I have a serious case of buyer’s remorse after binge-watching Season 2 of “House of Cards” over the past six days. It’s not because I didn’t enjoy the second season; it’s because now I’ve watched all the episodes I’ll have for a year. There’s something really enjoyable about letting the episodes just bleed into one another, but then there’s also something important about pacing oneself (or having a show pace itself for you).
Having said that, here are some spoiler-filled thoughts on the second season:
First of all, I’m not someone for whom plausibility really matters. I liked the “Breaking Bad” and I liked the first season of “Homeland” and I liked the first season of “House of Cards” and I liked some of “Dexter” and on and on … and the plot points of these shows don’t exactly map onto my experience of the world. I think it’s possible to tell an entertaining story in a compelling way, even if some unrealistic things take place. So I’m leaving aside the plausibility problems of, for example, very highly-placed elected officials murdering people.
Having said, I really enjoyed the second season. Things didn’t come together quite so neatly for Frank Underwood and his coterie. I mean, his political goals were wrapped up in a nice little package — too easily, of course, but see my “First of all,” above, about plausibility — but Claire has a much more difficult time of things this season and, of course, Doug gets his head bashed in by the object of his affection.
Leaving Rachel as the one big dangling problem heading into the third season nicely mirrors Zoe at the end of the first season. That said, Zoe and her crack team of journalists seemed like a much more serious problem for Frank than Rachel the rogue ex-callgirl … and we all saw how easy it was to deal with them. Of course, everything would have gone better for everyone (except Rachel) if Frank had pushed Rachel in front of that train instead of Zoe. And we wouldn’t have had to deal with all the internet intrigue surrounding one of the McPoyles and his gineau pig. I have to wonder whether all the Dark Web stuff will be resolved as easily at the beginning of the third season as the Slugline plot was resolved this season.
Three things I really would have liked to see this season:
- A little more oomph from Jackie Sharp. There are some great moments for this new character, like when she pushes around a couple of her male colleagues to get the votes she needs, but I can’t shake the feeling that she still spends too much time being manipulated by men like Frank and Remy. I’m hoping that the third season lets such a powerful woman make more decisions; it was good to see her win against Claire, I suppose, but I think Remy and Raymond Tusk were really behind her decision to take on Claire. Why she’d oppose making it more difficult for men to sexually assault women in the military needed a fair bit more explanation than an opposition to civilian oversight. And giving Jackie more authority and more autonomy would make life more challenging for Frank, which would be more fun for the audience.
- Some clarity about Raymond Tusk. He’s malevolent, but it’s never entirely clear why. Sometimes he seems to be motivated entirely by vengeance, sometimes it’s money, and sometimes it’s power. This gets to the heart of something Frank apparently said to Remy, about the poor choice of selecting money over power. Tusk seems to have concocted an elaborate scheme to funnel illegal contributions to the Democrats in order to ensure access to the political upper echelon. He uses this access to make more money. Leaving aside the fact that it’s not clear how this plan works since no one knows he and his Chinese friend are behind the money, it’s not clear why Tusk chooses money over power … especially considering how much money he already has. Clearly, it’s a false dichotomy, but the shows relies on it and doesn’t do enough to explain why, in a world where power is better than money, someone as smart as Tusk wouldn’t use his money to get power instead of more money.
- Filling out President and Mrs. Walker’s empty suits. The most powerful couple in the world also seems to be the easiest to manipulate in no small part because they never think for themselves. The President’s decision-making process seems to involve asking a group of people for their thoughts and then picking whatever the last person said. It’s also uncanny the way in which he always manages to select the option Frank wants him to select, whether it’s because Frank tells him to choose it or not to choose it. This is true whether we’re talking about dealing with the Chinese or taking a nap in the Oval Office. “You look tired, Mr. President.” “I am tired, Frank.” “Maybe you should take a nap.” “I can’t do that, Frank.” “You’re right, Mr. President; napping is a terrible idea.” “You know, perhaps I will take a nap, Frank.” ‘If you think it’s best, sir.” Given the way Walker seems so easily manipulated by Underwood in pretty much every situation, there’s no real tension at the dénouement, when Frank volunteers to take the fall for Walker, because we all know Walker’s going to choose Frank and burn Tusk. How did this man become President?
All of these issues basically boil down to the same thing, and it’s the way I began: I want more. That means more depth of character for Frank’s opposition and thus more challenges for Frank. Claire was provided with some serious challenges this season and, as a result, had to make some decisions that were difficult and costly for her. I want more of that.
You Read It Here First
The “True Detective” serial killer turns out to be Marty Hart.
OK, probably not. But that would be an unreliable narrator.
There’s no real reason for me to put this here.
On the other hand, there’s no reason not to.
So, here’s: Celebrities Read Mean Tweets #6 (by Jimmy Kimmel Live).
Meet Glyph, a headset that beams video into your eyes.
Interestingly, at the top of my list of Things I Don’t Want To Do, you’ll find “beam things directly into my eyes.” And following not too far behind, you’ll find “cover half my face with a giant visor.”
So, from the headline and the image alove, my sense is this new product is probably not for me.
