House of Cards has returned for its highly anticipated second season of more seedy political drama and Netflix binge watching. Where House of Cards succeeds is in its sheer enjoyment and celebration of pulpy soapiness full of lurid storylines with only the loosest semblance of any actual politics. It's so aggressive in how it explores human ugliness while remaining utterly watchable in its addictiveness.
Following up from its seductive freshman season, lead actor/producer Kevin Spacey is just as ruthless and Machiavellian as ever playing the duplicitous Majority Whip turned Vice President of the United States Frank Underwood. As usual, Robin Wright is the backbone of the series with her Claire being more tightly bonded to her husband Frank than ever, also giving her a much needed backstory full of motivation and intrigue, further developing her brutal iciness.
This season works as a single story much better moving fluidly from episode to episode. Most of season one's surviving side players return from the smallest part to key characters to wrap up lingering storylines. If you hankered for a backstory and an entire subplot revolving around Freddie's rib joint for some reason, you'll be pleased. The returning supporting players all generally have bigger roles and expanded development. Some of the first season's plot lines resolve far too quickly and neatly, being shoehorned into the premiere episode. These make way for some truly ridiculously lurid plots about hacking, campaign finance, Chinese influence, impeachment, abortion, rape, and all-out political war.
What this season lacks is a dynamic check or threat to Frank's power and manipulation. Last season, Corey Stoll's superbly efffecting Russo in combination with reporter Zoe Barne's sly eagerness were a great contrast to Frank. Zoe has been essentially disempowered as Kate Mara's character struggles to make sense of the larger conspiracy and murder plot in Washington, scrambling to find proof. An exception to this is Molly Parker's addition to the cast as the incoming Whip and a foil/ally hybrid to Frank and his power. No one really threatens Frank's grip or control enough to make the stories as dynamic as they should be.
Season two of House of Cards lives up to the original's sensational entertainment. This time around, the season is more balanced in quality with less highs and lows getting even more lurid. All the high production and skillfully enticing writing ultimately lives up to nothing greater than hollow showmanship yet enjoyably so. Showrunner Beau Willimon juggles political drama and seedy camp well with intriguing plot twists and drama ripped from the original British novels and series. As for the how it all ultimately unfolds? "I couldn't possibly comment."
More | YVArcade / AV Club / Season 1 / Collider / EW