"House of Cards" returned to Netflix on Friday with its second season, picking up right where the first season left off with Frank (Kevin Spacey) and Claire (Robin Wright) Underwood on their evening run.
Season one ended with Frank becoming the vice president of the United States, while journalist Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara) starts investigating the death of Peter Russo (Corey Stoll) from season one. From the very first episode of this season, the story is picking right back up.
The first season introduced us to who Frank is and where he came from. There were a few episodes that served for that purpose alone, such as "Chapter 3" where he returns to his hometown to deal with a lawsuit, and "Chapter 8" when he returns to his school and spends the night drinking and reminiscing with his old friends.
These episodes felt a little out of place because they didn't really move the main story forward, but they were necessary for us to truly understand Frank. Season two has no such episodes; we know who Frank is, and that he takes care of those that follow him and is willing to destroy those that oppose him or stand in his way.
New characters are introduced and old characters shift gears in season two. Some become more prominent, while others feel more like a guest appearance, but it all feels very natural as it happens. With Frank now the vice president, he is interacting directly with President Garrett Walker (Michael Gill) more and more as the series continues–something that wouldn't happen if he was still the house majority whip.
Billionaire Raymond Tusk (Gerald McRaney), the confidant to the president who was introduced in the penultimate episode of season one, also rises as a major opponent to Frank in season two. Some new faces include hacker Gavin Orsay (Jimmy Simpson) who helps investigate Frank, Seth Grayson (Derek Cecil), press secretary for Frank, and Jacqueline Sharp (Molly Parker), a war veteran and successor to Frank as whip.
Kevin Spacey once again plays with the audience's emotions. We know we shouldn't like him because he has done a lot of damage to many people. He has killed, but more importantly he has broken people, he tears them away from loved ones, and he destroys their very being (and not just his enemies, but that of those he deems unworthy). Yet we still root for him. We want him to rise and to achieve his goals. He's ruthless and tactical, he steps on people to get where he wants to be, and we love it. Something shifted in the past decade in television where rooting for the antihero has blurred with cheering for the villain. Spacey is condescending to everyone save a select few; he is constantly reminding us that no one is above him.
Robin Wright does a phenomenal job as Claire. In season one, Claire ran a non-profit organization, and while she had some connections to the main plot every now and then, it rarely felt like her story was connected to Frank's. This season, she takes a much more active role while focusing on being lobbyist. In season one, Claire had her own agenda; this carries over to season two on a larger scale as she is becoming more active in reform and in her husband's life.
Season one was well praised for its story and acting. After watching season two, the momentum keeps going. A slightly altered cast, new faces and more fleshed out old ones breathe new life into the political drama. It's no surprise that "House of Cards" is already renewed for season three to start next fall.