So now that I’ve told you that the first three episodes of House of Cards season 2 were great, here’s a spoiler filled discussion about why.
Let’s just get this one out of the way, the death of Zoe was handled expertly.
If you haven’t already watched the British series then it would have come out of nowhere. If you have watched the British series then maybe, like me, you didn’t expect it to be basically the first thing they did in this second series. Indeed, when it wasn’t the last thing to happen at the end of season one (as it was in the Original) I kind of didn’t expect it to happen until later this season if at all.
I also like that they moved the location to a subway station and the evidence chain to hacking rather than a recording as in the original. Nice updates for the location and the era, respectively.
Also, you can argue a lot about Franks role in Peter Russo’s death in season one. You can argue that it was premeditated or not, you can argue if he killed Peter or just didn’t save him. Not so this time around; Frank pushed Zoe in front of a moving train because she’d become a threat.
There can be no doubt about how far Frank will go now, nor that he truly is the bad guy of the story.
Robin Wright is going to win all the awards next year, right? Right.
I love Claire. I love that her schemes are a little harder to pick up on. I love that they take longer to execute, and I love that when she finally does slide a knife between someone’s ribs she does it with a sweet smile on her face.
Case in point, all the baby talk in the last couple episodes of season one paid off as being all part of a scheme to get at Gillian and end those troubles.
Frank may be the headliner, but Claire is terrifying.
Claire + Frank
Combine all this with the fantastic character moment when Claire comes face to face with the man who raped her back in college. She excuses herself and Frank follows. He asks what’s wrong and she simply says “it’s him.” Frank flies into a rage.
My favourite series are the ones that don’t spoon feed the audience. There’s never any doubt by what she means by “it’s him” despite there being no talk of her ever being assaulted prior to this moment. Further to that there’s no expository dialogue, Frank already knows and we the audience are trusted to figure out what’s going on.
But this was my favourite moment in episode two mostly because it shows that while they’re both sociopaths Frank and Claire really do love each other, and because we’re effectively rooting for the bad guy here it’s nice to be reminded that they’re human beings.
The Fourth Wall
Frank speaking to the audience is one of my favourite parts of this series because it’s handled so well, and when that sort of thing is handled well it can be an amazing storytelling element. In the first episode of the season Frank didn’t talk to us until the last scene, which is phenomenal. Basically he was just too busy to deal with us that day and then at the end he looked right at us and welcomed us back. Fantastic.
The Good Guys
After the death of Zoe, Lucas begins looking for ways to go after Frank. Stamper puts the FBI onto him and there’s a long, slow, complicated plot to frame him for a terrorist plot.
Following this he asks his friends to look into it and they basically come back and say “take the deal, we can’t get you out of this.” Then he literally asks if Underwood is going to get away with killing Zoe and Janine answers a tearful “yes.”
This is the halfway point of the series so this can’t quite be the end of it, but again, reinforcing that the guy who is winning is actually the bad guy. The guys we should be rooting for, the plucky reporter digging into the corrupt politician, is thoroughly defeated at this point. How’s that for a darker tone this year?
Rachel the prostitute, who at the end of season one was still beholden to Stamper for all the help he gave her despite the things he had her do to repay him, is finally starting to crack. Stamper has her believing that she’s under lock down for her own protection but it’s clear she at least understands what’s happening and wants out from under his thumb, but can’t bring herself to run away out of some twisted loyalty.
How long until she bolts, and how far will she get?
Also, she’s joined a church and has a new friend. Will they or won’t they? No, seriously, I’m asking here. It’s a church friend and it’s a girl, are going to get a storyline to explore that?
Frank and Raymond
I was concerned after the first few episodes that Frank didn’t have any worth adversaries left. I’m glad that I was wrong, as Raymond the billionaire is turning out to be pretty fun. The most recent battle over electricity was fun to watch, even if it was pretty clear that Frank was going to win from the get go. Raymond has all the money, but Frank doesn’t care about money.
Molly Parker as Jacqueline Sharp
I love Molly Parker and I love her in this as Frank’s replacement as Whip. I love that she’s the opposite of Frank in many ways, where he would trade favours for votes she just rolls in and either says “this is how you’re voting and we’ll deal with your shit later” or “you should be ashamed for voting against the interests of your country” and everyone just falls into line.
If Frank used the carrot to get votes in the house, she most definitely uses the stick. I can’t wait to see where the series takes her, especially now that it’s become clear that despite a military background and a professional appearance she’s not as conformist as you’d expect.
I’m at the half way point of the series now and it’s been fantastic so far. I’ll update again after a few more episodes but my advice is still a solid “why are you reading this and not watching the show?”