Review: House of Cards (Season 2, episode 1)

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The hit American political thriller House of Cards is back with a second season that is more ruthless and blood filled than the first. For now, episode one will suffice, as this kind of drama requires recovery between episodes. It is an incredibly powerful start to what is looking to be an awe inspiring second season. And for those of you that don’t want to savour the season, you can watch all thirteen episodes in one sitting as the entire season is available to devour on Netflix as of 8am this morning.

As a die-hard Spacey fan discovering House of Cards season one wrote off at least a week of my life as I poured over each episode, swooning every time Spacey would turn to the camera. However, having 13 hours of Spacey rather than 2-3 in a movie, made me appreciate him more as an actor, which I didn’t think would be possible. As well as this, I began to appreciate the entire cast as spectacular. Golden Globe winner, Robin Wright, is stunning. Her onscreen dynamic with Spacey is just as intense in this second season, and she, rightly so, deserved to win the award for Best Actress in a TV drama. Demonstrating a ruthlessness that is parallel to Spacey’s Frank Underwood is something that makes them one of the most powerful, and dangerous, onscreen couples.

Episode one is everything I expected, and more, as a lead on from the edge-of-your-seat first season. We begin with Frank and Claire Underwood, appearing to lead a relatively normal married life, on a run together. The tranquility of the show seen in season one remains, being one of the main attractions. Even in the moments of extreme tension the screenplay is paralleled with Frank Underwood’s calm demeanour. Slick and stylish camera work brings in a beautifully executed juxtaposition. Speaking of tension, this first episode doesn’t hold an ease-you-back-in-to-the-storyline approach. We are thrown straight into the action as Frank and Doug try to tie up loose ends from the first season. One of which being dealt with through murder.

With no time to catch your breath, the viewer is left to come to terms with the death of a main character, and so early on in the season too. This being the death of reporter, Zoe Barnes. Just as I was starting to think that the show has a fantastic portrayal of female determination and drive, Frank pushes Zoe under a subway train, stopping this drive as she had began to peel away the falsities of his outer shell, and discover too much about the death of Peter Russo. Yet another false suicide at the blood-stained hands of Frank Underwood.

One of the many draws to House of Cards is Frank Underwood’s intermittent addressing of the audience. A technique taken on from the original UK series of House of Cards from 1990. These are the moments that demonstrate Spacey’s acting prowess. Similar to Bryan Cranston’s Walter White in Breaking Bad, you are on the side of the villain. Or at least that is how I feel when watching House of Cards. Even when Frank is at his most ruthless, killing people to reach the top of the food chain, I am right by his side, knowing that these are things that need to be done. Perhaps I am just innately evil, but I definitely can’t help being on Underwood’s side, willing him to become Vice President (for now) of the United States of America, every blood-thirsty step of the way.

Episode one will leave you speechless. Impeccable acting, stunning imagery and most of all, a killer story-line to keep you hooked. The Fincher-Spacey production tying it all together to produce some fantastic television. ‘Did you think I had forgotten about you?’ says Frank in the closing stages of the episode, straight into the camera. I had for a second, but I am so glad we hadn’t been forgotten. Signing of the episode with a ‘Welcome back’ and one of the those perfectly infectious side smiles, one that demonstrates that Underwood is back, with more grit than ever before.

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About Author

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I’m Megan Downing, an English Literature graduate from University of Southampton. I am the Music, Arts and Culture Editor for The National Student. I am the Membership and Communications Officer for the Student Publication Association, I write about music for 7BitArcade, and contribute regularly to The Culture Trip. I have a passion for live music and this is where I began in student journalism. Reviewing a gig or festival is still where my heart lies four years on. I will be starting at MTV as a News Intern in June 2015. One thing you should know about me is that I have an unhealthy obsession with Kevin Spacey.

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