as an important character early in the season. Did Benito Martinez get another job or something?

 

Yeah, that was weird.

 

I don't know that I buy the "up-and-back" point in the Vox piece, particularly since the "back" is so much lower than the start of the season (and actually continues the series trend of consistently making Underwood try harder for slimmer wins). I expected the show to wrap up this season, as with the original, but at this rate I don't see how it can't wrap up in season four. At this point, Underwood has:

 

1. Lost his staff, except for Stamper, who is at this point so scarred that I wouldn't be surprised to see him turn on Frank next season.

2. Lost his wife--who may, per the Vox piece, come back--but I doubt the dynamic will be the same at all (particularly if they are building toward a conclusion similar to the British version).

3. Lost all certainty of winning. And this is key, I think: the last two seasons have ended with Frank getting what he wanted, though at increasingly higher cost. Here, though--well, he kind of gets what he wants, since he's ahead in the polls, but there's still a prodigious question-mark as to whether he'll win the presidency.

 

BTW, I continue to love the understated way (well, understated for this show) that the writers deal with Frank's sexuality. It almost got too overbearing in the penultimate episode, but fortunately they pulled back without spelling out too clearly whether he's gay or bisexual.

 

EDIT: Here's The New YorkerIt’s Time for “House of Cards” to Come Crashing Down

 

In the “Sesame Street” parody, once Underwolf thinks he has outsmarted the pigs, he proclaims, “Now the White Brick House is mine. Finally, I get what I deserve.” And then the whole thing comes crashing down around him: it wasn’t a house of bricks, after all, but a house of cards. Viewers of the British series may expect that punishment of some kind awaits our American antihero, but perhaps more seasons like this new one are justice enough for Underwood. The excitement of backstabbing his way to the highest office in the land has been replaced by the tedium of domestic governance and the impossibility of peacekeeping in the Middle East. Running for election in an honest-to-goodness campaign is less fun than rigging the game by moving pieces on both sides of the board. And the trappings of the position are clearly beginning to grate: it is harder to sneak a cigarette; it takes a full security detail to get out for a midnight jog; there’s no good place in the White House residence to put his old rowing machine. It’s lonely at the top, and grim, and, to be honest, a bit dull for us to be there with him. But, after all his fun, and ours, perhaps we’ve gotten what we deserve.

 

FWIW, I'm still expecting "punishment of some kind." I think the series arc (as opposed to individual season arcs) is pretty clear, and it seems to me that--given the escalating amounts of damage Underwood takes in each season--his comeuppance can't be far off.

Edited by NBooth

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