I have put off writing this for so long it is RIDICULOUS. Almost as ridiculous as the procrastination on my novel, but not quite. But still. RIDICULOUS. I’ve actually watched these two episodes twice by now, because I watched them so long ago without getting around to reviewing them that I’d forgotten what even happened in them. Ergo, a second viewing was necessary.
Note that this is the second season of House of Cards, and my reviews will be spoilertastic for both the episode being reviewed and the first season, reviews of which you can locate by using the handy dandy sidebar. BUT also note that I’m reviewing the episodes as I go and am unspoiled for the events of Season 2, so please don’t tell me anything.
Okay? Okay. [The Fault in Our Stars is coming out soon; I had to make that reference.]
[Trigger warning for a very brief discussion of rape.]
The first episode of Season 2 is about damage control, tying up the dangling plot threads left from the Season 1 finale, one centering on Kevin Spacey’s Congressman Frank Underwood, and one centering on his wife, Robin Wright’s Claire.
Frank spent all of last season plotting and scheming to ultimately become the Vice President of the United States, and he’s about to be sworn in. However, he left a trail behind, most notably in the form of the dead body of Peter Russo, the alcoholic congressman he murdered in order to get the previous Vice President to go back and govern that state in Russo’s stead. Everybody following? It’s okay if you’re not; this whole thing is super convoluted and that’s why we love it. Anyhow, there’s a hardy bunch of reporters on his tail, led by Zoe Barnes, who are sticking their noses where Frank would really prefer they didn’t.
Meanwhile, Claire is dealing with a pending lawsuit against her and her nonprofit organization, the Clean Water Initiative, that her former colleague Gillian Cole threatened her with at the end of last season, for reasons that I am fuzzy on because it’s been a while since I saw Season 1. But I’m sure Claire deserved it.
Proving once more that they are television’s (or at least Netflix’s) most well-matched couple in existence, the Underwoods both dispense with these crises with brutal efficiency: Frank by *MAJOR SPOILER* throwing Zoe in front of a train, and Claire by blackmailing Gillian and cancelling her medical coverage to get her to back down. Good job, guys. You win the Most Horrible People award for the week.
With those pesky concerns dealt with (or so they think…dun dun DUN), the season can move forward into the all-new Season 2 stuff, which includes storylines such as: Frank having his home terrorist-proofed and learning to deal with the overbearing protection befitting the Vice President (which makes murdering future people significantly more difficult for him, what a shame); Frank performing Vice Presidential duties like presenting medals to soldiers, one of whom turns out to be a man who raped Claire back in her school days; Frank secretly sabotaging negotiations with China in order to hurt Raymond Tusk, a billionaire friend of the President’s who, in Frank’s opinion, has way too much influence and way too little respect; and last but certainly not least, the ethics-free machinations involved in getting Frank’s choice, Jackie Sharp, voted in as his replacement as Majority Whip in Congress.
The reporter storyline didn’t die with Zoe, though. Her boyfriend, Lucas, is sure that he’s onto something and has resorted to asking people on the Dark Web — or as I like to call it, “the ~magic internet~” because lol it does not exist — if they can hack the phone records of the Vice President. Aaaaaand credits.
So, color me psyched. I love Kevin Spacey in this role; he is so amazingly sleazy and awful and unapologetic, and every time he so much as looks at the camera to break the fourth wall I grin because I just love it that much. And Robin Wright is perfect again as cold, calculating Claire, and when she talks about the rape, I almost wonder if anything like that ever happened to her in real life because it feels like she’s employing such a genuine coping mechanism. And the show is just so beautifully shot and atmospheric that I lose myself in it every time.
I’m looking forward to seeing how Frank can keep all his schemes secret with all the security personnel surrounding him. He made it a point to keep Edward Meechum with him despite better qualified security professionals, presumably because last season Frank saved Meechum’s career and so he knows Meechum would do anything for him. I’m curious to see if the guy who raped Claire is going to show up again or he was just a one-off character to give Claire some backstory and illustrate Frank’s willingness to restrain himself for the sake of his wife. And of course I want to see how this new Whip stuff plays out and to see if the ~magic internet~ can bust Frank for his evilness.