TV Series: House of Cards (S2)

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S1 introduces the main players and their machinations in the American political arena. S2 furthers Frank Underwood’s (henceforth FU 😬) endeavor to the top. At one point he looks to me and proclaims he is just 3 feet away from his prize. S2 is about the Long Game and it’s about softening FU up, who frankly was starting to feel more like a robo-political-cop.

Reflecting on the entire S2, I realized I had just witnessed a near complete story with none of those cheap cliffhangers. How it was bookended is frighteningly surreal – the first episode more or less sealed up most of the loose-ends of S1 and feels like an epilogue to the first act presented in S1. But that final frame in S2E1… OMG! We laughed ourselves silly because it’s so audacious and no one has ever “said” that to me from the screen. In all the times FU addresses us, none is most “the fourth wall” breaking than that final frame. And the final sequence of S2 when FU walks to the Number One Spot of the World, looks into my eyes and did his thing, it made me feel so satisfied. The treacherous journey is complete. FU is the Man!

S2 has a very convoluted plot of sheer madness, but it is not difficult to hold the big picture in my head because of it’s constant anchor – FU and CU’s Long Game. The prize is clear. How they get there is the fun. Lying in their destructive wake are innocent civilians, unscrupulous enemies and good people. Both of them constantly weave a loose noose around their victims’ necks and sit back to see the violence unfolds.

S2 isn’t just about the Underwoods’ evil machinations. It also serves to soften the hard lines of Frank. I love the story about him and Freddy. Frank’s relationship with the humble ribs chef is genuine and endearing. The episode centering on it is especially heartbreaking and moving. I nearly feel like stepping inside my TV to hug them. Frank and Stamper’s working relationship is also fascinating to behold. There are glimpses of the past mentioned and I could connect the dots. Seeing what befell Stamper is unnerving and sad. S2 also delves deeper into Frank and Claire’s marriage partnership. Make no mistake… Frank and Claire do love each other and would gladly, without a moment’s thought, take a bullet for each other. As much as I hate them and find them unforgivable, their love, trust and mutual respect for each other know no bounds. S2 also gives more for Claire to do. That sexual harassment bill sure ruffles many feathers. That one scene, and we don’t see it happening often, where Claire breakdowns on the stairs is beautiful. What it is about is vague. She could have cried about a scratch on her heels for all I know, but I think it is the pressure of the Long Game getting to her. Perfectly poised and postured Claire Underwood is Lady Macbeth to Frank’s Macbeth. HoC is fricking Shakespearean operatic. Also for some reason I find Claire damn sexy. There I have said it.

HoC also hosts a cast of outstanding side characters. I enjoy watching Raymond Tusk. Here is a megalomaniac as unscrupulous as Frank and with a money well so deep he can play the Longer Game. Then there is Jackie Sharp whom Frank construed to make the new House Majority Whip because she shares one quality with him – pragmatic ruthlessness. Her character arc is superbly drawn. Garrett Walker, the President, is superbly played. It is fascinating to see his physical look and demeanor changed throughout the season. I also enjoy Lucas Goodwin’s arc which feels quite surreal because of our own Roy Ngerng’s brush with our Prime Minister. Ultimately, what eventually happens to Goodwin send a shiver down my spine. Sometimes we can’t afford to play the Long Game with politicians. Just think about the part where Ngerng can decide how much damages he should pay. That’s one shrewd move. Think about that.

Overall, S2 touches and pressures all the accu-points satisfyingly. There are some missteps like the threesome (I sure didn’t see that coming) and lesbo scenes, which serve more to titillate than to drive the plot. I love the visual look of the series and I think HoC benefited by having only one DP in Igor Martinovic throughout for both seasons. He maintained a beautiful tonal and visual consistency.

Now begins the Long Wait till 2015 for S3. We can’t wait to see what havoc FU and CU will wreak from the Oval Office.

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