“House of Cards”–Season 2: The Main Course

House of Cards–season 2

I just binged on the second season of  the Emmy-award winning “House of Cards,” the Netflix-produced political saga starring Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood and Robin Wright as his wife Claire as it continues its narratively complex drama– even better than 2013’s!  (See my February 2013 review of the first season, “House of Cards”–A Bulimic Buffet for Couch Potatoes?)

In this riveting thriller of political ambition, power, and hubris of Shakespearian proportions, we see the Underwoods cement their lethal relationship as the über power couple on the Beltway, energized by each other’s ruthlessness. Determined to leave no enemy unharmed, the two share everything:  strategy, tactical maneuvers, and annihilation without mercy. But both Claire and Frank have backstories, hinting at the damage that has been done to them.  Their wounds remain unhealed.

Claire and Frank Underwood pursue power without any internalized sense of obligation, morality, or responsibility resulting in the viewer’s fascination and fear of the Underwoods’  impending path of destruction. Frank is unmoved by barbecue vendor Freddy’s refusal to patronize a new butcher who tortuously slow-bleeds the hogs.  Slow-bleeding hogs do not even register on Frank’s radar, a  Vice President who wants policies made his way, and only his way.

In episode after episode of this alarming drama, this pair of frightening anti-heroes–nonetheless earn our reluctant admiration for their brilliant understanding of human psychology.  They can visualize motivations and blind spots even their foes are not fully aware of. Consequently, the Underwoods seem to have no worthy adversary except each other.

In the season finale, Frank is alone in the Oval Office –or rather, talking to us, the viewers on camera.  He taps twice with his ring, a lesson his father had taught him: knock once to toughen your knuckles for a fight and once for good luck.

Prepared, with bare-knuckle fighting almost certainly in his future, Frank knocks twice on the desk in the Oval Office.  But will Claire be the one he has to fight, the blind spot for him? The one he can’t overcome?  We’ll have to wait until February 2015 to see how this immorality play unravels, and how the toy soldiers Frank loves to create symbolize a challenge to his game.

Comments (6)

  • I too binged, and I too was left breathless by the first episode. For me however, this season did not hold a candle to season 1. Somehow, although I’m as cynical as they come, the writers just took too much liberty with reality for me. I could believe the ruthlessness and the consequences of the first season, but not the second. I’m looking forward to the third!

    • As a writer struggling with motivation and the belief that all characters (and people??) behave with the belief that they are acting out of the best motives and yet, at the same time, out of self-interest, I am trying to figure out what will happen to Claire. She is much more cunning and strategic than Frank, more intelligent, not sucked in by power, but by just seeing if her way will be effective. So how does she bring about her husband’s downfall—and she must. She is his only worthy adversary.

      Glad you like the series!!

  • Just started watching season 2, myself. My breath was knocked out with the first episode. Such ruthlessness is so unthinkable that it is hard to to believe, but at the same time it is so shocking that one wants to see how and if such evil can be sustained. I can’t watch more than one episode at a time because I’m exhausted and anxious for everyone in this show. I tried to stop watching it, but I keep thinking about it and have to watch… just ONE more episode.

  • Diana – you know I’m an addict too, but instead of binging, I am savoring each episode and am halfway through. I don’t want it to end, don’t want to wait until 2015! You’re absolutely right on about “this pair of frightening anti-heroes–nonetheless earn our reluctant admiration for their brilliant understanding of human psychology. They can visualize motivations and blind spots even their foes are not fully aware of.” What I find alarming is how most people I know are incredibly drawn to and engaged by these evil-doers. I keep asking myself is it because it’s a mirror of our very own government/corporate structures or is it the complexity of the 2 main characters, devoid of integrity. Puzzling…..

    • Writing about evil–or at least, wrongdoing–almost always makes for a compelling story in the hands of a gifted writer. And Beau Willemon is one of the best!! Loved his “Ides of March” with George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Ryan Gosling!

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