Netflix TV review: House of Cards Season 2, Episode 9 (Chapter 22)
Chris Bryant | On 25, Mar 2014
Vice President Francis J. Underwood does not forgive and he does not forget. So when a past mistake is brought to the table, Frank looks to turn it into his favourite dish (hint: it’s best served cold). But all wars have their casualties, as our predatory anti-hero would say, and this chapter contains one of the most upsetting yet.
Yet another precisely plotted episode, House of Cards has the air of a show that mirrors its lead – every teeth-gritting comeback, heartbreaking twist and morally questionable success is planned out, knowing how the audience will react before a camera is ever switched on.
Directed by Jodie Foster, Chapter 22 demonstrates that as humanoid as these characters may appear to the casual viewer, they are far from it. Claire, Remy and Tusk all bring their most extreme selves to the episode (a testament not only to the respective performances but also the carefully balanced editing), appearing remorseless and fearsome during their darkest hour.
Claire is confronted by old ghosts and deals with them in a manner which rounds her character perfectly. Remy, newly smitten, is forced to admit defeat and threaten lives, a task which Mahershala Ali’s purposefully-flawed poker face dispatches as coolly as his character would like. Five minutes before the finale, meanwhile, Tusk is at his weakest yet most terrifying to date. A simple thumb flick sends him from rich juggernaut to desperate sociopath. The effect, both in Frank’s power-mad, cruel world and in Beau Willimon’s writer’s room, shows an unpretentious certainty in their actions absent from the majority of other TV dramas.
If Episode 9 of Season 2 teaches us anything, it is this: the inhabitants of House of Cards are always at their strongest, their wittiest and their most inhuman when they are at their most vulnerable. No other series writes characters so deceptive by their very nature. With four episodes to go, they can only get even more vicious, more dominant – and more lethal.