Netflix TV review: House of Cards Season 2, Episode 8 (Chapter 21)
Chris Bryant | On 24, Mar 2014
Frank plants seeds. Remy plants seeds. Claire plants seeds. Episode 8 might well have been written by Alan Titchmarsh. (Research complete: It wasn’t.) Episode 8 does, however, contain seemingly few of the usual plot points: no arguments, few threats, and little sex. Rather, it contains a lot of conversations. Small events. Seeds that the sharp ones in the audience will realise are foolhardy to be forgotten. Seeds grow.
A quiet episode, written well, the consecutive conversations never seem to dull or belittle things – and the verbal sparring is lethal. As always, the writing team deserve credit for crafting a series of conversations as striking as any battle sequence. Vice President Underwood, President Walker, their wives, two multi-billionaires and a few others meet – in dim hallways or apartments or offices – to discuss their challenges and then leave. It may not sound much now, but in context, it is complex, absolute.
Yet in spite of the above-average dialogue, Episode 8 seems to be missing something. Not anything major – Chapter 21 is as enjoyable and fascinating as any other – but the way House of Cards works is on a system of action and reaction, moves and counter-moves. The moves here are fine, they lit the fuse on Frank to begin with and have incurred his vengeance ever since, but an act is only useful to demonstrate its results; it could move the plot forward, it could trigger the death of a character. Episode 8 is packed with moves, but no counter-moves. Actions but no reactions.
This means two things. Firstly, that Episode 8 comes across as very busy and very tense but without payoff. Secondly, that the next few episodes are likely to be carnage.