Not content to just stream other company’s content, Netflix has begun to create its own brand of premium television to help draw more viewers to its streaming service. Premiering in 2013 to considerable critical acclaim, political drama “House of Cards” has acted as the flagship of Netflix’s original programming, going on to become the streaming provider’s most watched series. The series has continued to establish itself in its sophomore season as one of the finest American television shows currently running and is a must-see for fans of serialized television.
After maneuvering his way into the vice presidency in the first season, Frank Underwood faces an all-new set of challenges and enemies to crush as he battles his way towards the presidency. His life complicates as he comes under suspicion from Zoe and several of her colleagues for having been involved in the death of Peter Russo. With the stakes higher than ever before, Frank has to navigate the myriad of trials of the vice presidency without being exposed for his often corrupt and illegal actions.
Director/executive producer David Fincher reducing his involvement with the second season appears to have had no effect on the show’s quality since “House of Cards” is still one of the most polished television series around. The cinematography is as gorgeous as ever, the acting quality regularly reaches and surpasses that of many feature films, and the writing is jam-packed with wit and subtlety. There haven’t been any significant improvements in the show’s quality since the first season, but it’s hard to improve much when you’re already sitting in the top tier of American television shows.
“House of Cards” follows in the steps of the very best serialized television series by creating an immensely dense story that rewards attentive viewers who watch from the very beginning. Everything that happens has a purpose, with little to no time spent on filler. Loose threads from the first season, such as the brief insinuations regarding Frank’s sexuality, are expanded upon to tremendous effect, all while the writers keep laying the groundwork for future seasons. What is also impressive is how the writers set up the next season without it ever feeling like they were holding any of their best ideas back.
The more I watch “House of Cards”, the more apparent it becomes to me that Kevin Spacey was born to play Frank Underwood. Members of the supporting cast like Robin Wright and Michael Kelly all deliver excellent performances, but the crux of the show rests squarely on Spacey’s shoulders and he consistently goes above and beyond with his performance. Ruthless and manipulative protagonists are tricky to pull off without making them unsympathetic, but Spacey imbues his character with enough charm and humanity that it’s hard not to like or even love him.
One sticking point with the second season is that there’s more contrivances this time around. The writers try to keep the show grounded in reality as much as possible, but they still end up using a few awkward and unrealistic plot points to help shore up several parts of the story. The best example of this is a computer hacking subplot that runs throughout the season that never fails to feel out of place whenever it pops up. It’s not a huge issue, but I’m hoping it doesn’t become a trend for future seasons to follow.
Barring one or two issues, “House of Cards” is still a masterpiece of television. It radiates quality in almost every aspect and effectively acts as the gold standard for web-based television. Those who have seen and enjoyed the first season will gobble up the second, and those who haven’t watched the series yet would be wise to give it a try. The third season won’t start for another year or more, so now is a better time than ever to get caught up on the exploits of Frank Underwood.