House of Cards: Season Two – Opening Episode

The latest storm in Washington has dropped about nine inches of snow. This is about double the usual monthly average for February and the nation’s capital, and it is only February 14th. By the way, there’s another storm on the way.

Speaking of stormy weather, that is, the kind that is brought on by the machinations of one Francis ‘Frank’ Underwood, soon to be a former Congressman on the Netflix TV Series House of Cards, because he’s about to be named, then confirmed, and installed as the nation’s Vice President – he’s back. House of Cards Season Two was launched today.

As Underwood has stated in the Season Two trailer: One heartbeat away from the Presidency and not a single vote cast in my name. Democracy is so-overrated.

The above was Underwood speaking to us. This was a usual event in Season One, but we had none of it this time until the end of this Season 2 first episode.

Not everyone likes it when Underwood breaks the 4th wall and speaks to us. But I love it. While I understand intellectually, that he is not speaking to me and me alone, somehow when it happens, this is how I think of it.

Quite near the end of this episode, we get our first Underwood aside.

Did you think I’d forgotten you? Perhaps you’d hoped I had?

For those climbing to the top of the food chain, there is but one rule:
Hunt or be hunted.
Welcome back.

Yes he’s back, and having watched and absorbed the season opener, I am now faced with a decision. Shall I pace myself, and view one episode per week or one per day? Or shall I binge-watch and race through this second season in a matter of hours instead of weeks.

The pace is so fast. From Frank and Claire jogging into a park, Frank is soon plotting and manipulating. Even the President’s calendar can be managed. Thanks to Frank’s alliance with the President’s Secretary, Linda Vasquez played superbly by Sakina Jaffrey.

At a meeting with President Garrett Walker and his off-the-books advisor, mentor, and most trusted confidant, Raymond Tusk – Frank is offered the Vice Presidency. Of course this will require a Congressional confirmation but really, don’t even begin to think that it would be a problem.

Later, Frank Underwood would say to a 3rd term Congresswoman, Jackie, who was also a war veteran, who Frank wants to replace him as WHIP – I picked you because of your ruthless pragmatism.

If ever there was a term that could describe Frank Underwood accurately yet not reveal the depths that he could sink into in the pursuit of his dreams, it would be Ruthless Pragmatist. I mean, really, doesn’t this fit Frank to a tee, if only in a somewhat understated way. And coincidentally, the same applies to Mrs. Underwood.

It’s not often that you can watch a tv show or a movie, in your own home, in which the lead character, and his wife, are so nasty, so underhanded, and are evil beyond anyone’s imagination, that you feel soiled, and in need of a shower after watching them over the next 50 or 650 minutes.

Season Two kicked off without any passage of time, in the story, from the conclusion of Season One. Frank and Claire ended the first season by setting off on a pre-dawn jog. And this episode called Chapter 14, began with a camera in a fixed position in a DC park, or is it Georgetown? There’s the sound of a siren, and then some music, and we even hear the sound of a passing helicopter, but we haven’t our bearings yet. For all we know it is a park, and just a park until two joggers come running down a gentle dog-legged slope and then they make a left turn as they run through light and shadows along the walkway running straight up to us before stopping.

It is only then that we see that they are Frank and Claire Underwood, Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright.

We get into it right away, and it was like time had stopped last February. Had just under a year really gone by? The Underwoods were ready and able to deal with some bothersome details from Season One. And deal with them they did. Some via clever manipulations, some by dastardly and cruel acts, and one, in a shocking and unexpected way. The kind where you say, never saw that coming.

However it was foreshadowed. To be honest I didn’t see it coming either. I didn’t grasp the details fully. Or rather, I did see Frank Underwood having breakfast at Freddy’s Rib Joint, but failed to see it as a foreshadowing.

But, isn’t that the ‘charm’ of House of Cards? Isn’t it true that we watch House of Cards because of the dread and darkness that it brings us. This doesn’t mean that we don’t watch it for the exceptional performances, the clever writing, and the high qualities of the production. But the darkness that we participate in, in each episode, is like a drug, or anything else, that carries a label that we can call ‘addictive’.

As normal folks, living in our particular cities, counties, states, and country – our minds don’t work the way Frank Underwood’s mind works. Or Claire Underwood’s either. We embrace our freedom, and we enjoy it, even if we don’t stop to ponder about it regularly or at all. The Underwoods turn freedoms inside out, and seemingly use those very freedoms that we cherish as weapons.

I will close this down, and I’ll forego any opportunity to reveal beyond that which I’ve already done. This is a tricky show to write about, because, as I write this, I’ve only watched this season’s opening episode. I’ve no idea whether you, as you read this, have watched more than one episode, or have watched them all.

Frank Underwood is back, and thanks to his driver Edward Meechum, he now has a set of silver cuff links with the engraved initials F & U. Even that is ominous.  I’m so very glad to welcome Frank and Claire into my home. How about you?

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2 thoughts on “House of Cards: Season Two – Opening Episode

  1. I just watched the first episode of Season 2 and, like last year, I am put off by the purposeless of Frank & Claire.They seem bored by everything except destroying others.

    They do live well by the law of the jungle, but what will they do if they triumph? They have no cause, no plan, no passion or hatred for anyone or anything they hope to accomplish. They are instinctual hunters who kill for no reason like well-fed house cats kill mice.

    For this reason House of Cards falls flat for me. It’s not a contest of good versus evil, or even a contest of evil versus evil. For me, a villain is made interesting by a strong challenger, not by a spate of villainy.

    Anyone who saw the superbowl this year knows why Frank Underwood is losing my fanship. But, like millions of us felt during halftime, I’m still hoping for a better matchup in the second season.

  2. Can’t argue against your position since you’ve written not only a correct description of this couple, but have offered a few apt questions and examples. The best being ‘what will they do if they triumph’?

    The answer to that is easy – once they attain the pinnacle, they will last until some one else knocks them off it.

    I also agree that like Will on The Newsroom, Frank’s opposition is usually soft. Wasn’t that a major complaint against Sorkin’s Newsroom that beating straw men isn’t all that thrilling.

    That said, I still enjoy watching, I enjoy watching Frank setting up his moves. I also like the deceptions – ie Claire consulting with the doctor about ‘getting pregnant at her age’ was indeed fact finding but not they way it looked initially.

    Speaking of good versus evil , there’s the Batman movies.

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