Netflix TV review: House of Cards Season 2, Episode 10 (Chapter 23)
Chris Bryant | On 30, Mar 2014
If Episode 9 was Frank striking the match, this one is him holding it to the fuse. Upon realising that his and Tusk’s cold war – their mutually assured destruction – is no longer working for him, Frank decides to make a move and see just how certain that destruction is.
Though the episode contains some fairly weighty political ideas (money laundering super PACs, anyone?), it remains easy to follow and each actor’s reaction to each and every moment not only lets you know who’s winning, but who’s got the most to lose. All this is lightly punctuated with shots of Gavin who, along with his guinea pig, is still keeping an eye on the major players, ensuring everyone is still on their toes.
Not only does the show recognisably begin to enter DEFCON one with Chapter 23, but Frank and Claire are also allowed to be a little closer to human. In a brave piece of plotting, mid-crisis, we explore Frank’s relationship – and respect for – his security detail, Edward Meechum. Taking the role as a skewed foster child, Nathan Darrow portrays Meechum as a kind-faced loyalist, gaining the respect of both of the Underwoods. Spacey, meanwhile, has one of his strongest episodes yet, delivering a balance of the subtle and the ferocious.
Spending most of his time talking to Claire (calm, loving Frank), Doug (calm, tough Frank) and threatening people (worryingly calm, omnipotent Frank), Spacey is showcased in a way that displays his unquestionable status as one of the greats, but also displays Frank’s pragmatic range of guises.
It concludes with Rachel, Doug Stamper’s war-weary prisoner, reading Doug the opening of A Tale of Two Cities – the epitome of chaos. Stamper relaxes not out of the similarities of the story being lost on him, but as Frank does, having a beer with his loyal friend, and as Remy does, calmly explaining himself to Jackie Sharp; he has done all he can do.
Well-written, skilfully produced and expertly performed, House of Cards is beginning to enter a realm in which the audience are feeling very real dread. After all that’s come before, what could this masterful production team possibly have in store now?
As for Francis, he’s now lit the fuse and the viewers must follow his lead – and sit back and await the chaos.