Warning. This post contains extensive spoilers for House of Cards Season 2, so probably don’t read on if you are currently in the process of watching it, plan on watching it, might get into that show some day, or aren’t planning on watching it but tend to change your mind on things a lot. However, if you’ve seen the season or you just enjoy the time-honored practice of experiencing television backwards, by starting with spoilers of the latest season, and ending by watching the series premiere with the back of your head, read on.
The rib-munching mad-man we love to hate, Frank Underwood does his signature class ring knock-on-wood right onto the desk in the Oval Office, and the screen cuts to black.
Frank and Claire Underwood have finally achieved the most powerful office in the world.
From the very first episode of the very first season, his drawn-out quest to become the most powerful man in the world followed a relatively consistent pattern of substantial forward strides, with the occasional nuisance of quelling threats with manipulation, deception, and the occasional murder of a public figure or two. And although Underwood’s murder of Zoe Barnes in the second season’s very first episode served as one of the year’s most shocking television moments, it raises some questions about the show’s path. Its willingness to max-out disbelief suspension and suddenly dispose of major characters reaches daring levels, showing a boldness reminiscent of recently-renewed action-series 24. Of course, acceptance of grandiose plot twists is a necessity for the enjoyment of any thriller, even when death-by-Vice-President is introduced as a plot element.
More pressing, however, is the pattern that Barnes’ death represents, a pattern which can be seen throughout the program’s entire tenure: the apparent tendency of House of Cards to preemptively end its strongest subplots, take out its most promising recurring characters, and litter its plot with innumerable loose ends. And though Zoe Barnes’ saga lives on briefly following her demise, as her colleague and boyfriend Lucas Goodwin attempts to uncover the secrets behind her passing, he winds up in a jail-cell not halfway through the season, and hasn’t been heard from since. In this manner, he’s wound up in the same character-limbo as many others who’ve followed him.
However, remember two of season 2’s most prominent conflicts: Claire’s unplanned revelation of her abortion on live television and the resulting controversy, and the leak of the photos of her affair with photographer Adam Galloway. These two plot-lines were introduced in season 1 with a passing remark and a forgotten subplot, respectively, only to be revived out of left field in the middle of season 2, and lead to the inception of Claire’s sexual assault bill, one of the primary plot elements of the season. Maybe House of Cards doesn’t forget about subplots and minor characters quite so easily…
So if it’s true that nothing in House of Cards is accidental, where does that leave Frank and Claire? Christina Gallagher, left jobless after Claire spreads rumors of an affair with the president, we can assume, will not just passively accept her situation. That first publicist Claire fired after about five seconds happens to know the entire true story behind her abortions, raising questions regarding the wisdom of the aforementioned after-five-seconds firing. There’s Gavin, our resident hacker, who we can only assume acquired his hacking skills by winning a Radiohead-frontman-lookalike contest with free programming classes as the prize, who has more than enough ammo, regarding Rachel and Doug Stamper, to pin the administration, and Frank, against the wall.
Oh, speaking of Rachel and Doug Stamper, they cooperatively comprise the biggest threat to Frank’s security and freedom. In a Hail-Mary pass to avoid what she sees as her imminent doom, Rachel flees the grasp of Doug Stamper in transit. He pursues, and learns the true meaning of Frank Underwood’s quote, “Shake with your right hand but hold a rock in your left.”, minus the shaking. Internet chatter has posed the idea that Stamper may return in the next season, and that he may, in fact, be not-so-dead after all, which is totally the case.
Frank Underwood has had mostly smooth-sailing to the top. Maybe now it’s time for some turbulence on his wild ride. Maybe his stone-faced persona will begin to unravel. Does the moody-faced admission of his own hypocrisy on the way back from severing his long-time friendship with Freddy Hayes indicate there’s a hint of humanity inside his power-hungry being? Will this run parallel to Claire’s own inner-guilt which has also peeked through in a revealing, unexpected scene?
And perhaps most importantly, is the Underwoods’ “special relationship” with their Secret Service agent Edward Meechum going to follow them to the White House!?
One thing’s for certain. Frank’s so-called “old stone building” suffers from more than its fair share of cracks, and maybe his future can be inferred by thinking about the thing that is in the name of the show, and what tends to happen to that thing.
House of Cards Season 2 can be streamed in its entirety on Netflix. Season 1 can be picked up in our Browsing Collection here at Media and Reserve Services!