This article may contain spoilers.
Last year, Netflix tried bringing its own television drama to a rapidly growing lineup of web-streaming content, and for the most part, it was successful. “House of Cards’” premier season was well received, earning Netflix its first golden globe award, and proving that weekly, episodic television viewing is a thing of the past.
The newest installment of Netflix’s poised political thriller aims to shatter the high expectations set by the first season – which becomes apparent after the unbelievable twist in the season’s premier. The second season accomplishes this in some ways, but it fails to deliver the same sense of unpredictability that the first season was able to sustain.
This season picks up right where “House of Cards” left off, with Washington’s most conniving congressman, Francis Underwood, securing the Vice Presidency. Other than the suspicions surrounding Peter Russo’s alleged “suicide,” loose ends from the first season are quickly set aside to make way for this season’s new plotline.
As Vice President, Underwood immediately asserts himself as a major diplomatic authority. The season’s overarching narrative involves a somewhat expected foreign relations war with China, which allows Underwood to squeeze in between President Garrett Walker and Walker’s trusted advisor, Raymond Tusk. Throughout the season, Walker relies on Tusk’s foreign trade experience to form his own opinions about the United State’s evolving relationship with China. But Underwood – rightfully – doesn’t trust Tusk, which sets up a three-way power struggle that runs the course of the season.
After last year’s devotion to domestic diplomacy, delving into the dynamics of foreign policy was the most practical direction for “House of Cards.” Unfortunately, it’s not as entertaining. It sets up a plotline that’s far more predictable than last season’s, resulting in character interactions that simply aren’t as compelling in comparison. Other reviewers have accused “House of Cards’” second season as having too many “filler” episodes, and I agree. It feels as if this season’s story could have been told in fewer than 13 episodes.
This is, in part, because the second season lacks a character as complex and dubious as Russo. The former representative’s gubernatorial campaign provided some of the most powerful character interactions of the entire series. So far, such interactions have left little room for guilt or regret. But season two manages to finally realize the difficulty of each character’s decisions, and offer some of the best, most sincere moments yet.
Whereas Underwood’s convoluted manipulation schemes usually seem full proof, his efforts in season two feel like a repetitious cycle of taking one step forward and two steps back, and at times, it makes the plot feel stale. But at this point, it’s obvious that Frank will do whatever is necessary to take what he wants.
It’s only a matter of time before he must answer for his own wrongdoings, right?