Netflix’s House Of Cards: Democracy Is So Overrated

From season one, episode one, House of Cards had me by the scruff of shirt. It’s a remake of a British television series, and in my opinion, better than the original. This is one of those times when the child defeats the parent. Much akin to season one, season two dangles an A-list quality cast in our faces. House of Cards was the first Netflix show to be taken seriously and season five hits at the end of the month, so they must be doing something right. Kevin Spacey’s take on the central character was an instant hit, as he cleaved his enemies “from the herd and watched them die in the wilderness.” Now, Netflix is calling the shots and it’s Frank-flipping-tastic.

Season two continues to follow Frank (Spacey) and his wife Claire (Wright) on their quest to scour Washington of its sycophants. They continue to play the game, in their elaborate chess match, a game which Frank Underwood plays like a grand master. At the start of season two, he is Vice President. “One heartbeat away from the presidency and not a single vote cast in my name — democracy is so overrated” says Frank. The more power Frank gets, the darker this show becomes. In his close-knit circle is his wife Claire, Chief of Staff Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly), security Ed Meechum (Nathan Darrow) and his old friend and rib cook Freddy (Reg. E Cathey).

President Walker (Michel Gill) and his Vice President, Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) 
(House of Cards, Netflix)

With the office of the vice-presidency comes more power. And with more power, comes more inventive ways to dispatch of his enemies. And Frank doesn’t hesitate in using them. This “promotion” means the stakes are higher and enemies more dangerous, AKA billionaire Raymond Tusk (Gerald McRaney), a villain who has no limits and a man who Frank must compete with for the attention of President Walker (Michel Gill). Most of the time, Walker looks to be a puppet tangled in strings, and it’s characters around him that hold more power and resolve. Remy Denton (Mahershala Ali) is one such character, as is Jackie Sharpe (Molly Parker). 

Both characters are cunning, and hold many of the traits needed to survive in the political Jurassic parks of Washington. Raymond Tusk holds economic power and that is enough in games like this. You can topple governments when you’re a billionaire. Corporations rule, not governments and Tusk shows us this throughout the season. Not to forget to mention China strong-arming the US with Tusk as a behind-the-scenes player. The power of the media and money is put on exhibition in House of Cards’ second season, and it’s not as fictional as I’d like it to be. With the added annoyance of journalists poking around, season two becomes an interesting story indeed.

Sec. Durant (Jayne Atkinson), Tusk (Gerald McRaney) and Underwood (Kevin Spacey)
(House of Cards, Netflix)

What is it with this show’s female characters? There’s an assortment of them, and they’re well-written and intriguing at that. Season introduces Molly Parker (Deadwood) as Congresswoman Jackie Sharpe, who goes onto fill the space of Majority Whip with Underwood’s convenient promotion to Vice President. Lucas Goodwin (Sebastian Arcellus) becomes more prominent as well, with Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara) poking her nose in places that one would tell her not to. Yet, she’s a journalist, and that’s kind of their job. She begins to investigate Frank and expose him for who he truly is, no matter the consequences and does not end well, not one bit!

House of Cards continues to impress with its 21st century-relevance. For example, its depictions of post-Snowden America with issues relating to the country’s Big Brother surveillance of its citizens, and its representation of a very confident China. Is it right to spy on its citizens? Well, the Patriot Act says it’s legally allowed, but perhaps this question is a moral one. Cyberterrorism is a recurring theme of late, in the modern world, and when we have things like the Tor Browser, it makes you question what the future holds for the generation who will lead the world into the next decades. With texts appearing onscreen, this political drama is taking a venture into the science fiction.

Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) plays Raymond Tusk’s political enforcer in House of Cards
(House of Cards, Netflix)

Texting, with social media on laptops, tablets and so on are an avid part of this series. They appear onscreen in subtitle segments, WiFi is a growing thing and people are having conversations handsfree, no matter if that’s on the road or in an office. Everyone is connected, and I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing? With everybody’s interconnectedness, it’s so easy for people to betray one another. A single phonecall from one side of the country to the other is all it takes. Anybody can be betrayed by anyone at any time. Underwood’s enemies are not a single person but more the systemic machine of capitalism, media, technology and politics.

Spacey continues wow as Frank, and this character has quickly turned into one of my favourite Kevin Spacey roles ever. The fourth wall-shattering looks are an experience of excitement for me, and exposition, all while he contrasts his public self and personal self. His equally cunning wife Claire (Robin Wright) AKA Lady Macbeth of CWI is on her journey as she fights the press, politicians and other adversaries. The couple’s calculated marriage and power plays are at the show’s epicentre, and their origins are explored a lot more than the first season, especially Claire as themes of gender are delved into when an intriguing rape-related story arc comes to light.

Much akin to Claire, the ruthlessness of the female characters is magnetic, as seen with Jackie Sharpe
(House of Cards, Netflix)

Regardless of all its characters, season two of the show is a political drama that critiques the methodologies of the West’s political systems, which is its own hunger games that represent politics as a blood sport. Politics aside, it’s just so damn entertaining to watch these characters at each other’s throats. With excellent performances, more entertaining subplots and cinematography to enthral, season two of House of Cards is more Netflix drama that thrills.

The road of bingewatching is paved with sleepless nights and greasy fingers, but never regret