Bookended by the deaths of major characters in both the season opener and the season finale, the Second Season of Netflix’s House of Cards continues the devious machinations of former House Whip turned Vice President of the United States Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) whose quest for power has not been satiated now that he has found himself one step away from the most powerful office in the land.
The main conflict of the season comes from Frank’s repeated attempts to drive a wedge between President Walker (Michael Gill) and his trusted advisor billionaire Raymond Tusk (Gerald McRaney) while continuing to move chess pieces around the board including backing the upstart Jackie Sharp (Molly Parker) to fill his old role in the House and play a dangerous game putting the U.S. economy and its trade status with China in serious jeopardy. Once completed, Frank must deal with the fallout of the situation including weathering the President’s disfavor.
With Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara) making only a single appearance this season and Janine (Constance Zimmer) stepping away from the dangerous intrigue, the investigation behind Frank’s rise to power falls to Lucas Goodwin (Sebastian Arcelus) in a story that ends as well as you would expect for one of Frank’s enemies. The method by which Frank discredits and ruins the reporter is much more elegant than Zoe’s shocking end and has the added benefit of introducing Jimmi Simpson as a recurring character who may well see his role expanded next year with the vacancy left by events in the season finale.
Although I expected the season’s outcome ever since Frank began maneuvering for the VP slot back in Season One, the season is able to add tension with enough of Frank’s maneuverings backfiring to leave you wondering just what rabbit the VP will pull out of his hat to to get himself out of the latest crisis. The series comes dangerously close to having Frank dig a hole even he can’t get out of eventually opening to door to a whole new world for the politician and a new game of not accumulating more power but finding a way to keep what he has gathered over the show’s first two seasons.
Not all the seasons subplots work. Although Claire‘s (Robin Wright) on-air admission to rape and abortion is a great scene (as is Frank’s reaction to meeting the man who raped his wife in college), the season spends a bit too much time with the fragile ex-Marine Megan Hennessey (Libby Woodbridge) and a bill (and storyline) that eventually goes nowhere. The one-night sexual tryst involving the VP, his wife, and a Security Security Agent is laughable at best. And although it offers a surprising conclusion, the season wastes an awful lot of time on Doug‘s (Michael Kelly) obsession with Rachel (Rachel Brosnahan).
Extras include a behind-the-scenes featurette on the Second Season, table reads from the season, a look at how Spacey’s character talks directly to the camera, the politics of the show, and the process of putting together an episode.
[Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Blu-ray $65.99 / DVD $55.99]