Binge Watching: Season Two of House of Cards

by Katherine Aliano Ruiz

Happy Late Valentine’s Day, Love Frank

Friday was Valentine’s Day, and for many it was full of romance, presents and insane amounts of delicious chocolate. For Netflix users, it was full of politics, murder, and weirdly awesome power couples. House of Cards, it’s good to have you back. The second season of the show premiered yesterday and guys, it somehow manages to be more intense than season one. But before we start on season two, let’s do a quick recap of season one. SPOILERS AHEAD

  • In episode eleven, Frank crossed the line from cunning, manipulative politician to full-on murderer when he killed Congressman Peter Russo and passed it off as suicide. In true Heathers fashion, this won’t be the first suicide he fakes.
  • Claire’s pregnant ex-employee Gillian (whose two passions are clean water and screwing Claire over) was about to take Claire to court after being fired.
  • Zoe, Lucas, and Janine (AKA the unholy trinity of investigative journalism) were putting all the pieces together regarding the magnitude of Frank’s crimes.
  • Claire left Adam once and for all.
  • Frank was officially offered the vice presidency and humbly accepted.

Taking all that into consideration, it was clear to fans that season two is going to be crazy. The new season’s first episode already ends with a huge shocker. It’s the kind of episode that makes those who say, “Binge watching just isn’t my style” eat their words and stay glued to their laptop screens until 5am. I’m still making my way through season two, but as a binge watcher and House of Cards fan I’ve made a few observations thus far:

Firstly, Insomnia Cookies and House of Cards go perfectly together as does the sun rising to remind you you’ve been watching a show for six hours straight.

Secondly, Robin Wright (who plays Claire Underwood) is amazing this season. Don’t get me wrong, Kevin Spacey is and always will be un-freaking-believable as Frank, but Wright’s performance is hitting it out of the park. While in the first season it was clear she was a smart political woman, for the most part she followed Frank’s lead. This season gives her some scenes that reflect a Frank-level of cunning, such as her final face-off with Gillian. Wright has the opportunity to further showcase her acting talent throughout this season. In the second episode, Claire, as the new Second Lady, is faced with her past sexual assaulter at his commissioning ceremony. She tells Frank to not cause a scene or tell anyone and you think “Damn, I can’t believe he’s going to get away with it!” But as faithful viewers know, no one gets away with anything on House of Cards—except Claire and Frank, of course. And the payback is orchestrated in such a way that makes you realize how Frank and Claire are perfectly matched for each other.

The biggest problem this season so far seems to be that Frank gets away with everything. The threats to his power are quickly dismantled—in brutal ways—and watching Frank succeed without anyone to bring him down a notch may prove to be—and I hate to say this—monotonous. Without the imminent danger of everything falling apart, the risks Frank takes don’t seem that risky anymore. Frank needs a viable opponent, someone at his level to take him on, not more game pieces he can play with.

The arrival of new character Jacqueline Sharp, Frank’s successor as House Majority Whip, is a fresh addition to the show and may be that potential opponent. She presents an interesting contrast to Frank—while she is willing to cross anyone in her path to success, unlike Frank she doesn’t silently take crap from anyone or give out favors when her decisions are on the line. Her vehement statement that she is not Frank Underwood could perhaps lead her to be that person to go against Frank at some point in time.

This new season is proving to be a dangerously addictive combination of good writing and excellent acting. To all the fans out there and especially to you House of Cards first timers, good luck trying to balance studying for midterms and binge watching this show.

Katherine Aliano Ruiz is a first-year at Barnard and a staff writer for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Image courtesy of Red Alert Politics.

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