Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Review: House of Cards, Season 2

I need to vent about this and the topic doesn't fit the other blogs I've been posting to, so what the hell I'll just do it here.  I doubt any of my regular readers have even watched Season 1 of the show; you can read my thoughts on it as part of the April 2013 recap.  The gist of the plot is that sleazy congressman Frank Underwood (D-SC) gets passed over for Secretary of State and decides to start playing hardball through a variety of schemes that land him in the White House as Vice President.

At the end of Season 1 they make it seem like Frank's schemes are about to unravel.  There are 3 reporters hot on his trail, sniffing into the mysterious "suicide" of a Pennsylvania congressman.  But in the first episode most of this gets put to bed all too neatly, thanks in large part to another murder.  There was also a plot about his wife's charity being sued by a former partner, which is also put to bed neatly when she just agrees to turn over the charity to the partner since the Second Lady can't own something like that.

With that out of the way, Frank is free to set his sights on the top job.  His plan is basically to create a lot of chaos, to undermine the president so the public loses faith in him.  He sabotages a deal with the Chinese that creates tensions and an economic backlash.  Later when the Justice Department begins looking into allegations of money laundering through a Native American casino, Frank has the president bring in a special prosecutor, who then sets her sights on the president.  And I think you know where that's going...

It's all complicated by Raymond Tusk (Gerald McRaney of Simon & Simon/Major Dad fame) a billionaire who's long been a mentor of the president and is the one who set up the whole money laundering scheme.  In Tusk Frank is up against an adversary just as conniving and ruthless, who also has billions of dollars to throw around.  Thanks largely to Tusk's involvement, Frank walks a tightrope between gaining ultimate power and going to prison.

I didn't like Season 2 quite as much as Season 1.  A lot of this is because there are a bunch of new characters introduced and a bunch of new subplots, many of which seemed pointless.  There's some computer hacker who kept turning up (who incidentally also played a computer hacker in White House Down--typecasting!) and seemed to get the goods on Frank's main henchman Doug Stamper (who was on the Daily Planet staff in Man of Steel; he was the guy who wasn't Laurence Fishburne--or Samuel L. Jackson to certain newscasters) but really if anything comes of that it'll be in Season 3.  Then there's the new House majority whip Jackie Sharp and her whole love affair with a lobbyist who works for Tusk; not much came of that either.  And then a pasty guy named Seth Grayson (who seriously looks like he belongs on True Blood) joins Frank's staff, but he's a double agent or perhaps triple agent or who the fuck knows.  Plus Doug Stamper has this whole creepy infatuation with this Kristen Stewart-looking hooker from Season 1.  Really Doug should have killed her back then (she's a hooker so it's not like anyone would miss her), but he's not man enough like his boss, who has no problem asphyxiating someone or pushing them in front of a train when the mood strikes him.

Since Frank's wife Claire can't work at the charity anymore they give her something to do with a plot about how she was raped back in college by some guy who's now a general.  Then she works up a bill for Congress, which didn't really amount to anything.  Like I said they pretty much introduced this so she'd have something to do other than hosting tea for the president of Luxembourg or whatever the hell the vice president's wife usually does.  (I mean really, tell me one thing Biden's wife has done in the last 5 years--without using Google.)

Last April I compared Season 1 to Game of Thrones and it definitely earns that distinction even more in Season 2 where they introduce kinky sex scenes for absolutely no reason.  The pinnacle of this being a drunken threesome between Frank, his wife, and their male Secret Service bodyguard.  It was completely extraneous and really WTF?

Anyway, I'd have given Season 1 4 stars while this latest season gets 3.  It's still great fun to see how Frank is going to navigate one hazard after another and see who else will get destroyed along the way.  Of course if you're one of those people who wants "likable" characters then this isn't the show for you because Frank is pure evil and really he has no illusions about that, which is a good thing to me because no matter what he does he doesn't whine or bawl about it afterwards.  Like Breaking Bad it's the kind of show where you're rooting for the bad guy.

A year or so from now we'll have to see what Frank does now that he's achieved his ultimate objective.  I imagine it will involve him trying to hold on to his power during the 2016 campaign while he is besieged on all sides.  There is a major loose end still out there from Season 1 thanks to Doug Stamper and that annoying hacker guy, so I'm sure they'll be part of it.  Plus I'm sure Raymond Tusk will be using his billions to support the opposition.  (Spoiler! I am really going to miss Doug next season; he was such an awesome henchman.)

If you haven't watched it on Netflix, you really should.  Even though there aren't dragons or zombies it's political theater at its finest.

That is all.

1 comment:

  1. Game of Thrones really tuned the sex way down in season 3. I guess they started to have confidence in the story enough that they didn't have to throw in a porn scene every 15 minutes.

    Haven't seen HOC yet. Will check it out soon, I guess.



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