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A New Deck of Cards

Watch It when he looks into your eyes
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

House of Cards Season 2

Rating:
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When we left Frank Underwood, he was about to ascend to the Vice Presidency, an office that the very first man to hold it, John Adams, regarded as 'the most useless position ever created by man'. I can assure those of you who wondered how the position would hold a man like Frank, that he's not the kind of Vice President who plays golf and attends ambassador's funerals.
As the second season of House of Cards unfolds (I'm currently halfway through it), we watch as Frank and Claire try to deal with their ambitions dealing with their own personal desires. Frank continues to engage his own ambitions through the battles with those who would thwart them. These include lobbyist Remy Danton, now in the employ of billionaire and Presidential advisor Raymond Tusk (Gerald McRaney, in his best work since Deadwood), the struggles of senior staff, including their own press staff, and new allies, like Jackie Sharp (Molly Parker), Frank's replacement as house whip, who continues to reveal that she may be Frank's equal as a legislator and has her own desires to express. In the mix of all this are such issues as currency trades with China, Social Security Reform, an energy crisis, and the upcoming midterm, all played by the manipulations of both Frank and Claire. (Both have clearly been trying to undercut the relationship between President Walker and the First Lady, perhaps best illustrated in a private dinner party.)
Kevin Spacey continues to demonstrate why he is one of the world's greatest actors. Frank Underwood is clearly a monster with no patience for fools or those who oppose him, who manipulates Congress and the press with incredible guile, who memorably extended his streak of violence, with one of the most cold-blooded acts of murder in the very first episode of the season. Yet despite all this, we find ourselves pulling for him in a way we never quite could with Tony Soprano or Walter White. And Robin Wright continues to demonstrate the acting prowess and utter ruthlessness so impressive that even her husband might be surprised. An episode where CNN tried to reveal that she had an abortion quickly turned into a master class on how to manipulate both the media and the public. It's small wonder that Spacey and Wright repeated as Emmy nominees.
The biggest flaw in the show, as some critics have pointed out, is that Underwood is such a master of using power that no one can stand against him. The reporters who tried to uncover his manipulations have all been dealt with in a very final way. The lobbyists who try to find ways in are undercut by their own machinations. Those in power seem utterly unable to cope with the manipulations that Frank makes. To all those, I would remind them of the British series of which House of Cards is based on. In the entire series, it eventually turned out that only Urquhart could destroy Urquhart. Will the same thing be true as Frank continues his rise to power? And what exactly will he do when he achieves it, perhaps during the third season which has already been promised? Whatever happens, I will joyfully go along for the ride, in what has quickly become one of the greatest TV series of the last decade.