If you read beyond this point without having watched House of Cards season one, or the first couple of episodes of season two, then you accept the consequences of your actions–because I’m going to spoil the hell out of them.
It has been a couple of weeks since I watched the episode referenced in the article title, and I am still attempting to decide whether or not this is House of Cards’s moment of shark-jumping. It wasn’t the reason that I took a break from the series, but it may be the reason that I haven’t felt strongly drawn back to it yet, despite the fact that I had found the building tension at the end of the first season to be fairly riveting.
In season two of House of Cards, Kevin Spacey’s character, Frank Underwood, throws Zoe Barnes in front of a metro train. Zoe is a reporter and Frank’s season one protégé who becomes a bit too big for her britches when she figures out that Underwood murdered Congressman Peter Russo a few episodes earlier. Oh, yeah…I forgot to mention that this highly respected politician is now officially on a killing spree.
Though within the series’s internal character logic, Russo’s murder made sense (albeit in a sick way). It had been foreshadowed in the opening scene of the first episode of the series, in which Underwood breaks the fourth wall to define his “two kinds of pain”. His elimination of Russo was a tie back to his role in expediting the death of the injured dog. The viewer could comprehend how in Underwood’s twisted brain, offing Peter Russo may have even seemed like a mercy killing–Russo was, after all, weak-willed and self-destructive, and he couldn’t come to terms with the final nail in the coffin of his political career. This was a sad, useless beast that had to be put down (well…in the mind of Spacey’s sociopathic Congressman).
Killing Zoe, however, was just thoroughly evil–that’s some Keyser Söze shit.
Look, being honest, I haven’t liked any of these characters since day one–we’re not meant to. My initial impression of House of Cards was that it was meant to be sort of a “sausage factory” series–i.e., you don’t want to know how they (sausages/laws) are made. Half-way in, I was proved to be very wrong, when it became clear that this series was going to have less in common with reality than the other series I’m watching right now–and that series is about a zombie apocalypse! House of Cards is completely over-the-top political thriller, but at least for a while, it was pretty fun.
At the point that Underwood starts throwing his enemies in front of trains, however, I think it just traveled a bridge too far. House of Cards has forced us to accept that Underwood’s hugely improbable Machiavellian scheme could actually go off nearly without a hitch, so if we’ve bought in that far, we have to believe that he can wield his cunning in order to dispatch his foes. So really, his handling of Zoe Barnes was to my mind a misstep for the series, and one from which I hope it can recover.