Chapter 20 of House of Cards spends half an hour progressing pragmatically, showing the audience the depths of deception and plethora of pretence that each and every character utilizes to get what they want.
Michael Kelly’s Doug continues being a worthy right-hand to the Machiavellian VP, uncovering a plot involving political action committees and their funding. Freddy (Reg. E. Cathey) is offered a sizeable deal, bringing his character more into view. Cathey deals with it well, showing an understanding of Freddy that means he can play any sized part in Frank’s story.
Frank himself, meanwhile, continues to pick fights with bigger and bigger fish before he realises the extent of Tusk’s reach – a carefully crafted piece of writing that sees Tusk turn from wealthy Granddad to ruthless Grandmaster. Until now Tusk has been angry and he’s been clever, but only now are we seeing him become a match for Spacey’s lead.
More notably in this episode, a few shots of Frank’s new figurine-painting hobby enforce the series’ slight, powerful cinematography. Much like its contents, House of Cards is always subtle and always strong, dimly lit and displaying what looks very much like a war.
After the aforementioned half an hour, two people sit down to have dinner with two other people. The following scene is so beautifully done, you squirm and you cheer and you goad as the Underwood’s plot blossoms before your eyes. It is awkward and tedious; brilliantly commanded chaos.
What the couple are masters of is not plots or tricks or wars, but simply at being ready for when you drop your guard. How much their every move and countermove matters continues to be a testament to every person working on House of Cards. The show is written so well, you forget that it’s not written by Frank and Claire themselves.