Netflix’s “House of Cards” comes into its own

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Don’t worry, there are no spoilers below.

 

Kansas City – A few weeks ago I published my first review of a “television” show. I find it amusing that my first TV review should be of the first big-budget show to be produced and broadcast by an online-only broadcaster. In January, I wrote about how the first season of Netflix’s House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright as Congressman Frank Underwood (D-SC) and his wife Claire, related to its British parent.

Like the country in which it is set, this new American House of Cards needed a while to set itself up as an independent show. However, with the start of Season 2, Netflix’s masterpiece of drama truly set itself apart from its roots in Westminster. I found the second season to be far more thrilling than the first. The speed by which the action moved, balancing the need for both quick and slow plot lines, was exhilarating. There were quite a few moments over the past fortnight that I found myself sitting forward in my seat, gasping “Did they just do that?” My first season mulligan of “Well, I know how the BBC version went” quickly became defunct and resoundingly out of place in this truly American drama.

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Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood. Courtesy of “The Guardian”.

Spacey continues to refine and evolve in his role as Underwood, the epitome of the modern anti-hero, perhaps villain. He was able to balance out the ruthlessness and chessmanship of the political realm with the more mellow personal moments here and there throughout the season. I found myself amazed that even he as an actor going off of a script could keep up with the many twists and turns, the double and triple bluffs that lace the plot in such a fashion that they began to seem almost too fantastic for the politics of the reality (or at least I should hope, though perhaps naïvely, so).

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Robin Wright as Claire Underwood. Courtesy of “The Huffington Post”.

Complimenting her Golden Globe award from last month, Robin Wright’s performance as Claire Underwood continued to evolve just as much, if not even more than Spacey’s role as her husband. I found Claire much more likeable after a while in this season than I certainly did in Season 1, though the same characteristics that made me wary of her in the first season are certainly still present in her character. After seeing the second season, I find myself hoping, again perhaps naïvely, that Claire Underwood won’t turn out as Elizabeth Urquhart (the wife in the BBC series) did, as a sort of Lady Macbeth to counter Frank Underwood/Francis Urquhart’s Richard of Gloucester (Richard III).

Beyond the acting, the runaway golden winner here has to be the writers. Their work is truly a masterpiece of drama that certainly does a good job at expressing the emotions and desires of our time, especially in the political realm. Netflix’s House of Cards is a drama for our time, set in our time, featuring us, and calling upon us to ask ourselves how we feel about what we see in the mirror that the series offers the United States in 2014.

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