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Around 1am Friday, from houses all over America, in front of TVs, behind laptops, whilst holding ipads came the same cry as we all arrived at the end of the first episode of House of Cards, season two. See ya, Zoe.
I made it to episode 4 before retiring for the night. I was late to a morning meetup at the farmers market Saturday morning. My text to explain my lateness? "HoC. Sorrynotsorry". The response was simple, "Obvs".
Saturday night I began anew and by 2am Sunday, I sat back and was done. I had plowed through thirteen hours of television in two days. My brain was mush.
And the worst part? YOU COULDN'T TALK ABOUT IT. On Facebook, we all made vague, non-spoilery references. It was clear who was watching, but posting anything about the actual episodes would incur the wrath of others. Which led me to wonder... are the batch releases good for us?
Examine the evidence.
Last year, when the first set of episodes were released, my friend Conrey made a good point. When we're given an episode a week, when it's doled out, we have the opportunity to wait for another episode. To actually process what happened in the last episode.
We have the opportunity to talk about it with others. It's the definition of "Watercooler Talk." The conversations we have between episodes is what manifests a buzz. It allows you to join a community of those who watch vs those who don't.
But it's more. When these episodes are doled out one by one, there's a clear delineation of when it's OK to talk about it. Which is to say, WHEN IT'S OVER. We give people a reasonable amount of time on something huge, like a Breaking Bad. And if we know someone hasn't watched, of course, you stop talking about it. But at some point your grace period is over. It's time to talk about it.
Watch Jennifer Lawrence freak out about a spoiler.
When we get a batch of episodes all at once, like House of Cards or Orange is the New Black, when is it okay to start talking about it? When's the grace period over? And it's not just our internal desire to talk about it, denying us the ability to do so means that yet again, technology is helping us to find new ways to NOT talk to each other. To not share things.
When I cut off cable last year, it was tough. I'm not one of these cool Portlanders who shrugs it off "Oh, I got rid of TV years ago. Rots your brain! I just listen to talk radio and read Dostoyevsky." Yeah, that's not me. I freaking LOVE TV. I like watching the Today Show. I like the news. I like late night shows on FX and HBO and Showtime. If I don't catch CBS Sunday Morning each week I go a little batty, and I think The Good Wife is one of the smartest hours of TV each week.
But my friends Katie and Tyler made this point, and it's a good one. When you turn off cable, your watching goes from time-related to event-related. In other words, you stop turning on the TV because it's 8pm, and watching whatever is on, and instead of sitting down to watch a certain show when you want to, because it's on Hulu or Netflix or streaming. And although I fought that behavior for a few months, I realized by the end of the year, I was doing it too. I would start a new show and blow through all the seasons.
So it's not that I object to the behavior. When I was locked inside my house last year watching Lost episodes like an addict, my friends were good enough not to spoil it for me on Facebook, even though we were far past the expiration date.
But when we binge-watch these shows, it's a bit unhealthy. We're left after to wander about like zombies, wondering when the next hit is. And that's the problem. It's a freaking YEAR away.
Its just that I wonder what this is doing to us, as a community. TV already sends us into our homes, out of the public spaces, away from each other. Now it's further dividing us.
So the question: what advantage is Netflix getting by dumping 13 episodes into our lap? Has ANYONE committed to watching them in a reasonable timeframe? Because I assume like me, you spent Valentine's weekend in a cocoon of your own filth, fixated on every last word out of Kevin Spacey's mouth, wondering if Pantone has as many shades of gray as there are in Robin Wright's closet, wondering if the Secret Service is truly this incompetent.
So let's talk about the show. And if you somehow missed the point about how there are spoilers ahead, then hey. SPOILERS AHEAD.
1. Were you over Zoe by the time she took a long leap off a short platform? I remember being more entranced with her last season, but by the end of episode 1, she was irking me. Every time she did that thing where she bites her nails, I just wanted to paw her hand away and tell her to stop being such a bitch to the guy with the awesome hair.
2. Speaking of Awesome Hair McGee (Goodwin, the editor): so, let me get this straight. He's a major character on this weird arc, and they bothered bringing kooky deep web hacker guy in for in a weird subplot that is never fully explained, but then he goes to jail and bam, he's gone? That's it? We don't hear from him again? He just rots in jail?
