Frank Underwood’s approval ratings after six months on the job aren’t particularly inspiring. The first episode of the season established that there was very little public support for the president who wasn’t elected. If Underwood wants to run for election, those numbers are going to have to change quickly, because the election is only 18 months away, and there’s plenty of organizing and campaigning to do in the meantime.
Public approval ratings just might be the least of Frank’s worries though. In a meeting early on in the season’s second episode, members of the Democratic leadership tell Frank that they don’t want him to run for election in 2016. They want to unify the party and bring in a fresh face. Frank, who thought the meeting would simply be about the details of America Works, is caught off guard, especially by Jackie, the Whip who helped secure the votes that got President Walker out of office and Underwood into power.
What really frustrates Frank about the decision is that he’s been given very little time to build a substantial portfolio. He has nothing he can point to that supports him running for election in 2016. This frustration is manifested in those signature Frank Underwood glances of disdain into the camera. Breaking the fourth wall is a bit of a sloppy gimmick on the show, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find a certain amount of joy in just how obtrusive and ridiculous they are. I like to think that Frank isn’t breaking the fourth wall, but rather that he’s so self involved that he imagines his life as this grand spectacle for everybody to observe (which isn’t too far off in terms of a psychological profile of this character, right?).
The second episode of the season is really about how the Underwoods continually adapt under pressure and find a way to get what they want. They’re like superheroes, with no obstacle too big for them to steamroll, no foe too smart to outmaneuver. If Frank’s obstacle is the inner-party opposition to his run for president, then Claire’s is the opposition she faces in her bid for the position of Ambassador to the U.N. When being questioned by the Senate, who will ultimately decide whether or not Claire is appointed as the ambassador, she shows off great skill and work ethic. She knows specific U.N. resolutions inside and out, and seems to have a grasp of diplomacy on an international scale. But when she comes up against a harsh line of questioning from potential Republican Presidential candidate Mendoza, who’s purposely misconstruing her statements in a effort to rile her up, she loses her cool.
It’s one of the first instances we’ve seen of Claire, or the Underwoods more generally, really losing favor in such a public way. Still, Claire is determined to get that position, and she spends the rest of the day and night calling Senators and campaigning for their votes, even appealing to Mendoza, asking him to back her privately among his colleagues.
The entire episode boasts a lot of moving pieces; Jackie, who wasn’t privy to the leadership’s conversation to oust Frank as President, wants a spot on the ticket as Vice President if she’s going to work to keep Frank in the good graces of the leadership. Elsewhere, journalist Ayla Sayyad is asking questions about the leadership meeting. Jackie’s tipped her off without giving her the details, so Sayyad is working to find out what really happened in that America Works meeting.
NEXT: Not-so-sexy sex