Democracy is so overrated


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**Spoiler free**

Even while trying to restrain myself, I finished all thirteen episodes of season two of House of Cards in less than three days. While most dramas utilize cliff-hangers as bait, House of Cards ends most episodes with yet another hurdle overcome. With each victory, Frank’s (Kevin Spacey) power grows, as does the viewer’s hunger for more.

The last scene of Season One shows Frank and Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) jogging through the park. Season Two begins at the same time and place, as the Underwoods transition into a sprint, which sets the pace for the rest of the season. Despite a few slow episodes in the middle, Season Two ups the ante and tempo as Frank continues his race for power.

Among others, the government shutdown, Bitcoins, and E-Cigarettes are a few of the contemporary topics that frame the otherwise fictional show with nonfictional current events. The writers make it clear that the show is not supposed to resemble reality but a carnival mirror, distorting the worst aspects of the U.S. government where corporations have a scary amount of influence, blackmail is frequent and most of the true politics take place in secret meetings. This season, the media’s strength dwarfs in comparison to its iteration in Season One. Frank instead uses the media to his advantage against his opponents instead of competing with it.

Some of the problems from Season One linger. There are several sub-plots that are dull in comparison to the battles taking place in the White House. Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) has a long, uninteresting side story with Rachel Posner (Rachel Brosnahan) that is irrelevant to the center plot. A couple of romantic relationships emerge but none pull on your heartstrings like Peter Russo (Corey Stoll) and Christina’s (Kristen Connolly) tragic relationship did. Like in Season One, the show clubs you with hamfisted metaphors. One episode takes place at a civil war reenactment while Frank relentlessly talks of bullets, blood and butchery.

In contrast, Claire’s plot line, which was among the worst in Season One, is riveting this time around. Robin Wright, who won a Golden Globe for the last season, outdid herself as a calculating woman with thick skin. Wright is outstanding when Claire’s armor is finally pierced.

Season Two reshuffles the cast by completely discarding some main characters, introducing a few new ones, and giving more attention to previously minor ones. To avoid spoilers I can’t say much about the discarded characters other than, like the HBO series Game of Thrones, House of Cards is not afraid to kill off major characters.

The most notable new character is Jackie Sharp (Molly Parker), a Congresswoman whose “ruthlessness pragmatism” matches Frank’s. Before Jackie, it seemed as if Capitol Hill had only one ambitious politician – Frank Underwood. However, Frank’s most adept opponent is not a politician but the CEO billionaire, Raymond Tusk (Gerald McRaney). Money or political power? Which will triumph?

Amidst the power plays in Washington are a few scenes with non-politicians like Freddy (Reg E. Cathey) the BBQ restaurant owner. Freddy’s character is given much more screen time and depth this season, a backbone for some of the more emotional episodes. He reminds the viewer that the government does not represent the people.

The second season maintains the show’s trademark features: Frank’s fourth-wall-breaking communication and quotable dialogue. Early in this season, Frank turns towards the audience and says, “There are two types of Vice-Presidents: doormats and matadors. Which do you think I’ll be?” Watching this killer’s rise to the top of the food chain is an exhilarating treat. Thankfully, Netflix allows you to satisfy your hunger by making the entire season available for streaming.

Enjoy the feast.