Only a few days now and the much anticipated third season of “House of Cards” gets its release on Netflix. By the time the second season of “House of Cards” came around Netflix was already continuing to dominate the TV scene with not only the release of the first season of “House of Cards” but also the release of “Orange is the New Black”. Still though, it’s one thing to make a brief rise to fame and then fall when potential couldn’t be higher. Netflix and Executive Producer Beau Willimon showed with their second season of “House of Cards” that they are sticking around for the long run. This second season matches the first’s brilliance; with some bravery, meticulous plotting, smart direction, and an ending that will leave you hanging and ready for season 3.
(This Review Does Contain Spoilers From Season 1)
After his promotion to the role of the Vice President at the end of the first season, Francis “Frank” Underwood has no intention of stopping his rise to power in Washington. Underwood must prove himself more cutthroat than ever in order to survive politics in the White House. Frank can’t let anyone get in his way as he faces tougher political opponents than he ever has before; which could be his downfall or his ascension.
What becomes apparent early on in the very first episode of the second season, this show is not afraid of taking risks and chances with its story. Whereas a lot of shows are content to stay with what makes them successful, “House of Cards” with one definite swing takes out several key cast members of the previous season. It becomes apparent that here from here on out that anything can go. Obviously the show never goes all “Game of Thrones” on us, murdering a few cast members every couple of episodes, but it does show us that the series is willing to take a few steps further and progress the story in ways we haven’t considered before. I always enjoy when a show is willing to do that. Most Television programs (and even some I really enjoy) we sit down once a week knowing by the end of the episode most things will stay the same. The characters will be okay, whatever problem they are facing at the beginning of the episode will be resolved by the end. Here, that’s no longer the case.
Kevin Spacey returns to the leading protagonist (or antagonist depending on how you choose to view him), Frank Underwood. He picks up his character without missing a beat. In what will win him an eventual Golden Globe, Spacey continues to demonstrate why he is one of the best actors working today. One moment he is charming us all with his delectable southern accent and the next making us quake in fear with his thunderous and commanding presence. You can tell Spacey is having so much fun with the role, which makes it all that much more fun for all of us.
Re-watching these past two seasons made me realize how much Claire Underwood (played by Robin Wright) had evolved over the course of the show. Even though in the first season she could be cunning and cold, she still seemed to have a beating heart somewhere in there. Here though, there are moments where Wright successful makes us tremble in her might; making us question where if she has any humanity left? In those moments you’ll also be asking who is more cunning in their pursuit of their goals? Claire or Frank?
I found that in this season, there are more challenges thrown at Frank. In the pursuit of power this is a common theme that has been told in stories countless times. Think back to “The Godfather” trilogy. In the first film, Michael rises to power; in the second part, Michael has to hold on that power and the struggles that go along with that. The first season was all about Frank’s rise to power out of congress and into the White House. While this second season is all about him trying to hold on that power he has gained. He is put through the grinder more. It makes for sometimes more dramatic, tension filled moments. If the show continues to follow this structure will the third season be about his descent? I imagine they will put that off for another season or two but could this be the show’s endgame?
The writers of the show continue to deliver us smart and compelling plotlines for our characters. This season though has far more ambition than the first. Juggling more storylines and narrative arcs; this season marvels in its precision to weave through its many plotlines, while the first relishes in simplicity through complexity. Both have a different but consistent feel to them. With more storylines means at times it loses its overall focus. But, for the most part the writers are able to maintain that focus; only getting a bit jumbled up in the middle part of the season.
The David Fincher-eqsue look is still kept very much alive, even though he never actually directs any episodes this time around. The production design is still as dazzling as ever. Show-runner Beau Willimon looks as if he took painstaking efforts to keep a sense of realism giving the second season believability even at its most unbelievable moments.
The ending of this season ends similarly to the first, where a major change occurs and you want to turn onto the next episode to see what happens next (except you had to wait a whole year to find out unless you of course just barely binged on the show). This season matches the first beat for beat. Some might not enjoy some of the shift in changing characters; but for everyone else this is another amazing season that will thrill and intrigue fans of the first season, and fans of good TV.