The Hate-Watchers Guide to ‘House of Cards,’ Season 2

In which we review all the reasons you shouldn’t watch this season’s “House of Cards” but will anyway.

 Actor Kevin Spacey arrives at the special screening of Netflix's 'House of Cards' Season 2 at the Directors Guild of America on February 13, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.
National Journal
Matt Vasilogambros and Lucia Graves
Feb. 14, 2014, midnight

It’s been a year since Net­flix’s polit­ic­al thrill­er House of Cards out­raged and ad­dicted Wash­ing­to­ni­ans (about 50,000 years ago in blog­ger years). Be­cause Sea­son 2 starts Fri­day, we’re here to re­mind you what you hate most about the show. So, you know, you’ll have your of­fice talk­ing points ready.

What fol­lows is an an­noted ver­sion of our dis­cus­sion over G-chat, the me­di­um you’ll most likely use to com­plain about the show to your friends on Monday. You’re wel­come!

Lu­cia Graves: I’ll be­gin with my No. 1 reas­on to hate this show: its hor­rible por­tray­al of lady journ­al­ists and their al­leged will­ing­ness to sleep their way to the top. In par­tic­u­lar, there’s vet­er­an writer Jan­ine Skor­sky’s as­ser­tion that “we’ve all done it.” I don’t know any wo­man in Wash­ing­ton who’s “done it” to get ahead, but I know that some guy in Wyom­ing is go­ing to watch the show and be like, “Knew it!” People are al­ways ask­ing me, “Is your life like House of Cards?” and it’s very awk­ward.

Matt Vasi­lo­gam­bros: I used to feel dirty go­ing to events, shak­ing hands, mak­ing point­less small talk — “Oh, I haven’t gone to Le Dip­lo­mate yet, but I hear the duck con­fit is quite good” — and drink­ing free booze, but then this show came around and ad­ded a whole new defin­i­tion of be­ing used. Yea, Zoe’s tech­nique isn’t the way you source-build in this town. Ugh, THIS TOWN.

LG: So did the show make you feel bet­ter about us? Were you like, “At least we’re not as ter­rible as THESE people?” Be­cause I know it’s not just lady journ­al­ists who get a bad rep in the show. Frank Un­der­wood, the House ma­jor­ity whip, ac­tu­ally kills a man for polit­ic­al gain.

MV: Yeah, I don’t think Kev­in Mc­Carthy has done any­thing that drastic be­fore. I mean, I THINK he hasn’t.

LG: Right, but he would have us think that.

MV: He would have mem­bers of his rowdy caucus think that too.

LG: I guess it just dis­turbs me that people love watch­ing Wash­ing­ton so much (think Home­land, House of Cards, Scan­dal, The Amer­ic­ans, Veep), and this is how they see us. I re­mem­ber when I got a job on the Hill as a press per­son right out of col­lege and someone from home was like, “So you’re a pro­fes­sion­al li­ar now?” People are so cyn­ic­al! We’re just here try­ing to save the world. Sheesh.

MV: I had one of those same press jobs on the Hill, too. I think people for­get that what Hill staffers are do­ing an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of the time is writ­ing let­ters back to con­stitu­ents and an­swer­ing angry phone calls from folks not even in that con­gres­sion­al dis­trict. Then for even few­er it’s work­ing on policy in com­mit­tees. A even smal­ler group is writ­ing floor speeches. And an even smal­ler hand­ful are those “seni­or lead­er­ship aides.”

LG: Yeah, a more real­ist­ic show would show long hours, frumpy blazers, and a whole lot of mono­tony. You think the show gets any­thing right?

MV: The one thing that Hol­ly­wood’s rep­res­ent­a­tion of Wash­ing­ton gets right is the al­co­hol and happy hours.

LG: Yes, the drink­ing cul­ture is hard to keep up with.

MV: It could fo­cus on brunch more, though.

LG: Yeah, but brunches aren’t a re­place­ment for bar time.

MV: Brunch is a con­sequence of bar time.

LG: Ha-ha.

MV: So, what do you think the show gets right?

LG: It gets a lot right. There’s a great in­ter­view with Beau Wil­li­am­son about how much time they spent get­ting the de­tails right, the doorknobs and desk de­cor. I also think the show’s a lot bet­ter on polit­ics than me­dia. The stuff about the high school­ish nature of power, I mean. Frank Un­der­wood does a lot of play­ing people’s egos off one an­oth­er, à la, “Mr. Pres­id­ent, you won’t be­lieve what the vice pres­id­ent was say­ing about you …” I think a lot of people nev­er out­grow that.

