Last year, I took my time and spread out watching the first season of House of Cards over a week or so, months after the series premiered on Netflix. This year, I binged all 13 episodes on the weekend of its release. Obviously, I did so because I thought the first season was fantastic, and I was highly anticipating what this season would do.
One difference that I felt watching the first few episodes of Season 2 as opposed to Season 1 is the apparent lack of direction. In Season 1, it became clear that Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, had a goal. He was the Majority Whip for the Democrats in the House of Representatives, but he wanted to be a member of the President's cabinet. Due to a series of circumstances, Frank decides to go after the Vice Presidency.
In Season 2, Frank doesn't have an obvious goal. He just seems to be episodically dealing with whatever crisis arises. Frank doesn't seem to have a plan, an over-arching plan in place like Season 1. He doesn't appear to be playing chess, as he was before.
That's not until the series gets to the end, and by the final episode of Season 2, one wonders if Frank were pulling the strings all along. Obviously, head writer Beau Willimon was pulling the strings, but I don't know if the ending was due to Frank's deliberate machinations from the start or if he merely took advantage of circumstance that was mostly by accident. Either way, the series is still intriguing because it shows that Frank is still a good strategist. He's still cunning and conniving. This season probably proves he's good on the fly as he is at long-term planning.
Frank is still ambitious and ruthless as ever. His ambition is not as obvious, given the reasons just stated. He doesn't seem to have an over-arching plan. His ruthlessness, however, is on full display. As last season proved, Frank is willing to kill in order to hang on to his power or preserve himself. This season continues that, and he's willing to do so with absolutely no remorse or guilt. If anything, this season is more about what he's willing to sacrifice in order to hang on to power and even what he's not willing to sacrifice like his home or his ring.
His wife Claire Underwood, played by Robin Wright, is no question Frank's Lady Macbeth, but the sense is by the end she does feel remorse or guilt. Claire is not privy to everything Frank does. She probably realizes the depths to which Frank goes and supports him unconditionally. She even does her own ruthless things to help him, but not to Frank's level, and the reason may be because she's more affected by it all than him.
For example, Frank outright destroys people and never gives it a second thought. Yet, when Claire hurts somebody, particularly someone for whom she previously cared like her former lover and photographer Adam Galloway, played by Ben Daniels, or military rape victim Megan Hennessey, played by Libby Woodbridge, Claire feels guilty. It might not be actual guilt, but her actions do reverberate back on her emotionally. Claire is particularly affected when she has to do something to hurt the President's wife, the First Lady, Patricia Walker, played by Dani Englander. Wright's performance here is superb. When the reverberation happens, specifically with the First Lady in a phone scene, the emotion of it hits Claire. It smacks her in a way that it never smacks Frank.
Frank is a constant. He is forever ruthless and manipulative and cynical. He really doesn't change. He does show glimpses of humanity. He shows glimpses in various relationships. His relationship with Claire is probably the best example. The way he is with her and the way they are together is so much more solid this season than last. Frank had his affair with news reporter Zoe Barnes, played by Kate Mara, and Claire had her affair with Adam, but, this season, they have no separate affairs. They still do have an affair but it's not separate of each other. The first season had a very provocative sex scene. This season seems to push the boundaries a little if not a lot further, but when I say the affair they have is not separate of each other, I mean that yes Frank and Claire have a threesome.
The boundary it pushes is that the threesome has a younger man sandwiched between Frank and Claire, and Frank is all too willing to enjoy this young man's physicality as Claire is. Last season, in the episode titled "Chapter 8," Frank visited his alma mater, which named a library after him. There, he met with old classmates, including Tim Corbet, played by David Andrews, and it was strongly hinted that Frank and Tim had a homosexual romance.
Given the gusto with which he takes the younger man in his threesome with Claire, I think that the speculation in "Chapter 8" is now confirmed. Frank had a gay affair with Tim. I won't reveal who the sausage is in Frank and Claire's sex sandwich, but I will say that Edward Meechum, the Capitol Police officer-turned-Secret Service agent whose job is to be Frank's bodyguard, played by Nathan Darrow, gets a front-row seat to Frank's sexual exploits.
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