“House of Cards” recap (2.1): Find the Links

Claire drives home, a day well spent, and takes a call from her doctor’s office. Oh, no thanks, she says, no kids for her after all, but thanks for being my pawn, er, I mean thanks for trying to help me spawn. Goodnight!

Zoe heads into the Metro station and looks around warily. She finds Frank looking all incognito in a fedora and glasses as he lurks near some construction fencing at the far end of the platform. On his request, Zoe deletes their text history and then deletes Frank as a contact, even though he can’t really see her do that, just hear the beeps. What the hell, Zoe?

hoc_2.1.4Photo by Nathaniel Bell. Image courtesy of Netflix

Frank says the slate’s clean, and now they can trust and help each other. Zoe is maybe cool with that, but would like one or two more assurances that Frank isn’t, you know, a cold-blooded killer. She knows Rachel was at the hotel when Russo was arrested. And she gets annoyed when Frank pretends not to know that Rachel has disappeared.

Frank plays all high dudgeon and offended honor with Zoe’s outrageous questions. She just wants to know that she wasn’t an accomplice to a murder. Frank starts to walk away in a huff, and then when Zoe moves to go after him he grabs her by the shoulders, spins her, and—NO!—flat-out shoves her into the path of an oncoming train.

The moment is so well done, such a perfect set-up, so quick and surprising and so exactly what he was planning all along. There’s just one little shriek and Zoe is gone, everyone in the station rushing and Frank moving slowly and calmly, up and out and away from trouble, gloves not so clean, true, but at least it was a quick blow to the base of the skull.

And thus House of Cards has issued the warning that all really good thrillers do at some point: Don’t get too comfortable: Any character can get killed off at any time. Well-liked, well-established character, one you thought would be a major driver of the plot this season? Too bad and fuck you: You’re not the one calling this game.

Lucas gets word of Zoe’s death in the newsroom and breaks down silently behind the glass walls of his office. There was nothing he could do, nothing he could ever have done. He knows it, but he’s not accepting it.

Frank comes home to his wife and one candle burning in his dark, dark cave, lighting up the cake he specifically did not want. Happy birthday, you lunatics. You know they’re going to have hungry angry dragon sex right on top of that cake.

Janine is frantically throwing all her things into a suitcase because she knows she and Lucas have nothing but targets on their backs. Janine accurately points out that Frank is not fucking around and that these are not death threats that are happening, this would be actual Death coming over for a drink and a back rub.

Janine found nudie pics of Zoe in her mailbox when she came home and she knows that Frank knows she exists and doesn’t know about Lucas, so the odds are distinctly not in her favor and she has had enough of this shit, and Lucas can take his journalistic ideals and scatter them all over Rock Creek Park for all she cares.

Claire hears the news report of Zoe’s “accident” and it flutters past her forehead like a moth, not troubling her for a moment. But then, maybe, as she finishes her makeup, a thought does.

Congresswoman Sharp meets with Frank to discuss the files he showed her — and the fact that her file was empty. He asks her if there should be anything in her file, and, after exactly the wrong beat of time, she says no. Frank’s not worried, because if he can’t find anything on her, she’s at least good at covering her tracks. I’m sure this will in no way become a problem later on. Just go about your business.

Sharp knows that if she loses the Whip fight (This show should have a whip fight!), the others will come after her — and that Frank could just be using her to shank someone else. She’s no dummy, Congresswoman Sharp. Frank dangles the 10-year wait she’ll have before she can try again for Whip if she sits this one out. Sharp cuts to the chase and asks why Frank would pick her.

Frank asks Sharp, a veteran, how many missile strikes she launched, how many women and children she must have killed. He knows she can carry out orders even if innocent people will die. And that’s why he chose her: She’s a ruthless pragmatist. And he likes the cut of that jib. Sharp smiles. She gets him.

Rachel wakes up in a dim (of course), mostly unfurnished little room to Doug bringing her a gift of Indian food. Oh, crap, Doug is doing that unsettling thing where he thinks they might be dating while he’s essentially holding her captive. Again.

Meechum gives his condolences on Zoe and offers Frank his birthday gift of cufflinks after all. Underwood thanks Meechum kindly. Terrifying Frank goes upstairs to his terrifying wife and proudly shows off the cufflinks he’s immediately put on, and then Frank Underwood, finally, looks at us through the mirror and talks to us directly just like we’ve been waiting for.

Frank tells us not to waste any tears on Zoe, a kitten who was growing up to be dangerous, and explains to us what the law of this show is and always will be: Hunt or be hunted.

We pan down to Frank’s new cuff links, safely tucked back in their box. Meechum has thoughtfully gotten Underwood’s initials engraved on them:

F.U.

Well launched, House of Cards. Looks like it’s going to be a tasty, blood-soaked season.

See you next week!

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