It seems a long time ago now, but when the first season of House Of Cards came out, expectations for what a Netflix TV show would be like were low.
Sure, it had the likes of David Fincher and Joel Schumacher directing and Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright starring, but could a DVD rental company really make great television? Lilyhammer hadn’t exactly set the world on fire, after all.
But House Of Cards was different. It was really well made, looking like something that any of the established networks would have been proud to produce, and captured the cynical spirit of the English original while adding Washington DC glamour.
So, with expectations higher for Season 2, would it deliver? After watching the whole show in just over a week, the answer is mostly yeah. There are weaknesses and plot holes, but it’s another really strong season of political drama and intrigue.
[SPOILERS]Frank Underwood started the first episode as the chief whip for the Democrats, and ends the Season 2 finale as President, and he’s done some despicable things along the way.
As we resume the action, we find him about to take the Vice President role, but with former love Zoe Barnes sniffing around the untimely death (ie, murder) of Peter Russo. This would presumably be an ongoing plot point, right?
Wrong. Instead, in the first episode, Frank throws Zoe in front of a train, depriving us of the wonderful Kate Mara but providing a real shocker to make sure everyone’s hooked.
With her out of the way and her colleagues either running away or throwing themselves in front of a proverbial train, the focus of this season is Frank’s pursuit of a greater goal, working quickly to undermine and betray the President so that he can take the job.
This puts him in direct opposition to Raymond Tusk, the rich and powerful man he had to suck up to in his bid to become VP, and their battles nearly lead both of them to prison, but end up with Frank in the Oval Office.
One new character who comes in this season is Frank’s replacement as Chief Whip, and it’s always great to see Molly Parker with a major role in a quality drama (as she had of course, in Deadwood).
Wright is again excellent as Claire Underwood, particularly in the episodes that focus on her rape as a student and on her affair with the photographer last season. Both of these peel away some of the layers to reveal the human inside the calculating machine.
She’s still evil, of course, as is Frank, but there are occasional glimpses of humanity. Fleetingly. And then there’s their weird relationship and even weirder threesome with their bodyguard towards the end of the season. If Zoe’s death was a OMG moment, that was a definite WTF.
Not everything works, Parker’s character is a little wasted in a relationship with Remy Danton, while the whole hacker story doesn’t really ring true. But it’s good to get the chance to see some of the fall-out from the Underwood’s scheming, with even Freddy’s BBQ biting the dust in their wake.
A third season has already been ordered and the reviews for this one have mostly been very good, so while it doesn’t quite have the charm of the wonderful Orange Is The New Black, you can’t deny that Netflix have got it right again with House Of Cards. And I’m intrigued to see where it goes next.