Anything Goes : House of Cards, Season Two by Jon Ferreira

Jon Ferreira

House of Cards, Season Two

I was just curious to know if anyone has made it through all thirteen episodes of House of Cards yet. It was just released on Netflix two days ago, but I'm sure there are others like me that binge-watched it all in those first couple days. I was quite a fan of the first season, but I must admit that I think this season surpassed the last. As the stakes got higher, the show ramped up its intensity, and for those that have seen it, there are quite a few shocking twists. What I enjoyed most about this season was its very obvious parallels to Richard III and Macbeth, and the deceptive plotting and duplicity of not only Frank, but Claire Underwood as well. The two are perfectly fitted, and are virtually indistinguishable from Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. This is some of the finest acting I have ever seen Robin Wright do. She has truly stretched her range this season. On the other hand, what I did miss this season was more of Frank's charming wit and genuine humanity. I understand that he is dehumanizing as he ruthlessly bounds after power and prestige, but I still need to see an underlying motivation....a super objective that is more nuanced than blind ambition. I wanna know why. I want to see the humanity that compels him to hide behind the mask that grins and lies. I think we lost some of that this season. Don't get me wrong, we're still talking about an early contender for this year's Emmys. Spacey is sublime. And with the ascendency of Claire Underwood, this duo is a marvel to watch. I tried to avoid all spoilers, so if you haven't seen House of Cards yet, I strongly suggest you do. House of Cards Trailer

Kira George

I have not watched it yet... the first season was great! I will watch this one more slowly though, to savor the moment...

Jon Ferreira

You are FAR wiser than I am, Kira. I was so impatient that I couldn't delay my instant binge gratification. I did the exact same thing with the first season, as well as the return of Arrested Development. Okay, I've got a problem. But seriously, I sometimes enjoy watching them that way because I can follow the threads and keep track of the characters better. I did the same thing with Game of Thrones, and it was especially helpful with that show. Then I like to go back and slowly watch them a second time. To really get all the stuff I missed the first time. But you are smart to take it slowly and savor the moment. And with this season, there's a LOT to savor. :-)

Kira George

N deed... I did that with "The Killing"... Netflix is my vice! I can see one episode of a show I've never seen, and before you know it, I am up 3am trying to finish the first season off... I want to binge watch so no one can spoil it for me, but I'll have to be patient as you said... when I finish, I know exactly who to talk to! :-)

Jon Ferreira

I tell people that don't have Netflix that you'll almost never find the movie you're looking for, but you'll always find something great to watch instead. Especially when it comes to television. You're right about that. It is downright addictive when it comes to series tv!

Richard "RB" Botto

Pretty terrific post, Jon. I have 3-4 eps left in Season 2. I'll reserve comment until then.

Kira George

Oh no... Now I am tempted to start watching it! I promised my self one episode a week...

Richard "RB" Botto

Now that's restraint.

Kira George

Am I as much a monster as Frank if I find him, attractive (in intellect) sexy. (In his devious execution) and inspiring (because he has a heart, no matter how black it is).... just asking.....

Jon Ferreira

Haha. No, of course not. A writer would be pretty remiss to sketch a character with all the mustache -twirling evil and none of the humanity. We see that on television and in movies all the time. That's what makes them so bad - one dimensional cardboard cutout characters. What makes characters like Richard III and Frank so attractive is how utterly alluring they are. Frank is not only deliciously intelligent, but he exudes power, and charm. And he can also be mischievously funny. Those are attributes I can confidently say we are all attracted to. That doesn't make you a monster. It makes you human. :-)

Kira George

Thank you for thst.... I was thinking I would need to lock my self away and pray.... I guess it's true what they say "the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." Haha LOVE IT

Varun Prabhu

I have watched Season 1; yet to watch the second season..Truly a remarkable show :D

Tim Pickles

I find it very interesting that American writers seem to be unable to resist giving their character likable traits and sympathetic motives, don't get me wrong Kevin Spacy is wonderful as Underwood but one can see how colleagues can like him. Urquhart however (Ian Richardson in the British version) had no likable qualities whatsoever and I think the audience liked him in spite of everything he did. However I think your observation about the Shakespearean references is well observed, I sort of miss the use of the 'catchphrase' though appreciate that it does appear occasionally and can quite see why it isn't used more. And I think it is most interesting that whereas Urquhart was an aristocrat and Conservative, Underwood is Democrat and up from nothing (the latter another sympathy grabber) and that their cynicism and self-centerednes are the same is a great comment on modern political attitudes.

Kira George

Makes it more dramatic. Conflicts in interest... If a character is too unlikable, feels boring. But nothing is wtong with that... I actually started watching the UK version.

Tim Pickles

But that was rather my point, even though Urquhart has no good qualities one still end up liking him and then disliking yourself for feeling that way. As when he has just destroyed someone and tuns toward the camera with his aristocratic sneer turning into a conspiratorial smile and he says "Well, that WAS fun wasn't it?" And ones first reaction is 'YES"!

Jon Ferreira

Urquhart is undoubtedly the least likable of the two. He makes few jokes, and is not an irrepressible glad-hander like Frank Underwood. As you astutely pointed out, he is more aristocratic and aloof than his American counterpart. One thing I do find remarkable about the two series, is how much more brutal the BBC version is. The murders he commits are shockingly ruthless, and he certainly gets his hands much more dirty than Spacey's character. At first, I found this surprising, since American audiences seem weaned on gratuitous violence and acts of barbarity. Especially now - in the post-Tony Soprano era. It's interesting that they softened the blow, and it was undoubtedly an attempt to keep Frank from alienating the audience too severely. To keep him likable. However, I've realized over the years that British television is far more cynical and sober in its depictions of brutal harsh reality. And less delicate, nostalgic, and sentimental. Drama's often feel mired in Existential malaise and offer little hope, and even less resolution. Characters don't have fun catch-phrases and warm moments of tenderness. Often, they are dark and hard to reconcile with. In HOC, Francis is dissolute and irredeemable, whereas Frank seems somehow salvageable. I think we can marvel and invest in the vile maliciousness of Ian Richardson, but you're probably right in asserting there's few good qualities. We like his cleverness and duplicity. We like his deceitful mind and unfettered ambition. But we wouldn't necessarily want to eat ribs and drink a beer with him, like we might Frank Underwood. It is much easier to feel assuaged in your guilt at secretly liking Frank, but much harder to accept your affection for the treacherous Francis. The difference in how the two nations handled 'House of Cards' and the character of Francis/Frank says much about how our two countries view and choose to depict values, violence, sadism, redemption, and reality. I personally enjoy both, but for very different reasons.

Jon Ferreira

Btw, here's an interesting article comparing the two....http://tinyurl.com/o9c4wq7

Tim Pickles

"You might very well think that, I couldn't possibly comment!" Though the thought of the look on Francis Urquhart's face if anyone were to present him with ribs and beer is hilarious! Yes, good article I think the thing that I liked about it is that 'FU' mark 1 is played as a throwback to his 16th century ancestor who came south with James V & I. There is a modern view of aristocrats as effete do nothings who have been coddled all their life but they are in fact from families who would do anything to keep power and position 500 years ago. Biker gangs have nothing on Renascence aristocrats. Even if they were not at war they were jousting with each other and maiming each other for fun. I think that's what I love about Urquhart, he would be quite happy dismembering opponents with ax, sword and lance, but as that isn't 'done' today he uses any method he ca with no qualms whatsoever.

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