3. I'm not entirely sure I understand why, despite all the research and leads they'd followed, the Scooby gang of reporters had zero evidence for the article, as if its just impossible to ever uncover evidence on the Underwoods. And yet, a mere few episodes later, the Financial Times reporter is able to relatively easily uncover a whole shitlist of evidence against them.
4. I find the entire arc of Frank becoming VP to ... what.. months later, becoming Prez to be kind of ridiculous. Et toi?
5. I understand the point is to show how toxic these two people are, and like, I get it. But I failed to understand the motivation to oust the President as he did, so soon. I mean, Frank had been Minority Whip for a long time when Season 1 opened. Are we supposed to believe that he was patient for that long, but now he was suddenly so eager and impatient he behaved stupidly?
6. The same goes for Claire. Why did she have to screw over her photog ex-lover as she did? The "We needed contrary stories to be more believable," was ridiculous. Again, she had somehow remained friendly with him for so many years, and now suddenly, she felt the need to so severely cut all ties? It was so counter productive.
7. While we're on Claire: so the whole Clean Water Initiative which was the main focus of her arc last season, the the whole fight with the pregnant director that they built up to is just dispensed with in one short meeting? And that's it? There's no repercussions, it never comes back to haunt them? When Remy tracks down Claire's ex-secretary, I was hoping for some update, but NOPE.
8. I am no prude, and sure, it was clear Meechum and Claire were headed for some sexy sexy time. But when Frank joined in, that was my "What the fuckity fuck!?!" moment. Where did that come from?
9. By the time Doug bites it, the whole season had become formulaic to me. The only surprising bit was that they'd kept Rachel around so long. At some point it felt like they were offing people just to lighten the cast load. Out of nowhere, Linda Vasquez is a threat, so she's gone. Christina vanishes. Janine is offloaded to her mothers house, so they can bring in another dark haired, experienced reporter (Ayla Sayyad) from the Financial Times to pick up her plot?
10. By the end, the squabbling between Tusk and Frank was annoying. It had become impossible to figure out who was working for who, with Remy and Seth Grayson (the new PR agent who works for Tusk, but Doug seems to KNOW works for Tusk? And then there's the weird Deep Web guy Gavin Orsay, and his weird subplot that goes nowhere (so he can track Doug -- and that's how they'll find him in season three. So what? He can hack AT&T? Big deal. That's like a Tuesday around here nowadays). Besides, where the hell is Doug's Secret Service agent? Do these people not consult with "The West Wing" for continuity's sake?!?!?!?!?
11. The entire downfall of the president just seemed fast. I mean, we've suffered through two presidents who were wildly unliked by like, half the people in the US. And yet, neither Bush nor Obama have fallen with that trajectory in the ratings.
12. OK I GET IT. People in Washington have sex. But the sex this season felt so forced. Rachel and Lisa in our token hot lesbian scene. The S & M scene with Feng. And that insane threesome with Frank and Claire.
Here's the thing. Let's not play that game where I claim this was a lesser season and that, meh, maybe I'll watch it next season, maybe not. This is not "Revolution," folks (a show, upon watching season 2, episode one and declaring I'd already lost interest in, a friend pointed out that I'd said the same exact damn thing last year after watching episode 1, season 1). I was like a meth addict in front of a giant pile of... meth this weekend. I'm gonna be watching next season.
But I'll be honest. I'm a bit concerned. This season felt like it started to be untenable, and some of the laughs were cheap. What made season one so special was the subtlety. The relationship that maintains this health due to a tolerance of outside lovers. A wildly intuitive and intelligent man who takes calculated risks to get ahead, not for the sake of the risk. The young upstarts who are hungry, ambitious.
By the end of the 13 episodes, I felt like everything was exaggerated, predictable and the characters had become caricatures of themselves. The overwhelming point was the toxicity of this couple -- that everything they touch turns sour.
And I haven't touched on the abortion. Or the weird Fellowship Rachel goes to. Or Freddy, who I assumed walked off screen and stepped into an open manhole and went to that giant leftover cast party in the sky. Or the white powder! (We agree, Frank or Doug was totally in on making the white powder happen, right?). Or how weird it is that the Underwoods insist on staying in their home. Will they not live in the White House? Or, or, or... SO MANY THINGS.
So xoJaners, I give you ONE place it is safe to discuss all things House of Cards. GO FOR IT. Have you recovered? Do you have an overwhelming need for a cigarette or ribs?