If you’ve ever headed north on the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway contemplating what life would be like if plans to build the bridge across the Long Island Sound came to fruition, Season Two of the award-winning Netflix original drama House of Cards answers that question — and then some.
With the exception of Breaking Bad, it’s rare for a series, of any kind, to match the intensity and high-drama of the first season. House of Cards comes close in Season Two, but doesn’t quite reach the high-water mark set by BB – few series ever will.
That said: House of Cards: Season Two is the best-written show on television (if there still is something called “television”) and a must see — especially if you’re a political junkie.
Episode 1 had me hitting pause and rewinding after a particular meeting between Vice President Francis “Frank” Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, and Season One lead, Washington Herald reporter, Zoe Barnes, played by Kate Mara – the grand-daughter of the legendary NFL owners Tim Mara of the NY Giants and Pittsburgh’s Art Rooney. If you’ve seen the first episode, you know what I’m talking about.
However, much of the series that follows becomes somewhat predictable. That has to do with the fact that actions of Vice President Underwood and his heartless wife, Claire, played by the ageless Robin Wright, become predictable.
Last year we watched, blown away by the unscrupulous nature of Underwood as the House Majority Whip. This year, we expect to see vengeance carried out ruthlessly, giving rise to the plot-line predictability.
Underwood’s predictability draws the viewer in. And, Season Two gives us want we want, satisfying a sadistic voyeurism. Not since the Sopranos has the American audience been so artistically manipulated to cheer for characters that are so morally unacceptable.
No one of is spared the bloodstain of Underwood’s calculated vengeance — not even Freddy, owner of Underwood’s favorite inner city BBQ rib joint.
Oddly enough, it is a plan to build a bridge from Port Jefferson, Long Island to Connecticut, that is the catalyst of much of the political drama in Season Two, giving the series a interesting Long Island political connection.
Season Two also steals another storyline straight from the New York political headlines, as Underwood’s wife, Claire, takes up the cause of sexual abuse in the military — a la the crusade of New York’s junior Senator Kristen Gillibrand.
<< WARNING: SPOILER ALERT>>
Midway in Season Two, Grayson lands a job as the Underwoods’ communication director in the most manipulative way. Suspicion surrounds Grayson, until he reveals to Underwood, that he was hired to spy on the Veep by his former congressional aide, Washington super-lobbyist, Remy Danton. Grayson, however, informs Underwood that his chosen loyalty is to the Vice President due to an inner preference of “power over money.” Underwood’s power over Remy’s money — or so it seems.
It turns out that the two-faced spin-doctor is really working for international businessman and mega-billionaire Raymond Tusk, played by Major Dad star Gerald McRaney, who also hired Remy to dig up dirt on Underwood and his cold-hearted collaborator and companion — or so it seems.
This reveal is the biggest plot twist in Season Two.
Tusk’s motivation against Underwood is, of course, vengeance; vengeance for being supplanted as the trusted adviser of the President of the United States, Garrett Walker by Underwood who also usurped many of Tusks deals with China – including the so-called Port Washington Bridge, all simply to fulfill his own vengeance tendencies for passed over for the coveted Secretary of State position after Tusk advised the President to do so — or so it seems.
For most of Season Two, Walker – one of the weakest written President roles in Hollwood history – unsuspectingly plays the role of captured pawn in Underwood and Tusk’s chess game for power — or so it seems.
Like real politics, nothing on the surface truly appears as it seems.
Appearance trumps character and truth is sacrificed at the altar of ambition. It’s all so “Cask of Amontillado” — except all the players recall the reason for their acts of vengeance. And, like the Poe classic, the last episode will left me wanting more and asking:
Could Seth Grayson be the one chess move Underwood played incorrectly? Or has Tusk placed Grayson perfectly, manipulating the whole U.S. political system, so he could self-appoint a President without an election?
We’ll have to wait for Season Three. In the meantime, we can cheer on the return of 24!