I loved the first season of House of Cards. It was well written and terrifically acted. Season 2 isn’t as good. Kevin Spacey’s Francis Underwood is still as engaging and gripping as ever, but season 2 suffers from boring extra story lines that are both dumb and distracting. The rest of the review contains minor spoilers, so if you haven’t watched the show you may want to skip.
There is a major change to the show after the first episode. In some ways season 2 never fully recovers from that moment. I’ll concentrate on the dumbest story line of the season. Rachel (played by Rachel Brosnahan), the prostitute who played a vital role in season 1 returns for a larger role in season 2. After the events in the first episode the idea that she’s allowed to live is puzzling. Much time is spent on Rachel’s life. Most of it is pointless until the last episode. To make matters worse the writers came up with some bizarre lesbian relationship with a woman named Lisa that Rachel meets on a train ride home. Lisa invites Rachel to a small Christian group and yadda, yadda, yadda they end up as lesbian lovers. Huh?
House of Cards does well with the story of Francis Underwood as he makes his inevitable move toward the presidency. The problem with season 2 is that this should have been the last season. This really is a two-season story and season 2 suffers because it feels like the story is being stretched out. Where season 1 looked at the media’s role in Underwood’s maneuvering in Congress, season 2 concentrated on crony-capitalism. I’ll still watch season 3, but House of Cards took a step back.
The Underwoods are villains. The more you get to know them the less you should like them. The best characters have been the ones run over by Underwood’s desire to be President. In season 2, the best character is the owner of Freddy’s BBQ. Freddy is played by Reg E. Cathey and he’s the best part of House of Cards this season. I hope in season 3, one of these characters gets some redemption.
One last note. I have Verizon FiOs and it’s obvious they have throttled NetFlix. The video quality was awful. I’ll leave that topic for another day, but the blame isn’t completely on Verizon. This is a good example of the Tragedy of Commons. If I have time I’ll write about the topic further on another day.