As in previous years, I’m binge-reviewing the latest season of Netflix’s House of Cards, the TV show that helped popularize the idea of “binge watching” when it premiered in 2013. Don’t read farther than you’ve watched.
Episode 8 (Chapter 47)
No one was asking for the return of Tom Yates, a certified phony whose writing, one hopes, is meant only to be a parody of deep thinking and not the show’s attempt to offer the real thing. Both Frank and Claire have an inexplicable attraction to him, but they have the pretense of realpolitik reasons—blocking his book from coming out—to hire him as a speechwriter. He, meanwhile, chooses not to sell out the Underwoods because he wants to find a new ending to his novel inspired by them. Get ready for more shots of people looking out windows as Paul Sparks mumbles on about clouds and ghosts and sunsets as metaphors for whatever is happening in the plot.
It’s enough to make you miss the astringency of Zoe Barnes, whose ghost haunts this show more than ever. Tom Hammerschmidt’s investigation has kicked off what feels like the beginning of House of Cards closing its own loop, circling back to people and sets we haven’t seen since 2013. I’m not sure what the point of the phone call with her DUI dad was other than to make her into an even more tragic figure in the afterlife and to remind us of one of the most gut-churning depictions of Father’s Day ever. But Hammerschmidt’s visit to her old block (D.C. folks, where do we think she lived? Petworth?) turned out to be pivotal because it confirmed that the journalist was onto something. It also showed that dumb luck is sometimes essential to an investigation: Meechum’s image was on TV at the exact right moment.