Frank doesn’t get in­to the high school pet­ti­ness him­self, but he ex­ploits it in oth­er people. He’s sort of like Harry Re­id in that way. He doesn’t care about hav­ing his ego stroked or go­ing on Sunday talk shows: What he prides him­self on his be­ing ef­fect­ive.

MV: I think that’s right. There are some out­stand­ing prob­lems that I have with this show, if you would in­dulge me.

First, most of the out­doors scenes are filmed in Bal­timore. Now, I know how much of a pain in the ass it is to film in the Dis­trict, but don’t show me the Wash­ing­ton Monu­ment of Bal­timore and ex­pect me to think it’s THE Wash­ing­ton Monu­ment.

The second is the co­ordin­a­tion between Zoe and her boy­friend on the Russo story in the last epis­ode. They work for sep­ar­ate pub­lic­a­tions. When was the last time you worked on a big story with your former col­leagues at HuffPo?

Fi­nally, the amount of Frank Un­der­wood asides to the cam­era would make Wil­li­am Shakespeare blush. Some­times it’s nice; oth­er times, it’s just ex­cess­ive. But maybe that’s what this show is: ex­cess­ive.

Rant over. Thank you.

LG: Oh, I don’t think the co­ordin­a­tion between Zoe and her journ­al­ist boy­friend is that weird. Ob­vi­ously it’s prob­lem­at­ic and clearly he should re­cuse him­self, but I get why he’d want to help his part­ner. And I love the Frank Un­der­wood asides! Those are the best part.

MV: What’s the biggest takeaway for our haters out there?

LG: I think haters should take in­spir­a­tion from Car­rie Un­der­wood, who is, to my mind, the best em­bod­i­ment of Wash­ing­ton on the show. She’s dark but not too dark, prac­tic­al with a soul.

MV: Tak­ing a base­ball bat to the car of her cheat­ing boy­friend?! “I took a Louis­ville slug­ger to both head­lights.” It’s a good song …

LG: Wait, did she do that? Oh, crud! I mean CLAIRE Un­der­wood.

MV: Ha-ha! OK, so Frank’s wife not the coun­try sing­er?

LG: Yes! Played by Robin Wright who just won a Golden Globe award.

MV: Of Prin­cess Bride fame, yes. Sorry, so what about her again?

LG: Just that her char­ac­ter is one of the most real­ist­ic on the show. She genu­inely cares about her work with the Clean Wa­ter Ini­ti­at­ive, even if she makes com­prom­ises and hatches deals along the way. And she genu­inely loves Frank/Kev­in Spacey, even as they both have dal­li­ances with oth­er people. And she’s the per­son at the end of the sea­son to step back and ask, “What’s it all for?”

MV: I also see some re­demp­tion for Zoe Barnes com­ing. After she real­izes that sleep­ing with Frank Un­der­wood was the wrong move and starts act­ing like the journ­al­ist that we grew up want­ing to be — the Wood­ward/Bern­stein types — and un­cov­ers the story be­hind it all, she may ac­tu­ally turn out to be a hero char­ac­ter. But that could just be my na­ive hope.

I think the biggest takeaway is, watch the show, laugh at the ab­surdity, en­joy the ex­cess­ive­ness, scoff at the in­ac­curacies, and have enough ammo to hate on the show at work come Monday.

LG: Amen.

What We're Following See More »
PROCEDURES NOT FOLLOWED
Trump Not on Ballot in Minnesota
2 days ago
THE LATEST
MOB RULE?
Trump on Immigration: ‘I Don’t Know, You Tell Me’
3 days ago
THE LATEST

Perhaps Donald Trump can take a plebiscite to solve this whole messy immigration thing. At a Fox News town hall with Sean Hannity last night, Trump essentially admitted he's "stumped," turning to the audience and asking: “Can we go through a process or do you think they have to get out? Tell me, I mean, I don’t know, you tell me.”

Source:
BIG CHANGE FROM WHEN HE SELF-FINANCED
Trump Enriching His Businesses with Donor Money
4 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.

Source:
QUESTIONS OVER IMMIGRATION POLICY
Trump Cancels Rallies
5 days ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump probably isn't taking seriously John Oliver's suggestion that he quit the race. But he has canceled or rescheduled rallies amid questions over his stance on immigration. Trump rescheduled a speech on the topic that he was set to give later this week. Plus, he's also nixed planned rallies in Oregon and Las Vegas this month.

Source:
‘STRATEGY AND MESSAGING’
Sean Hannity Is Also Advising Trump
5 days ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump's Fox News brain trust keeps growing. After it was revealed that former Fox chief Roger Ailes is informally advising Trump on debate preparation, host Sean Hannity admitted over the weekend that he's also advising Trump on "strategy and messaging." He told the New York Times: “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States. I never claimed to be a journalist.”

Source:
×