Sturdy ‘House of Cards’

After long anticipation, “House of Cards” shined with its second season return. The anticipation from the first season, combined with the release of all 13 episodes at once, made binge watching the only way to truly appreciate the thrill the show never fails to elicit.

Courtesy of Netflix

Courtesy of Netflix

You cannot technically call “House of Cards” a television show. It is exclusively on Netflix; the two of us watched the show in a steady stream of multiple episodes per sitting. The ebb and flow of each episode is an incentive to carry on watching.

“House of Cards” stands firm on plot lines of manipulation. As one of the most powerful couples in D.C., Frank and Claire Underwood (Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, respectively) use deceit, bribery and manipulation to climb the ladder of the system that prides itself on democracy.

Visually and technically, “House of Cards” is very high-brow with a talented ensemble, as its characters parallel archetypes from the Shakespearean landscape. Frank Underwood, a commanding Richard III; Claire Underwood, the ruthless Lady Macbeth; Doug Stamper, his loyal understudy; Raymond Tusk, Frank Underwood’s opponent with an equal hunger for influence; and President Walker, a man as transient as the wind.

The first season of the show established these personalities we have all come to know and love, and this season allowed some characters to continue with their ways, while others ventured into uncharted territories.

While the tactics that Frank Underwood, Stamper, and the rest of his staff were explicitly stated from the beginning, this season sheds a new light on Claire Underwood. A rather passive actor to the dirty work of Capitol politics in season one, Claire steps up her game this season proving that she is capable of being just as ruthless as her husband.

The soliloquies by Frank, breaking the fourth wall, are a form of reality-check for the audience. “Every kitten grows up to be a cat,” he says. Like Richard III, Frank thrives by depriving others of power. Kevin Spacey portrays Underwood with a veteran subtlety, his monotone manner of speech and expressionless face bring nuance to an otherwise predictable character of a sweet-talking politician.

The new season wastes no time on finishing off characters and plot lines from season one and bringing in new ones to fill their places. Unfortunately, some of these issues are dragged out toward the middle of season 2, creating an unnecessary distraction. Some characters still linger, such as Rachel Posner and Christina Gallagher, both associated with the late Peter Russo from season 1, continuing in irrelevant and unnecessary backstories.

Despite the digressions, the season redeems itself with creative poise: bold power plays from unwavering and corrupt politicians that we hate to love.

We read Shakespeare for the depth of his characters and his portrayal of a bloody reality. In due time, “House of Cards” will represent the futile state of American politics. As Frank so curtly said, “The path to power is paved with hypocrisy and casualties.” We, the audience, are thrilled by wreckage of hypocrisy and casualties in a drama. However in reality, we’re more likely to be alarmed to see our political world infested with sharks.

It’s good to be back.

 

RECOMMENDED: The terrific acting and complex plot make season 2 of “House of Cards” well worth the binge.