Between the food and the force of collisions among characters this season, this show should have been sponsored by Emeril.
Season 2 of House of Cards dropped on Valentine’s Day 2014, and most who devoured the fresh baker’s dozen in part or in whole were left with jaws on the floor and a mild feeling of discomfort at, well, people. Like, all people.1
This new serving of ruthlessness places Spacey’s Frank Underwood in a much more prominent position – the office of the Vice President2 – and with that comes a more relentless pace. The tactics Underwood can now wield are bigger and stronger but so are both the risk of exposure and his growing list of enemies. Perhaps I should say changing rather than growing – despite an increase in threads in this tangled web, the main obstacle to Underwood and his ambitions remains (thankfully) focused.
After quickly (and shockingly, and brilliantly) blunting the press investigation into Peter Russo’s death (an investigation that would both implicate Underwood and reveal his broader power grab) House of Cards builds a battle of wits and wills between Underwood and Gerald MacRaney’s billionaire Donald Trusk over what influence each can apply to achieve their own interests. Money becomes a much more central motif, and allusions to political scandals from the past decade are frequent but unobtrusive. In a nice twist, by season’s end Underwood and his minions have managed to feed the media a different, actual scandal and use it to entangle relative innocents who are blocking their path.
Meanwhile, sex – both the act and the dynamics between and among men and women in this world – plays less of a role; that’s far from the only way to show intimacy and connection, but the difference is noticeable.3 There’s a coldness and an emptiness to this season of House of Cards, a purposeful one built of the necessities of the new environment and the story choices it makes. It holds back nothing, though sometimes it bypasses discussion where season 1 would have discussed, engaged, lingered. It is still, though, eminently watchable. If last season caused you to want to follow alongside Frank and Claire and see how they navigated wherever they went, this season tosses you in the back seat and expects you to shut up and watch.
And now, a few thoughts from inanimate objects in
House of Cards S2E1 – Chapter 14
Welcome back, Frank! Thought you’d forgotten all about me!
– the fourth wall
Why yes, we think we’re clever. Also: we are. Admit it.
– Frank’s new cufflinks
Right. Because all you need to do in the digital age to wipe something from existence is just delete it.
– Zoe’s phone
WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!?!
– inbound Silver Line train
- For those select few for whom the show was the perfect accompaniment to a romantic Friday night, I encourage you to be nice and let those folks you keep locked in your basement out for a few hours to watch Kevin Spacey’s tooth and claw ascent through D.C. ↵
- Not a spoiler, the three of you who have yet to watch – what did you think was going to happen between the end of season 1 and now? ↵
- The connections are there, just not as deep as in season 1 ↵