If you’ve been reading the blog recently or following me on social media, you’ve probably noticed that I was excited for the season premiere of House of Cards. On Valentine’s Day, the show returned for its second season, flushed with the popularity of nine Primetime Emmy nominations, four Golden Globe nominations, and a cult following. But how does this new second season stack up? I’d like to get into some specifics of the plot so below the cut are my thoughts with SPOILERS.
Overall, I thought the second season was good. It certainly wastes no time in getting right back into the action, probably because the previous episodes are all easily viewable/bingable. I saw the season as being bookended by two particularly shocking moments, the first of which is when Frank shoved Zoe in front of the subway car, killing her. I was shocked and a bit disappointed to see one of my favorite characters offed in the first half an hour of the season, but I suppose her plot arc had run its course and it set the stage for the other surprises the season had in store.
My favorite part of the second season was Claire. I disliked her in the first season, but since we got to know her better, I found myself appreciating her more. Beyond just giving her more screen time, we also got to know her better as a survivor of sexual violence and as someone capable of being emotionally invested in others. I found the scene where she collapsed crying/laughing on the stairs moving as she was humanized by her guilt over using Patricia and Megan for her own ends.
In addition to Claire’s prominent role in the season, I also enjoyed the introduction of Jimmi Simpson as the hacker Gavin Orsay (and his guinea pig Cashew!) The role he and Raymond Tusk played provided an interesting counterbalance between powerful politicians and other powerful people who are not directly political figures. I thought the hacker subplot of the season was interesting and hope to see more of it. (Obviously it wasn’t perfect from a technology standpoint, which CNET analyzes in this article.)
I somewhat enjoyed the extra focus two new female characters, Jackie and Rachel, although I ended up being disappointed in both their story arcs. I enjoyed Jackie at first as a no-nonsense kind of politician who was powerful but wasn’t going to be as corrupt as Frank. Then, she was immediately paired off with Remy and spent the rest of the season dealing with more of a love plot than a political one. Likewise, Rachel’s plot took a sudden left turn when she began a romantic relationship with her friend from the church group. To me, it felt less like a natural character development and more like the writers were trying to be provocative or sexual so they were like, “I know- lesbians!” I also thought Doug’s obsession with her was creepy and never adequately explained.
The second WTF bookend of the season occurred in the third to last episode where Claire and Frank end up having a sexual encounter with Meechum, a member of their security detail. I, uh, literally have no explanation for it. This and other moments made me doubt the show somewhat. With such good acting and a plot about the corruption in government, it doesn’t need to go out of its way to be shocking. Frank having to abandon Freddy and his rib shop is shocking. A random intro shot of Feng involved in erotic asphyxiation? Provocative I guess, but more just kind of odd. If the writers try to be more and more edgy at the expense of logical character development or plot progression, I feel like House of Cards may become an unfortunately appropriate title.