House of Cards Season 2 – Episode 2 Review

Jackson Ball reviews the second episode of House of Cards season 2…

House of Cards Season 2 poster

After the shell-shock of the first episode, it’s back to business as usual for House of Cards as the slow-burning plot complexities return.

Spoilers Ahead – You’ve Been Warned!

The episode begins with Francis “Frank” Underwood (Kevin Spacey) at long last being sworn in as Vice President; in a crowded room of his peers and employees (you can’t really say he has friends). The scene features perhaps Frank’s most startlingly brilliant address to the audience yet:

“A heartbeat away from the presidency and not a single vote cast in my favour… Democracy is so overrated.”

Say what you will about Spacey persistently breaking the fourth wall, there’s no denying it’s a great line, and for me it sums up the tone of the whole show perfectly: Knowing, witty and unabashed. Despite Frank taking an enormous step in his quest for power, the second episode of this season did it’s best to throw up some fresh obstacles for him and his equally power-hungry wife, Claire (Robin Wright).

For starters the president’s trusted advisor and confidant, and eternal thorn in Frank’s side, Raymond Tusk (Gerald McRaney) has returned to Washington. The billionaire glides back into town after a tricky diplomatic situation arises between the US and China. Unfortunately, compared to the rest of House of Cards’ characters, he’s a little one-dimensional; it seems as though the writers are determined to show us how he’s a worthy opponent for Frank, but that notion is rammed home so forcefully that it gets repetitive very quickly.

In one of the more drastic and volatile plot points form this episode, Frank is fulfilling one of his vice presidential duties as he awards a decorated war veteran with a new medal. It seems simple enough, until it transpires that that same war veteran used to date Claire back in college and, at one point, forcibly raped her. It’s a bold direction for the show to go in, and one that I think adds a layer to Claire’s character that goes some way to explain how she became the person she is today. I expect this isn’t the last we’ve heard on this subject either.

If the first episode of this season was the explosive catalyst upon which the next 12 episodes were to be launched, then episode 2 brings proceedings back down to a more familiar pace. The old House of Cards structure returns to the fold with great effect: the story keeps ticking over nicely, slowly revealing fragments of a much bigger picture yet to be revealed.

Jackson Ball – follow me on Twitter.

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