Spoilers throughout regarding season one.
Minor spoilers regarding season two.
The only problem I had with season one of the critically acclaimed and immensely popular, Netflix series, “House of Cards,” was that I had to wait a little under a year for it to return. I figuratively devoured the strong writing, spot on direction, and engaging first season of the stellar political drama during several sessions of binge watching. Finally, the day had arrived when Netflix would release, all at once, the thirteen episodes that comprise the second season of the show. Would it, however, fall victim to a sophomore slump? I am glad to report that it doesn’t disappoint.
Two time Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey (American Beauty) once again portrays political, Machiavellian manipulator, Francis ‘Frank’ Underwood. During the first season, he is introduced to the viewer as a Democratic congressman from South Carolina, who also happens to be the House Majority Whip. At the end of the first season Frank will rise in the political hierarchy of Washington politics, all the way to the Vice-Presidency. I wouldn’t dare spoil it for those of you who have yet to watch, or are finishing the second season of the captivating drama, as to whether or not he achieves his ultimate goal of becoming President. In addition, Spacey’s character continues to break the fourth wall, as he did during the first season, by speaking directly to the camera, as if he is addressing the viewer personally.
The motives for Underwood’s duplicitous behavior were made clear during the first episode of season one. Those motives all boil down to revenge against President Walker, (Michael Gill) to whom Frank offered his considerably valuable political support, in exchange for being made Secretary of State. The President reneges on his promise by giving the position to Senator Kern, (Kevin Kilner) completely unaware that he has just painted a target on his back for the viperous Underwood to strike at. The road to Frank’s obtaining the most prestigious job in American politics doesn’t end and begin with Walker; it is paved with victims, who will suffer both professionally, as well as personally; and for certain individuals – such as the alcoholic and drug addicted, Pennsylvania congressman and gubernatorial candidate, Peter Russo, (Corey Stoll) – they will pay with their lives.
The second season, once again, features an outstanding ensemble cast. Golden Globe winner Robin Wright, (Forest Gump) returns as Claire, Frank’s wife and co-conspirator; they are the epitome of the ultimate power couple. She, just like Frank, is ruthless. The difference between husband and wife is that unlike Frank, who has no remorse for his actions, Claire sometimes struggles with feelings of guilt, even going so far as to cry after hanging up the phone with First Lady, Tricia Walker (Joanna Going). No longer concerning herself with the non-profit organization CWI (Clean Water Initiative), she sets her sights on getting a sexual assault bill passed in the Congress that would allow members of the military to bring sexual harassment suits in civilian courts. The catalyst for her actions, is the result of her talking, during a live interview, about being raped, when she was in college, by someone who has risen to a position of prominence in the military.
Additional returning and new characters include, Michael Kelly, (Chronicle) in the role of Doug Stamper. He is Underwood’s unquestioningly loyal, Chief of Staff. This season, however, the work he does for Frank is at odds with his ever growing obsession with Rachel Posner (Rachel Brosnahan). During the first season she is placed into a forced hiding by Stamper, at the behest of Underwood, because she is the only link between Underwood and what really happened to Peter Russo. Capitol policeman, Edward Meechum, (Nathan Darrow) another Underwood loyalist, gets rewarded by being made a member of the secret service, after Underwood becomes Vice-President. Billionaire business man, Raymond Tusk, portrayed by Gerald McRaney, (Simon & Simon) long time friend of President Walker, becomes a legitimate threat in regard to Underwood’s achieving his ultimate goal. Hired gun Remy Danton’s (Mahershala Ali) loyalties to his boss, Tusk, come into question. The relationship that tests Remy’s loyalty is with the new whip of the Congress, Jackie Sharp, (Molly Parker) who he becomes romantically involved with. She is a three term, congresswoman, from California, and a former member of the military. Underwood personally appeals to her to run for the position, as opposed to his more seasoned colleagues. Crusading reporter, Lucas Goodwin, (Sebastian Arcelus) is attempting to expose Underwood for the conniving person he really is, as well as implicate Frank in the murders of both Peter Russo and someone else, who shall remain nameless at this time, to avoid a major spoiler for those of you who have not yet seen season two. Fellow reporter, Janine Skorsky, (Constance Zimmer) originally working alongside Lucas, leaves him to his own devices. She has fled, in fear for her life, to upstate New York, to teach and spend time with her mother. The back story of Freddy, (Reg E. Cathey) who owns Freddy’s barbeque, Underwood’s favorite place to eat, is expanded. Wealthy Chinese, businessman, Xander Feng, (Terry Chen) also joins the cast. He is a money launderer and associate of Raymond Tusk. Mr. Feng is yet another obstacle which will present a problem for Underwood’s path to the presidency. Those characters, as well as host of others, is one of the main driving forces behind what makes the second season such compelling viewing.
I am not going to do a review of each episode. That would make this particular blog far too long, and ruin the pleasure I hope you will derive from watching the second season. The majority of the episodes concern themselves with current issues such as: cyber terrorism; the United States relationship with China; splinter fractions within political parties; and the wheeling and dealing of Washington politics. Netflix has already committed to a third season of the show, even though it originally was set to run for only two seasons. In fact, Netflix executives have unofficially stated, that the series will continue as long as Spacey and Wright are willing to work on the series.