House of Cards Review & Other Thoughts

Like many people last weekend, I binge watched Season 2 of Netflix’s acclaimed House of Cards. Did it live up to the insane hype and goodwill built up by Season 1 or did it suffer from the sophomore season curse?
We’ll get to that below. But first, let’s talk about Guardians of the Galaxy. Here’s a shot of the first concept art from late 2012.

Guardians of the Galaxy - Concept Art

The first trailer for Marvel’s first pure sci-fi movie came out earlier this week. Check it out below.

I’m a comic book fan but have very little familiarity with the team outside of their connection to more well-known Marvel books. My thoughts? I dug it because of the sci-fi bent, the film seems to openly embrace the ‘WTF’-ness of the situation by way of comedy and that one of the characters is basically a space ent. Plus, I’ve been a fan of Chris Pratt’s work since he was on the show Everwood. He’ll make a solid lead for this film, in my honest opinion.

Is this Marvel’s biggest risk yet? Absolutely. But I don’t believe this will be their first cinematic stumble. After Thor, a film about Norse Gods, proved to be a modest hit and spawned a sequel (as well as Marvel’s most memorable movie villain), a romp through space isn’t so unfathomable now. So far, the majority of the reaction I’ve seen has been positive. People trust in Marvel’s brand. They are NOT DC. I’ll be seeing Guardians of the Galaxy when it comes out in August with cautious optimism.

House of Cars, Season 2 poster with Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey

Now, on to House of Cards Season 2. The show picked up right where it left off last season, with Frank Underwood and his Lady MacBeth-like wife jogging at night. The stakes are much higher this time around, with Frank now the Vice President of the United States. This puts a huge amount of scrutiny on the Underwoods’ movements and plots for power.

Without revealing too much for those who haven’t watched yet, the season started out with a bang. Literally. Watch the first episode and you’ll get the gist of my comment. The acting doesn’t fail to deliver. We still get Frank breaking the fourth wall, which I actually don’t mind as it adds a lightheartedness to what can be joyless and depressing proceedings at times. Raymond Tusk, the President’s billionaire friend/adviser/puppet master becomes a very big roadblock for Frank, which leads to a political war where everything is fair game.The plot this time around hit a few lulls hear and there in the middle, but it really kicked up steam around the latter half of the season.

One major issue I had with the first season was how silo-ed Claire Underwood’s work storyline became from Frank’s. That has thankfully been corrected in Season 2. The show feels more focused on the saga of Frank’s rise to power as well as the ripple effect his actions have on everyone around him. However, an issue that still occurred in this show since Season 1 is that DC is the nexus of evil. Despite that not be so far off, showing at least a few people who might actually have altruistic motives might humanize the very cynical and dark world that House of Cards operates in.

A big theme that this show hammered home was the cost of these’s characters quest for power. When a foe used people in Frank and Claire’s lives who actually humanized these characters against them, the Underwoods sacrificed these people in order to survive the continuous upward climb for power. In Frank’s case, its his friend Freddie whose BBQ diner he frequents. For Claire, its her ex Adam Galloway who’s unwittingly used as political napalm to discredit the Underwoods. Frank never once falters in his ultimate quest for power. Its at times fascinating but also doesn’t make the character too well-rounded. There are instances where Claire, via some very subtle and nuanced acting by Robin Wright, cracks upon viewing the scorched earth her ruthlessness has left behind (of course never for the world to see). Even smaller characters, like Zoe Barnes’s associates and former prostitute Rachel Posner, pay huge prices for even indirect involvement with the Underwoods.

We also meet a few new characters like Jackie Sharp (Molly Parker from Deadwood), an Army veteran and California Rep who replaces Frank as the Democrats’ Majority Whip. She’s an interesting character who claims to not be under Frank’s thumb, until he finds away to bend her to his will. We then have The First Lady of the United States, whom Claire manipulates as a way to undermine the President. There’s also a new reporter, much more professional than Zoe Barnes could ever hope to be, and she could actually prove to either an asset or liability to Frank as well. As a whole, Season 2 worked for me. But I do feel that in order for the show to work better in the already announced Season 3, we need to have some one oppose Frank that’s not a darker shade of black, but maybe a grey-hat who the audience can actually root for. Right now, the audience only has Frank to root for as he’s light-years ahead of everyone else in smarts and scheming.
Also, that literal ‘bang’ in the beginning of Season 2 I mentioned earlier? Its in gif format below if you want to be spoiled

Okay, here you are.


Zoe Barnes is deader than Elvis. Killed by Frank wearing his infamous murder hat. The scene was a quiet confrontation between them as Frank tried to pacify her curiosity over Peter Russo’s death. Not sure if he even planned on killing her or if maybe it was the backup option if she didn’t play ball. As someone who is somewhat familiar with the original House of Cards from Britain, I knew that Zoe’s British counterpart bit the dust at the end of Season 1 via the main character throwing her off a roof. I figured Zoe Barnes would die eventually, but not so suddenly and so brutally at the beginning of Season 2. I literally jumped in my seat, which I’m guessing was the reaction the show wanted. Zoe’s death was shocking, startling but ultimately necessary. First off, she represented one of the last loose ends that could do Frank in, the overambitious reporter who knew too much and reached to far for the truth. Secondly, the Zoe character had run its course and to be honest wasn’t that well fleshed out at times. It didn’t help that in the very beginning of the show everyone who knew Zoe at her job seemed to view her with immediate and inexplicable disdain. Either way, she was barely mentioned after the fourth episode of Season 2. But in hindsight that made sense too, ultimately she was just another casualty in Frank’s brutal rise to power. Can’t wait for Season 3 next year!

Per my blog’s tradition, here’s another short sci-fi/fantasy short film for your enjoyment.

Short Film: Continuum – So Dark
A sequel to an earlier vampire short film I posted called “So Pretty”. Watch it below.

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Posted in Cool Shit, Digital, Movies, Politics, Science Fiction, Space Exploration, Television, Writing
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