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It’s Time To Accept That HOUSE OF CARDS Was Always Terrible

The new season of House of Cards is disastrously bad.

Homeland Season 3 bad.

A lot has already been written about its many flaws, so I’ll just leave things at Frank’s nonsensical jobs program.

It’s the central plot point of the season, and it absolutely makes no sense.

If you haven’t heard about it — and this isn’t a spoiler — it amounts to gutting social security, Medicare, other social welfare programs and FEMA’s disaster relief fund to pay employers to hire people.

At this point it’s clear that the writers not have only a rudimentary understanding of politics and public policy, but also character development.

And this stretches back to the first season.

Let’s start with Frank.

It’s never been clear what exactly his character’s motivation is.  In the first few episodes his political scheming had a clear purpose: He’s seeking revenge for not being appointed Secretary of State despite promises that were made. That’s about as close as we ever get to a clear motivation for his action.

It’s obvious that Frank wants power but it’s never made clear why. Is there an ideology he wants to impose on that nation? Does he have some massive chip on his shoulder? Does he need money because he likes buying expensive things?

None of these are the case.

In fact, for a show about politics, Frank is completely devoid of any ideological political beliefs — he often takes positions that are in total opposition to his party’s core values (it’s easy to forget that he’s supposed to be a Democrat). And, he has no interest in money (just think of all of the ongoing real life political scandals involving politicians using their office to live like a jet setting celebrity).

Frank becomes President pretty much because the opportunity presents itself — there’s no reason why he pursues the position except that it’s the next rung on the ladder. And if Frank is all about just having power, why does he take a job that has a term limit rather than be Speaker of the House for 10 or 20 years, for example, or try to get himself appointed to the Supreme Court?

As President he has no goals — again, no ideology, nothing involving personal enrichment, not even settling some old scores. It’s no wonder that watching Frank be President is so dull. He’s just a boring, purposeless character. The only compelling aspect of the character is watching Kevin Spacy eat the scenery with his wonderfully terrible Southern accent.

Next up on my hit list is the relationship between Frank and Claire where the writers confuse incongruity for complexity. Their marriage is a sham. They’re in it because it helps advance each other’s professional interests. Over and over again they’re reminding us that they’re “partners” as if they’re running The Frank and Claire corporation. And it’s a marriage that there was never going to have any intimacy or true romance because Frank is somewhere between bisexual and gay.

But the show constantly forgets this and treats it as a real marriage. There are domestic problems, infidelity, an incredible amount sentimentality, etc. We’re often reminded that the marriage was based on self-interest, not love, and yet Frank is constantly in awe of Claire. He feels humbled that a woman as smart and beautiful as her would have married him. He shouldn’t care about that given that they both willingly married for personal gain.

Then this season there’s a multi-episode plot point about Frank being dejected that Claire is sleeping in a separate room. Why would that make him depressed? It’s a sham marriage! They don’t have sex (though Claire gets him off when he needs it).

And going back to my early point about character motivation, there’s no hint of what their endgame is to help illuminate why’d they enter into such an unusual marriage.

Let’s go back to Claire for minute.

Why does she team up with Frank in the first place?

Frank needed her way more than she needed him.

When they first met she brought money and beauty to the relationship. Frank was just some schlep.

Why didn’t she marry a male prop she could control and run for office herself?

It’s a central question that’s gone completely unaddressed.

All of these issues have been around since the first season, but the newfangled notion of Netflix making TV show featuring Hollywood stars and a massive budget distracted people from actually talking about the show.

Now that original programing being produced by streaming services is a mundane occurrence, House of Cards needs to finally be viewed in a more critical light.

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