The Netflix original series, House of Cards has returned for another season, and the stakes have been raised. The last season, we left off with Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey) being nominated for the Vice Presidency, Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) dealing with a potential lawsuit from Gillian (Sandrine Holt), and Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara) investigating the death of Peter Russo (Corey Stoll). The season starts off with a bang and shows that House of Cards is clearly one of, if not the best TV series on. Spacey’s Frank Underwood clearly rivals the classic anti-heroes of Tony Soprano, Don Draper, Vic Mackey and Walter White.
WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD
From the beginning of season 1, we saw Frank Underwood as a corrupt, power hungry politician, but as an audience member we still had remorse for him. Similar to the character Walter White, he committed evil deeds yet you never truly against him. In the back of your mind, when Heisenberg killed Mike or poisoned Brock, you still rooted for Walter White to succeed. In season 1, despite planning that he’d bring Russo’s rise and fall, he didn’t ruthlessly kill him. He took an easy way death by simply poisons him. Frank worked as an effective machine, doing what would only help him in the long run. Yet based on his relationship with Claire and to a lesser extent, Zoe, you could tell their was some kindness to him.
The idea was the same for Frank Underwood until the end of episode 1. You see the ruthlessness of Frank once he kills Zoe. He just throws her across a moving train and doesn’t think twice about. He explains to us that “For those of us climbing to the top of the food chain, there can be no mercy. There is but one rule: Hunt or be hunted”, showing the true evil of Frank. At this point an actor must pull off the right amount of charisma and charm to have us follow his every move and Spacey pulls it off with perfection. Frank is an evil man and yet we can’t help but witness the deeds he has done.
To an extent, Claire is similar to Frank in that she too will do anything to get ahead. She lies to an entire country on Television, just to not seem unfavorable. The moment she comes up with the story about her aborted child, you too can tell how deceiving and despicable the Underwoods are. To add along the whole bill about rape in the military seemed so vile to the point, how long was Claire really going to go with? Obviously she was in it for the long run but it’s still inconceivable that she would do that much to save her ass. The credit goes to Spacey and Wright for giving us fantastic performances as cunning, evil people yet you can’t help but like them. Not necessarily root for them, because at that point, we’d be rooting for a sociopathic couple to rule America, and everybody likes the underdog.
The season is not nearly as good as season 1 but it sure did begin and end on a fantastic note. The most compelling storyline is Frank vs Raymond Tusk (Gerald McRaney), a billionaire adversary to President Garrett Walker (Michael Gill). Tusk discovers Frank rise to power idea, and quickly tries to stop him. Frank wanted to plant his revenge on Tusk for advising against Frank for the Secretary of State position. The two essentially go at it with one another until it’s ultimately decided that Frank’s plan comes to fruition. In the end, it was inevitable that Frank was going to win, as he just used his charm and wits to earn the trust of President Walker.
The other storylines going on here were just simply not up to par with Frank and Claire’s power trip. The only storyline that really asked some compelling questions involves hacker Gavin Orsay (Jimmi Simpson) and potentially his impact on Frank. They clearly hint that Orsay will have something to do with the inevitable fall of Frank. The other storylines involving Lucas going to the extremes to prove Underwood’s involvement with Russo’s and Zoe’s death goes on far too long and it was just obvious he would end up failing. Doug (Michael Kelly) and Rachel (Rachel Rosnahan)’s storyline is impact by Orsay when he reveals to Doug the texts between him and Rachel. This only leads to the anti-climatic death of Doug, who simply didn’t have the ruthlessness to ultimately get rid of Rachel properly. Doug clearly had some guilt and heart to him, since he did care enough about Rachel, to the point she ultimately killed him for it.
House of Cards is set in DC and is full of politics but you knew from the moment Chapter 1 began, this was all about getting power. Frank stops at nothing until he ultimately gets his “throne” and becomes the most powerful man in the free world. This entire show is a clear illustration to the corruption that occurs everyday when it comes to politics. It’s all about money for those politicians but Frank doesn’t just want the fame and fortunes. He wants all the power and he never actually had 1 vote given to him in his plan of rise. As Frank tells us in episode 2, “Democracy is so overrated”, and it’s true in some context.
Essentially what we are seeing with this show is a Shakespeare play, specifically Hamlet. I don’t know if Claire ends up killing herself, or if Frank is murdered by someone in the end, but the similarities are all there. The show easily could have ended on season 2 with the image of Frank knocking his knuckle on his new desk, but the show will indeed go on for another season. I can’t wait to binge-watch the next episodes of President Frank Underwood in all his evil glory.