REVIEW: ‘House of Cards’

Posted on 17 Feb 2014 at 11:56am
Screen shot 2014-02-17 at 11.13.09 AM

Kevin Spacey and Kate Mara in ‘House of Cards’

 

Like any normal person, I spend much of my weekend on a binge. Not alcohol or food, but just as addictive.

On Friday, Netflix released Season 2 of its hit series House of Cards, with all 13 hour-long episodes going live at once. And if you could watch just one hour and not crave the rest, you are a stronger person than I.

Season 1 came out of nowhere 54 weeks ago, leap-frogging the streaming service’s much-anticipated Arrested Development reboot by four months, and went on to win several Emmys. It deserved them; it deserved more. The series — an adaptation of a 1980s-era British show, which itself was taken from several books — is about Democrat House majority whip Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) and his Machiavellian efforts to seek revenge on the those who snubbed him for the secretary of state slot in a new administration. And, scene by scene, he takes them down until he’s finally tapped to be the new vice president.

But he doesn’t stop there.

Season 2 picks up the moment Season 1 left off. Frank and his wife Claire (Robin Wright) are adjusting to increased scrutiny, but before he’s confirmed as veep, there are a few personal matters he has to take care of. And one of those — a “holy shit!” moment that occurs late in Episode 1 — is among the most shocking developments I’ve ever seen on a TV show. It’s a game changer, and it hooks you, even more than all Season 1 did.

There are several more stunning developments throughout the ensuing chapter, involving hot-button issues like abortion and homosexuality, as well as Wikileaks-ish journalism, national security and political expediency, which Frank wields like Richard III. Indeed, its biggest flaw may be that Frank’s underhandedness is so calculated, and yet so risky, it skirts the edge of nighttime soap opera in the unlikelihood he could get away with as much as he does. And he does get away with a lot.

Spacey, with his drawling, reptilian ease, is a thoroughly detestable yet charismatic anti-hero, a villain who still manages to be better than all the other villains around him. Wright’s coolness matches Spacey’s, though she seems more human, while the rest of the cast — all excellent except for the still-weak Kate Mara, whose part is diminished this season — provide able support. If you don’t have Netflix, you need it. Well, it, and a 13-hour stretch of uninterrupted “you” time.

Comments (powered by FaceBook)