Written by Dylan Brandsema
DISCLAIMER: SPOILERS AHEAD!!! DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE EPISODES!!
EPISODE 306: “Chapter 32”
After a flawed, but welcoming season premiere followed by a series of rocky follow-ups, it was hopeful that, after a while, that House of Cards was inevitably return to the incredible stature of entertainment we held it to in the past 2 seasons, and in “Chapter 32” it did just that. This sixth episode of the third season in unquestionably the finest of the season thus far, and if it stays at this level, it will continue to make for some phenomenal television.
In “Chapter 32”, we pick back up with Frank and Petrov as they continue to negotiate over conflicts in the middle east, as well as missile defenses in Poland and other unspecified parts of the world. Meanwhile, Claire sits in with Michael Corrigan (Christian Camargo), a man imprisoned in Russia for gay rights protesting. Most of the episode alternates back and forth between these two scenarios, the dialouge, the terrific music and overall tone make for an undeniably gripping episode.
The conversation between Frank and Petrov is intense – Lars Mikkelsen continues to give a fantastic performance as the Russian President, as the battle of wits that previously ensued between him and Frank reaches it’s climax. One of the more revealing moments of these scenes is a sequence where, against all else, it seems like Petrov and Frank both come to terms with how similar they really are, both as people and as leaders. In particular, there’s a moment when Frank says “If I lie to you, you’d never know it” – that, of course, is something the audience knows, but rarely do we ever really get to hear Frank be so overly cognizant. Not exactly a revelation, but certainly a pleasant surprise.
When Claire visits Corrigan in his prison cell, she begins to discover that Corrigan is, essentially, her worst nightmare. He refuses to leave his prison cell until all the other prisoners are released, and she refuses to leave until he does. Then they start talking — talking about activism, life, but most importantly, love. As they begin to talk about relationships, Corrigan brings up all the things her and Frank had been shying away from for so long: after 29 years of marriage, and all their ups and downs, does Claire still really love Frank? A straight answer is never directly given, but we can assume from her expression, and the tone of her voice, the resolution is not a happy one.
In the middle of all this, hacker Gavin Orsay (Jimmi Simpson) is still on the search for Rachel Posner (Rachel Brosnahan), as requested by Doug (Michael Kelly). He does so by simply befriending her, becoming acquainted with her likeness. After lying to her about being positive for what we can only assume is HIV, they go to her home and have a heart-to-heart conversation, in which Gavin manages to sneak the information out of her as to where Rachel might/could be. While these scenes are nothing new in terms of craft for the series, it was a whole new level for actor Jimmi Simpson, who plays Gavin. He has always been a great actor (making appearances in TV shows such as It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Breakout Kings, 24, My Name Is Earl, and most recently, The Newsroom), but in this episode, his abilities really shine, a really wonderful thing to witness.
In the episode’s 3rd act, just as Frank and Petrov settle their political and personal differences and make a deal, the gears turn in the wrong direction. Claire wakes up in Corrigan’s cell to discover that, after hours of debating, talking, and negotiating, he has hung himself with her scarf. Horrified beyond comprehension, Claire takes a stand that jeopardizing everything she and Frank had been fighting for the previous fives episodes. Without spoiling the details, all that can be said that it’s definitely hair-puller of the episode, and it’s guaranteed to have audiences divided ethically over whose side they’re on. What culminates from this is unquestionably the most extreme and terrifying argument we’ve seen so far between Frank and Claire Underwood. Likely the highlight of an already fantastic episode, it can be compared to the argument between Tony and Carmela Soprano in the season 4 episodes “Whitecaps” of The Sopranos (Fans of the series are surely bound to understand and agree), and the final moment are bound to have fans squirming in their seats.
The change of setting and pace found in this episode is a nice adjustment for House of Cards. There’s not a single scene in the White House, very few moments in Washington DC, and the focus is entirely on our main characters, and the primary conflicts surrounding them – no side characters or minor plot lines to get in the way for a moment and screw everything up like they always do. It’s probably not out of line to say that more of this will definitely benefit the overall scope of this 3rd season.
All in all, “Chapter 32” is a flawless, outstanding episode. Without a doubt, the best so far in the season, and likely among the best in the series so far. In a word, perfect.
Overall rating: 10/10Pages: 1 2Next page