by Terry Ambrose
Next week Monday are the Emmy Awards so over the next week we will be reviewing some of the nominees! If you have not yet seen House of Cards, be warned there are spoilers.
House of Cards, Season 2, brought us to the inevitable conclusion of Frank Underwood’s master plan to become President of the United States. The season brought with it highs and lows, with some events feeling natural and others forced.
On the plus side, the acting on House of Cards continues to excel. Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright clearly deserve their nominations for their portrayals of a troubled, power-hungry couple determined to conquer the world. The same is true for two of this season’s guest stars, Kate Mara and Reg E. Cathey, who are nominated for Outstanding Guest Actress and Actor.
House of Cards has also been nominated in the categories of Writing, Directing, and Outstanding Drama Series. With all those nominations, what could be wrong?
Unfortunately, Season 2 didn’t reach the lofty standards set in Season 1. In Season 1, Frank Underwood had to work to crush his enemies. There was always the question of would he succeed or be revealed as the psychopath he really is.
In Season 2, with the murder of Ms. Mara’s character, Washington reporter Zoe Barnes, the resistance against Frank and Claire Underwood evaporated. Seemingly powerful enemies such as Raymond Tusk, a lifelong friend of President Walker; Remy Danton, a savvy political lobbyist; and Chinese multimillionaire Feng, who had outsmarted more than his share of enemies, suddenly became inept when confronted with Frank as an adversary.
Unlike Season 1, when powerful acting augmented exceptional writing, this season’s excellent acting was hampered by predictable writing. And there, for Season 2, is the operative word: predictable. What made Season 1 powerful was its unpredictable nature. We never expected the bad guy to win, especially when faced with equally savvy opponents.
Season 2, with the execution of Zoe Barnes at the hands of Frank Underwood himself, took the approach of moving us quickly toward an inevitable conclusion. Thus, Frank went into locked-door meetings with enemies who knew of his backstabbing ways and succeeded not because of his brilliance, but due to inept responses from those who opposed him. Frank made empty threats that made his enemies quake, even when the threats could have been neutralized with single phone call. Then, he committed murder–not once, but twice–and was never under the slightest suspicion of wrongdoing. In Season 2, there was also the potential to captivate the audience with Claire’s story and her struggle against her own personal demons. Yet, that storyline soon fell apart as Claire became consumed by the mechanics of moving a bill through Congress instead of surmounting her personal challenges and demons.
A basic premise of solid fiction is having the protagonist face seemingly insurmountable odds. The series met that premise head-on in Season 1 with conflicts won on the basis of strength, not weakness. In Season 2, Frank’s opposition was too easily bested. With weak enemies came predictable results, yet despite the predictability of the Season 2 plot line, the series held together thanks to strong performances.
The question is, where will Season 3 go? Now that Frank Underwood has reached his goal of becoming president, will he become the primary target in the political arena? As the most powerful man in the free world, will he know how to wield that power? Or, will he fail because he only knows how to manipulate others? If Frank Underwood’s enemies in Season 3 become worthy opponents and Frank’s success truly hangs in the balance each week, the upcoming season has the potential to be the best of all.
Check out the Emmy Awards on Monday night and see if House of Cards brings home the awards-learn more on their website.
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