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. (The whole series will appear here.)
Episode 2 (Chapter 54)
Like Frank’s face merging into Claire’s, this episode felt like House of Cards merging into its Netflix bretheren Black Mirror. The hour opened with digital image manipulation of unknown import and ended with a terror-causing cyber blackout; in between, we heard about revenge porn and a “slag heap,” saw gas masks and computer forensics teams, and felt Halloween fulfilling its traditional fiction-storytelling role of bolstering a spooky mood.
As always, Cards’s haziness on policy details grates a bit: What, exactly, does “declaration of war” mean when the supposed threat is internal? To the show’s credit, characters like Will Conway and Cathy Durant seem vexed by this question as well. And viewers do get some sense of the things Frank wants: borders closed, soldiers in the street (as they were in the episode’s final moments), and voting consolidated to “centers” that are more protectable and less accessible. On that last count, Cards is once again trying to be a funhouse mirror to the real world’s own issues—here, rather than urban minority populations being shut out by ballot-box measures, it’s exurban whites who vote Republican.