Frank Underwood returns stronger than ever with suave and slithery deception for season two of the political drama “House of Cards.” If you’re unfamiliar with “House of Cards,” it’s a Netflix Original Series, which means you don’t tune in to watch once a week on television; rather, all episodes for a season are released at once on Netflix.
The model has been successful, notably proven with the popularity of the show: 670,000 viewers watching the entire second season over Presidents’ Weekend, according to research by Procera. The official Barack Obama Twitter account even tweeted about it.
The original series first aired in Britain in 1990 and was then Americanized to its current form. The most outstanding aspect of the show is the continual deconstruction of the fourth wall – Underwood talking right at you as the audience member and having conversations with you as though he is seeing your reactions. Ultimately, Underwood treats you as an accomplice in his immorality.
Kevin Spacey drives the entire show. Without his expertise playing this politician, steamy and southern with bourbon pulsing through his veins, the whole dynamic is unimaginable. The intimacy established with this direct address relationship pulls the audience in time after time as the act of watching the show becomes active rather than passive as you journey with Underwood, evaluating the decisions he makes, keeping you in mind.
The cinematography this season is more gorgeous and moody than season one, and the supporting cast is similarly compelling, specifically Robin Wright as Claire Underwood. Her character is the furthest thing from a suppliant wife. She’s fiercely venomous and arguably has less remorse than her male counterpart. Their dualistic control and deception brings a new understanding to the phrase “power couple.”
Season two, compared to season one, spends time developing side characters to the point of exhaustion. In an attempt to humanize these pawns (or victims) of the Underwoods, the show frequently panders with side plots that have no bearing come time for the finale. In other words, they often function as filler in plot.
Another minor flaw this season is the overtly obvious attempts to generate plot points based on recent real political conflicts. This choice gives many of the conflicts a false and contrived feeling, diminishing the usual high drama the Underwoods’ power grab generates. Without spoiling specific plot events, the conflicts this season feel as though they serve the plot rather than the conflicts making the plot.
Having followed this show closely, along with the majority of the other anti-hero dramas churned in the past forever, I find “House of Cards” to be no more than a top-notch, high-end political soap opera. This is not to say the show is bad in any way, but retrospectively to dramas that functionally redefined how we evaluate television – “The Sopranos,” “Mad Men” and “Six Feet Under,” for example – it’s hard to view “House of Cards” with the same intensity and respect of other series.
Regardless, I would recommend the show due to some powerful moments alone for lazy, frigid days indoors. Netflix encourages binge watching, so have at it, and remember Underwood’s words, “Democracy is so overrated.”