House of Cards Season 2 Review

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From the moment you press play on episode one you are immediately aware that you are no longer in the ‘real world’. You are in Washington D.C, where things don’t play out the same way they do for people like you and me. Running this world full of political intrigue are Frank and Claire Underwood. Once you enter the world of ‘House of Cards’ you do what they want and if you have no use then  what happens to you isn’t so pretty.

Season two begins directly where season one left off – with Frank and Claire on a run right after he finds out that he will become the next Vice President of the United States. This event from the end of season one is the catalyst for the entire next 13 episodes. This season somehow tops the first season but the ending does worry me. I’m jumping ahead of myself aren’t I? Season two of ‘House of Cards’ breaks down in a few story lines that all converge except one.

Highlights:

Claire’s story throughout the season was definitely the best arc of the season. We learned more about her in just a few episodes than we did the entire series. Her dealings with the sexual assault bill and the arc involving her growing relationship with Patricia Walker (the first lady) expanded on her character and made her possibly more ruthless than Frank. Her crowning moment of pure “Claire-ness” came when she did the live CNN interview. It was the catalyst for her arc and was shocking reveal after shocking reveal. It set off her most ruthless moment of the series so far and that was the lobbying for the military sexual assault bill. It brought Megan Hennessey into her life and somehow, Claire sinks to a new low with her interactions with her. Megan entering the picture also helps set off what happens in her power play with Patricia. Somehow Robin Wright makes you like Claire. She literally destroys people’s lives this season but you still like her. There’s no way this show works if you can’t get behind the Underwoods. Wright actually makes you feel bad for Claire at a couple points in this season. It’s a testament to her ability.

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Raymond Tusk versus Frank Underwood was the big story line of this season though. It encompassed almost every episode of the season and its ending had massive repercussions for all involved. Frank not only gets pushed up against the wall but does not stop swinging. Raymond Tusk throws everything he can at him, including the sneaky Remy Danton but Frank never lets up. He makes his own power plays in contrast to Claire. He’s not as obvious about it and still has his way of not letting people realize they’re being played. His relationships with many characters come to a head this season and he sinks to a new low in order to tidy up all loose ends. This is evident in the episode one shocker. Kevin Spacey is a master actor in this role. Like Robin Wright, he makes you root for him. It’s a wonder that a character this awful and ruthless is so interesting. I feel like a bad person watching he and Claire do what they do and rooting for them.

There were some new cast members added to the show this season but none of them came close to being as great as Molly Parker as Jackie Sharpe. Jackie has her hands in almost every story line this season and does enter the series as an almost full blown protege of Frank Underwood as his replacement as House Majority WHIP. That alone makes her a scary character. Parker plays the role in a way that shows that Jackie is still learning but also can handle herself and will flex the new power she has. Her dealings with Remy also help keep her in the loop entirely as that in a way ties her to Raymond Tusk. There are many different directions this character can take going forward and it will be exciting to see where it goes.

Lowlights

Doug Stamper went from a great supporting cast member and integral part of Frank’s team to a character that began to just bore me. He became weird and off putting. The entire arc involving him and Rachel was really overblown and dragged on for so long. Doug became a character that was not used properly. Once Peter Russo was taken out of the picture, everything involving Rachel should have ended. It could have been tied up in a very simple way but was instead a long winded saga that really served no purpose.

There’s a major plot involving Freddy, the BBQ restaurant owner. It had a real point that it was making and did give a little more insight into who Frank is but at the end it really felt like a waste of time. It really didn’t serve a purpose to the greater narrative and felt like nothing more than a way to trim some of the characters due to the direction the show seems to be headed. I felt Freddy was a character that was fine in the role he had in Frank’s life. However, the change did have a purpose and ultimately was going to happen.

‘House of Cards’ season two is one of the best single seasons of a show I have seen in a long time. It had it’s minor problems but was overall close to a masterpiece. Kevin Spacey is one of the most underrated actors of our time and just continues to blow me away with in this role. Despite the somewhat unbelievable events in Washington D.C., it’s still an extremely entertaining series with a cast that somehow keeps you on the side of these characters. Both seasons are available now on Netflix.