The eighth episode of this season of House of Cards ended on a high note of sorts. Despite the fact that the America Works program was killed because Frank had to sign an emergency bill while Hurricane Faith was barreling toward the Eastern Seaboard, the President ended the episode by officially announcing that he was going to run in 2016. Frank’s endured a lot this season, and he’s shown a fair amount of malaise, but the end “Chapter 34” gave us a Frank who was entirely optimistic.
By contrast, “Chapter 35” is nothing but plans gone wrong. I’ve mentioned before that part of the show’s problem is that it allows its two main characters, the Underwoods, to be consistently removed from any of the consequences of their actions. They hardly ever have to face up to harsh truths, to reckon with the consequences of their often-ruthless actions.
This may be the best episode of the season for the very fact that it forces the Underwoods to deal with real stakes, to confront the series of actions and decisions that have led to many innocent people losing their lives. Moreover, Robin Wright is the director on this episode, and she brings a welcome stylistic flair and sense of atmospheric dread.
After the win that was getting the resolution to send peacekeeping troops into the Jordan Valley, and managing to secure the cooperation of Russia in the process, everything is falling apart for Claire and Frank. While out campaigning, Frank learns that eight Russian soldiers have been killed by an IED. This is a disaster for the peacekeeping mission, so the reaction to it must be swift. They must investigate what happened and bring it to light as soon as possible in order to keep the resolution in place.
Russia is standing in the way of that though. They’ve blocked everyone, including the U.N., from examining the blast site, citing a distrust of all other parties involved in the resolution. Frank tries to negotiate with Petrov, asking him to allow U.N. or American forces to lend a hand, but the Russian President won’t listen. He’s determined to conduct his own investigation.
While the investigation is going on, many of the players that took part in the resolution are panicking. Israel wants to blame Palestine for the attack, and America is doing everything it can to keep everyone calm and collected. Yates and Baldwin—watching the events unfold as their sexual relationship continues to blossom into something more—realize how big of a mess this is going to be. A peacekeeping resolution could suddenly end up a catalyst for war.
Since Frank can’t convince Petrov to allow the U.S. or anyone else near the blast site, he suggests that perhaps Claire can get some information from Alexei, the Russian ambassador. The two meet secretly at the U.N. because it turns out that Alexei has some explosive information to deliver. While he can’t come outright and say it, he suggests that the reason Russia is blocking access to the blast site is because they don’t want anyone to examine the findings; that’s because Russia killed their own men in an attempt to sabotage the peacekeeping mission.
NEXT: Doug falls off the wagon