Feb 5, 2015

[TV] House of Cards: Season 2

As much as Homeland was pretty interesting from the very first episode we watched, House of Cards really blew us away from the very beginning. There's something scarily powerful about the way this show is structured that really supports the story it tries to tell. The excellent writing and the brilliant acting talent involved in the production certainly result in some powerful moments indeed.

This second season of House of Cards certainly took things to a whole new level and it became a show that we sort of crawled through since we wanted to relish every episode. In time the plot twists got the better of me and I had us sprint to through the last couple of episodes just to get to the big finish. And man, what a finale that was indeed.

The writing behind this show and the complexity of the overall plot was rather staggering. This season brings to completion a lot of elements that were introduced as far back as the early days of  season 1 and then the end result is something absolutely remarkable.  And the whole time you can't help but feel both fascinated and terrified of Frank and what he's prepared to do to get his way.

Synopsis: House of Cards is a US drama television series produced and developed for US television by Beau Willimon.  The show streams on Netflix and has a third season that is set to begin later this February.

By the end of the first season, Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) had managed to move up from being the House Majority Whip to Vice President of the United States. And given the speed of Frank achieving this rather major achievement, it should come to no surprise that he's not at all done. Going back to the first season, we know that he wanted some degree of revenge against the President - and being his second in command puts him in a prime position to accomplish just that. But first he needs to find a way to deal with businessman Raymond Tusk (Gerald McRaney), who has been the presidents close confidant and adviser for some time now.

And we jump right into the action given several major political battles being fought. First there are on-going trade agreements with China regarding a variety of items. And then there's the risk of a government shutdown as the Democratic president needs to find a compromise with the antagonistic Republican House. And how Frank manages to manipulate both events to his advantage is a brilliant demonstration of political maneuvering and sheer guile and cunning. It's so beautiful yet also scary. I keep saying that about Frank, but it's true.

Frank Underwood is a character that we all feel a little worried about had he been real and at the same time we probably secretly admire but won't tell our friends know that. And that's because really, what will your friends say when they hear you idolize a man who is so ruthless and manipulative as Frank. It's hard to explain but there it is - something to think about. And Kevin Spacey continues to pull out all the stops in terms of his acting skills in order to make Frank as amazing as he is.

His on-screen wife Claire (Robin Wright) isn't a pushover either and she continues to demonstrate her own prowess at manipulation. And her path involves other channels apart from the US government itself - at least not directly. Instead she forms a relationship with the First Lady, something which becomes rather pivotal over time. And Wright is just stunning.

I don't think I'll ever get over the fact that Frank pretty much runs this season by manipulating international trade talks with China. This is another country we're talking about and not just another personality at the White House. But then we have to remember that Frank was originally slotted to be Secretary of State - and he certainly shows his savvy for understanding how to operate in the global arena.

The show gets some to some scary points throughout the season as Tusk does his best to fight off Frank's efforts to discredit him and to create a divide between him and the president. But no matter what happens, it's amazing how Frank and Claire maneuver through these murky waters and turn every attack into a boon that aids them in the end. Every controversy and every threat barely faze them and their counter attacks are pretty potent.

But they're not perfect either and we see moments of weakness for both of them. I won't get into specifics, but there are some surprising outbursts for both of them as they continue on their difficult climb up the ladder.

House of Cards feels like the sort of political struggle that would have been right at home in Frank Herbert's Dune. And this probably explains part of the reason I like this show so much beyond the fact it's darn good television. Thus the second season gets a full 5 moments of careful responses from the Underwoods out of a possible 5.

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