HOUSE OF CARDS & The Madness of Frank Underwood

Cuz nowhere nearly enough has been written about this awesome show:

frankunderwood_chessby Ben Adams

Spoilers through Season 1 of House of Cards; some mostly spoiler-free discussions of Episode 1 of Season 2.

Season 2 of Netflix’s House of Cards ends with a reminder of a crucial fact: Frank Underwood is crazy. At this point in the episode, we’re already well aware of that fact, based on the horrible things he has done (and which I won’t spoil here). But throughout the episode, the audience has not been treated to Underwood’s signature move, a snarky aside or quip spoken directly to the audience, unseen by the people around him. Only at the very end, as Frank contemplates his actions in the mirror, does he turn to face us: “Did you think I’d forgotten about you. Perhaps you hoped I had.” And then we’re reminded, oh yeah, this guy talks to people who aren’t really there.

Except, Frank Underwood is probably the least crazy person we know. He is ruthless and cunning, seemingly always one step ahead of his foes. If anything, he is a paragon of rationality, pure calculation and self-interest. When we think of someone who “talks to himself,” we jump to the crazy guy we pass on the street, muttering to himself and proclaiming The End is Nigh. Not the guy who is calmly and coolly maneuvering himself into the halls of power.

But there’s another reason we don’t think Frank is crazy just because he talks to people that aren’t there. We know that the people he’s talking to really are there. Frank isn’t talking to hallucinations; the audience, his audience, is very real, and sitting in your living room. Alone in the House-of-Cards-verse, Frank Underwood can see (and talk) to the unseen audience, sitting in the real world.

In Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” we are asked to imagine men who have been shackled inside a cave for their entire lives; there is a fire at the cave’s mouth, and the men can see (and have only ever seen) the shadows cast by objects passing between the fire and the mouth of the cave. For those prisoners, the shadows would be Truth. Knowing nothing else, they would assume that the shadows themselves were objects to be observed. The allegory is commonly used to explain the limitations of our senses, to demonstrate that we are the men in the cave, seeing shadows the wall.

But there’s another part to the Allegory. Plato asks us to imagine that one of the prisoners is released, and allowed to leave the cave. While he would at first be confused, eventually he might begin to see the relationship between the objects he observes and the shadows that had been part of his world. In a sense, he would be in a different world altogether. And if he descended back down into the cave, and tried to tell what he had seen, it’s likely that his old friends would think that he was crazy, that he was imagining things.

Frank can see outside the cave—unlike his fellow inmates in the prison of fiction, Frank knows that he’s being watched. Frank isn’t crazy because when he turns to the camera and talks about how it’s “Hunt, or be hunted”, someone really is listening. He’s even been spotted beyond the Fourth Wall, in our world, planning theCorrespondent’s Dinner and sabotaging the Emmys.

Read it all

TVWriter™ Top Posts for the Week Ending 3/14/14

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Here they are, the most viewed TVWriter™ posts for the past week:

Kathy Sees Iron Man 3

The 6 Most Common Mistakes When Writing Dialogue and How to Avoid Them

Looking for TV Pilot Scripts?

Peggy Bechko: The Writer’s Influence

HOUSE OF CARDS Is a Losing Hand.

And our most viewed resource pages were:

Writing the Dreaded Outline

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT

The Teleplay

Advanced Online TV and Film Writing Workshop

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT: Rules

Thanks for making this another great week here at TVWriter™, and don’t forget to read what you missed, re-read what you loved, and, most importantly, come back for more soon!

TVWriter™ Top Posts for the Week Ending 3/7/14

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Here they are, the most viewed TVWriter™ posts for the past week:

Kathy Sees Iron Man 3

The 6 Most Common Mistakes When Writing Dialogue and How to Avoid Them

HOUSE OF CARDS Is a Losing Hand.

Looking for TV Pilot Scripts?

Peggy Bechko: Developing Good Writer’s Habits

And our most viewed resource pages were:

Writing the Dreaded Outline

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT

The Teleplay

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT: Enter

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT: Rules

Thanks for making this another great week here at TVWriter™, and don’t forget to read what you missed, re-read what you loved, and, most importantly, come back for more soon!

TVWriter™ Top Posts for the Week Ending 2/28/14

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Here they are, the most viewed TVWriter™ posts for the past week:

Kathy Sees Iron Man 3

HOUSE OF CARDS Is a Losing Hand.

Looking for TV Pilot Scripts?

Peggy Bechko: Wanna Be A Writer?

Herbie J Pilato: The best thing you can do for your career is to live your life.

And our most viewed resource pages were:

Writing the Dreaded Outline

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT: Enter

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT: Rules

The Teleplay

Thanks for making this another great week here at TVWriter™, and don’t forget to read what you missed, re-read what you loved, and, most importantly, come back for more soon!

The 10 Most Popular TVWriter™ Posts of 2013

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Settle down. Lean back in your chair. Good…ready?

So are we, with links to the most visited articles posted on TVWriter™ in the last 52 weeks. But first a caveat:

By far the most visited articles on TVWriter™ this year were those relating to our contentious contests (as LB’s friend and mentor Stan Lee might say). Announcements about People’s Pilot and Spec Scriptacular placings led the pack, followed closely by announcements that we were going to announce the various results and then by other announcements about new plans, new rules, and new prizes for both the PP and the SS.

So we aren’t going to list them here. Because, when you get down to it, how relevant are discussions and lists about contests that have already been held? A site search will take you to all things related to the PP and the SS and, besides, a new People’s Pilot is about to start January 1st, AKA in just a few days, and you’d better believe that we’ll give you plenty to read then.

(What happened to the Spec Scriptacular, you ask? Don’t fret, goombahs. The next SS will start June 1st, after the 2014 People’s Pilot winners have been chosen, and you’ll probably end up with more than your fill on related info. We’re going for the tight focus thing, you see.)

Now that that’s out of the way, scroll and click on what – since modesty is of course a virtue and we like to see ourselves as being as virtuous as virtuosos can be – we really should be calling:

popularity-contest

The 10 Most Popular TVWriter™ Posts of 2013 That Aren’t, You Know, Tooting Our Own Horn

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10) HOUSE OF CARDS Is a Losing Hand.

9) Become a Better Writer with These Important Reading Skills First

8) Supernatural Season 1 Finale – Recap and Review

7) Joss Whedon Inspires the Hell Out of Us

6) More About the FIREFLY Board Game

5) Kathy Sees Iron Man 3

4) munchman: Stephen Merchant Goes into Comedy Biz with HBO

3) Robert Picardo joins Inspector Spacetime!

2) Want to Read the Most Highly Praised Screenplays of 2012?

And the Most-Visited/Most-Popular/Most-Clicked on article of all:

1) Looking for TV Pilot Scripts?

Ta-da!

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