House of Cards Season 2: Ham, Ribs, and Stakes


Hey, you! There’s lot of spoilers for House of Cards season 2 below, so don’t go shaking your fist at me when you find out about Frank Underwood actually being a time traveling alien prince. You’ve been warned.

Your enjoyment of House of Cards seems to boil down to how much you enjoy Frank Underwood breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience. If you enjoy that aspect, you probably love the show. It’s a technique that might come off as completely terrible with an actor of lesser caliber than Kevin Spacey in the role. He revels in playing a devilish character, showing his hand to the audience while his opponent sees nothing but a stoic poker face.

Despite Spacey’s stellar acting chops delivering these asides, the show’s insistence on breaking the 4th wall and using this storytelling device is fairly hammy. The first episode of House of Card’s second season goes without Underwood speaking to the audience until the very end. It’s a very good episode that sees the demise of a major character (even if Underwood is dressed like incognito Inspector Gadget for the act) and closes the doors on many major plotlines from the show’s first season. However, the end of the episode has Spacey peek off and talk to the audience and actively mock the portion that complained about this conceit.

“It’s me, Gene Parmesan!”

It’s one thing to unapologetically use this as a plot device. It’s been a part of the show since day one, along with Spacey’s borderline absurd southern accented W’s (I’m the hhhhwip of the house) and Fred Flintstone-like appetite for ribs. It’s another thing entirely to show us what the show would be like without it just to rub our noses in it. Oh, and look at those adorable “F.U.” cufflinks that he leaves out for us. He’s telling the audience to go fuck themselves, that’s so edgy and clever and cheeky. You’re so bad, Francis.

House of Cards is a show that could, and should, be better. It’s produced by David Fincher and features very strong performances from the much aforementioned Spacey and Robin Wright. It’s often beautifully filmed, just as long as they don’t have to fake being at Camden Yards. The opening credits are gorgeous, but they seem like they belong to a show that takes itself far more seriously.

Frank Underwood could be defined as an anti-hero, even if he’s more of a flat out villain. He wants power, and increasingly wants more of it. What started as a mission of revenge for being snubbed for the position of Secretary of State has led to one of the highest positions of power in the world. Yet, the audience rarely feels the stakes. Everything goes Underwood’s way and obstacles simply disappear. Underwood flat out murders somewhat famous reporter Zoe Barnes on a crowded subway platform? MEH. Frank clearly manipulates the President of the United States into doing…something? The entire impeachment storyline is kind of insane.

Every interesting idea introduced in House of Cards is bypassed so that they can do something more outlandish. There’s a moment in the first season, where it’s revealed that Underwood has had a homosexual relationship previously and that’s most likely where his true emotions lie. There’s a tenderness in that scene sticks out in a series filled with back stabbing, power plays, and steely glares. It explains his odd relationship with his wife, where they come off as excellent partners and friends, but don’t seem close beyond that.

Is this ever revealed to anyone besides the audience and a few select characters? No, it’s not. It did get used for a vice presidential three-way with a secret service agent (I guess you could say he’s putting the VICE in VICE PRESIDENT, WHOA HO HOOOO!), but really is never brought up again. Perhaps the writers are saving it for Frank’s seemingly inevitable downfall? At the very least, Frank is bisexual, and while society at large is getting better at accepting that, the political landscape is as unforgiving as ever. At this point it seems like the entire purpose of this revelation was simply to add another “shocking” detail in an attempt to add some depth to a shallow shark of a character.

Through two seasons, the greatest loss that Frank Underwood has encountered was barbeque specialist, Freddy. What will Frank do without his meditation ribs??? Poor Freddy was flying, but a little too close to the sun.

Maybe season 3 sees Frank Underwood fall from grace and the United States sees a record number of impeachments in an insanely short time period. This would clearly lead to a season 4 where Frank has to navigate his way to the top of the food chain in federal prison, and who doesn’t want to see that? Or maybe Frank becomes world emperor in season 3, and then starts conquering planets. This show is insane.

 

Blah blah blah

  • That nonsensical hacking storyline with the guy who plays Liam McPoyle on Always Sunny (Jimmi Simpson) sure was something. Did AT&T pay for product placement to have their servers as the servers that were the hacking target? Why did he need a quirky pet in the form of Cashew the guinea pig? THIS SHOW.
  • I hope Freddy is the main character on True Detective Season 2. Justice, with a side of RIBS.
  • Oh, hi there asphyxiation three way. Really glad that you were featured for no reason whatsoever. Between the two three ways this season, I’m sure we’ll be seeing full on orgies in season 3. In the Oval Office. Frank Underwood turns to the camera and says something like, “This sure is a sticky situation.” Hire me already, Netflix.
  • Raymond Tusk and Mad Men’s Conrad Hilton should hang out some time, I feel like they’d be grand pals.
  • Garrett Walker might be the most generic president in the history of film and television. He also might be the most gullible. “Well, Frank, you fooled me into getting into all of this, so go ahead and be President. No hard feelings.” Maybe he can pop back up as a villain, a la 24’s Charles Logan.
  • There was an entire episode dedicated to Civil War reenactors and the fate of Frank’s confederate descendant. Still processing this one. At least he didn’t obtain a suicide vest in Gettysburg.
  • What’s the over/under on the number of episodes that Rachel lasts on the run in season 3? Considering how quickly most of the overarching storylines from season 1 were taken care of, I’m setting it at 5 and taking the under. Frank will probably snap her neck in front of the Lincoln Memorial and kick her into the Reflecting Pool. No one will see this.
  • Even with all of my complaints, that final shot of Underwood as President is pretty great.

Gif via Uproxx

  • Our debut podcast will be coming out later this week with further thoughts on the show’s second season. You can send any feedback to me on Twitter @estebomb.

Steve Jacot

I'm from Philadelphia but only throw a handful of batteries at hapless strangers a year. You probably know my sarcasm and dopiness from following me on Twitter.

I specialize in TV, movies, and the nerdy side of things on Untied, regularly posting about Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Star Wars, and the comic book movie of the moment.
2 comments
  1. Bill

    02.26.14 at 10:14 am

    Great read, Steve. Can’t wait for the podcast!

    Reply

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