A trillion gallons of electronic ink — and even more vitriol — has been spilled over HBO’s “Girls” in the past couple of years. I’ve been watching since the beginning, generally enjoying the show, and not partaking in either bashing or defending Lena Dunham for what she created.
After watching the recent episode that revolves around Hannah’s birthday party, I realized why it never occurred to me to critique or defend the show. At one point Shoshanna says to her friends, “It’s really amazing that all three of you have accomplished so little in the four years since college.” The line stood out to me because it highlighted how little the women on “Girls” resemble any of the women I knew when I was in my mid-20s or the women I know who are in their mid-20s today.
The women I know graduated from college and went on to get graduate degrees; took jobs at NGOs, law firms, consulting firms, and universities; got married and had children; and went abroad with the Peace Corps and taught with Teach for America, amongst many other things. They were (and are) busy and impressive to all outward appearance, and I’m sure they (and their concerns) were (and are) also silly, petty, and banal sometimes … because, really, who isn’t?
So I watch “Girls” and it seems like fiction to me. It’s entertainment and, insofar as I’m entertained by it, I don’t see anything to either revile or defend. I never felt the need to get involved in the arguments about the real-world consequences or implications of the show because it seemed entirely unreal to me. Shoshanna’s assessment of these women who are her friends really brought home the unreality of their lives, at least from my own admittedly pretty narrow perspective.
I’ve now watched the first two episodes of HBO’s new anthology series “True Detective” and all I can say is that it’s truly boring.
I was really excited for this show … and then I fell asleep three times during the series premier two weeks ago. In the second episode, as far as I can recall, absolutely nothing happens. The show looks really great and the whole thing is based on a smart idea, but I find myself continually checking how much time is left … and not in a good way.
I’m going to keep watching because I can’t stop something once I’ve started it and because there are only six episodes left.
But my goodness this really didn’t live up to all the hype.
A lot of people have asked me why I care so much about this “Duck Dynasty” nonsense. This video clip is a good explanation.
In it, Matt Lewis explains his concern that ganging up on someone who expresses an unpopular opinion, especially one based on his religious belief, will lead to a chilling effect on speech.
Clearly, I could just as easily claim that being told not to criticize someone whose speech offends me could also lead to a chilling effect. But I think there’s a larger point to be made here.
A long time ago, some Christians used religious belief to defend the notion that blacks were inferior to whites. Much more recently, some Christians believed that Jews were Christ-killers and/or that they were doomed to the fires of Hell. While very few still believe the former, a fair number likely still believe the latter. But they generally don’t say it to interviewers for major national publications.
Is that because something changed in their belief system or because of a chilling effect based on liberal indignation? I tend to think it’s a combination of those things. Some Christians might still believe that Jews are going to Hell, and they might talk about this belief with their friends and family, but they generally don’t say it publicly because it’s simply not acceptable to do so.
Make no mistake: This isn’t an infringement on belief or on speech; people are still free to believe what they want to believe about Jews. It’s just no longer acceptable to make hurtful or hateful statements about Jews in public. Over time, I like to think people will just stop believing these things about Jews just as they stopped believing that racial inequality was religiously sanctioned.
Is something lost when people stop believing these things? Lewis seems to think so, since he casts himself as a staunch and unapologetic defender of unpopular speech based on religious belief. So what is it that’s lost? For my perspective, what we’re losing is mostly just the sort of other-ing that leads to intolerance, hatred, conflict, and violence. Can one still be a good Christian without believing that Jews are going to Hell or that homosexuals ”are heartless, they are faithless, they are senseless, they are ruthless. They invent ways of doing evil”? I suspect one can, given how many Christians don’t believe this sort of thing.
When I criticize people who launch attacks against gays and lesbians using religious language, I’m very mindful of the chilling effect my criticism might have. I’m actually hoping that, by discouraging the public expression of hurtful, other-ing language, we’ll be able to make progress toward become more accepting of those who look differently, act differently, or hold different beliefs from our own.
At this point, homosexuals are a minority group that it’s still acceptable for conservatives to target under the guise of religious belief and Jews are not. When I criticize this language of exclusion, I do it because I’m looking forward to a time when religious belief no longer justifies the poor treatment of any minority group.
zeubersaw asked: What's your opinion on Mike Huckabee and his craze of duck dynasty he's having right now?
Like most of the people I know, I haven’t been paying a lot of attention to Mike Huckabee ever since he suspended his presidential campaign back in 2008.
So, when I got this question, I did a quick Google search for “Huckabee” and “Duck Dynasty” … and here’s what I came up with:
It looks like things are going pretty well for the guy.
I wonder if his position on free speech and traditional values and the way “militants” have ruined everything that’s good about A&E and America has anything at all to do with his possible run for the presidency in 2016.
Nah, probably no relation between those things.
So this is what all the fuss has been about? This?
We’re turning to these guys for religious, political, and social commentary?
Honestly, I didn’t know the first thing about “Duck Dynasty” (except that there are tons of t-shirts at Wal*Mart) before yesterday. So, seriously, what manner of foolishness is this?
And are we completely sure it’s not just these guys without their guitars and hot rods?
Has anyone even bothered to ask Dusty Hill what he thinks about gay people?
Also, prepare yourself for a 500 word blog post about how amazing it is that the only guy without a beard in ZZ Top is named Frank Beard.