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House of Lies Season 3 Ep. 2 Recap: ‘Power’

Photo Credit: Showtime

*From this week on, my House of Lies recaps will be posted on Tuesday, as I’m also recapping HBO’s new series Looking for another site. Now on with the show!*

Last week’s premiere “Wreckage” showed the Pod split up and in varying stages of uncertainty and misery. This week’s ‘Power’ continues along the same lines, as a few of our characters realize just how little they can do to change their feelings or circumstances.

The episode’s theme comes in the first few minutes, with Marty attending a lecture by motivational speaker Sandy Joy. Her story–which sounds a combination of survival tale and backpack trekking adventure–and stage presence are so captivating even cynical Marty finds himself chanting “the power is in me.” But like most of the characters that populate House of Lies,  Sandy’s a hustler, a two-bit saleswoman in smiley, self-help clothing.

“None of us have any power,” she tells Marty during post-coital pillow talk. “We’re all just passengers on God’s kamikaze rocket ship. We’re powerless to our drugs, to our relationships, to our families. We’re just careening at warp seven on a giant asteroid call ‘We’re All Fucked.’  Marty looks more than little disappointed Sandy’s a total fraud (she didn’t live in the outback, but she did work at an Outback–I guess making baby back ribs is roughing it), but not too distraught to for another roll in the hay.

His underlying anxieties come to the surface in a nightmare where he stumbles through a junkyard and witnesses a dancing Roscoe being crushed by a car, while a gun-wielding Jeannie is whacked by a wrecking ball before he wakes up. I wasn’t that wild about the whole sequence; it’s clearly meant to represent Marty’s fears for the people he loves most, that he won’t be able to admit his true feelings for Jeannie, or protect his son and truly understand who he is.

“Power” does a much better job showing this in Marty’s waking life–like when Roscoe talks about his new crush Lex, or when he later explains to Marty Lex was born a girl, but currently identifying as a guy. Marty is visibly thrown by both revelations, and even asks “so what are you?” (to which Roscoe replies “I’m Roscoe,”) ” but ultimately puts on a supportive face, as he always has. A little joke by Roscoe smooths over any doubts for now; but there’s a sense as Roscoe gets older, and the less his gender fluidity can be dismissed as a phase, that Marty will have more questions.

Jeannie’s making moves at Galweather, taking a lucrative defense account away from the chauvinistic Gil by manipulating Julianne into thinking he dislikes her, and having Benita run numbers to show the potential profits to be made. She may not be able to stop her lingering feelings toward Marty (or the residue of self-loathing left over from her tough childhood), but it’d be hard to argue she’s not exerting some at work. Doug on the other hand, is on track to become a father whether he likes it or not. Sarah slyly tells him she’s stopped taking birth control, and he fails miserably at hiding his discomfort with the news. He really shouldn’t be shocked though; this is the same woman who orchestrated a proposal to herself last season. At least JC and Benita are thrilled, the latter telling him to be “the cock of the walk and deliver that baby batter to your special lady.” Um, eww.

Then there’s Clyde. Poor, poor Clyde, chained to the hip of Monica, who’s convinced Kristy and every other woman at his firm he’s a rapist and summons them to the office for an all night work session. Clyde protests, while Kristy goes into scary mode, chanting an affirmation before stabbing Monica in the leg with a letter opener. As she’s wheeled out, Clyde pleads with her to fire him.  Monica’s vindictiveness in still in tact though, in spite of a pinched artery, and she promises to keep him at the firm for the rest of his “mediocre career.”

Nothing however, can make you feel less in control than matters of the heart. Nowhere is this clearer than in the last scene, when Marty and Jeannie are conspiring how to best bleed Colossal Foods dry. She asks if he’s glad he struck on his own, and he says everything’s great. Except for one thing. Jeannie asks what that thing is, but he doesn’t answer, leaving things silent and thick with tension. In that moment it’s obvious these two people care deeply for each other, much as they want to deny it.  But try as they might, they are (to drive the episode’s theme home) powerless to feel anything else.





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