'House of Cards' falls as second season fails to excite
Following on from such an dramatic first season was always going to be difficult for the Emmy-award winning political drama, but aside from one explosive moment the second series fizzled.
The main problem was the second series lacked many of the attributes which made the first season so enthralling.
In the first season, Frank Underwood lied, cheated and murdered his way to the Vice-Presidency. However, it is ironically only in the second season where his character becomes unlikeable - and loses the audience's empathy.
The first season ended on a note of suspense, with the implication that all that Underwood had built was about to come crashing down. Cue the second season and all is well - Underwood becomes the VP and the journalists that were so close to exposing him suddenly have nothing.
It seems like the writers may just have forgotten about the cliffhanger, and hoped we would too. Never have I seen a show completely disregard and dismiss such a huge storyline (for the most part.)
Apart from one shocking moment in the second episode where Underwood pushed Zoe in front of a train, killing her instantly, the entire series lacked something. Underwood manipulated and schemed but it seemed to be rather pointless this time, having already secured the role he had wished for. The political storylines focused on donations and international relations mostly, both of which were boring, somewhat confusing for those unfamiliar with international relations and contrived.
The unravelling of the President seemed, quite frankly, all too easy. The entire series, Underwood achieved his goals without instilling a sense of fear in the viewer that he might be caught. By the end, did anyone really care?
The secondary stories (some of which should have had more prominence, others less) were strange and half-baked. The entire sub-plot involving Claire, her military rapist and her sexual assault bill, just ended when Jackie Sharp refused to co-operate. Claire settled for a bill of half-measures, with absolutely no fight, and something the viewers invested fifty percent of the series in turned out to be a complete waste of time, other than to allow Claire to get close to the first lady in order to help Francis further manipulate the President - a plot which, again, made no sense. Politically, shouldn't Underwood have bound himself to the President and secured future re-election and possibly a future Presidential election campaign? Would the long-term strategy make sense, especially for someone who bided his time as Whip for six years?
A secondary story that got far too much airtime was the involvement of Doug with Rachel - the call girl who dallied with Peter Rousso in the first series. His overpowering nature, moving her from state to state, making her read to him and forcing her to break up with her girlfriend she met at a Christian Fellowship (another ridiculous plotline) was bizarre. His actions eventually led her to hit him with a brick over the head, and not a moment too soon but several episodes too late, in my opinion. I was already bored.
A storyline that didn't receive enough attention was the hacking storyline, stemming from the murder of Zoe in broad daylight and the subsequent jailing of her lover and colleague Lucas Goodwin. Goodwin was just left in jail with no conclusion, Zoe's murder was deemed an accident from the episode in which it happened, and the hacker became a member of the FBI for seemingly no reason other than to give him an opportunity to scare Doug into pushing Rachel to kill him.
None of the characters held my interest for very long, and the loss of the Zoe Barnes character is acutely felt throughout the series. None of the attempted replacements for Zoe's character were able to capture the viewer like she did. The random orgy between the Underwoods and one of the Secret Service was unexpected and then ignored - a strange distraction from the plot, in which the only time the two spouses show any sexual attraction to one another in the entire series is when there is a third person in between them.
The relationship between the two main characters is hard to read and becomes less believable as the series goes on. Their actions bypass ruthless and verge on ridiculous, and any empathy or passion felt for them is lost.
The Netflix formula of episode delivery - the whole season in one go - is detrimental to shows like House of Cards that attempt to build a sense of anticipation, of intrigue. After a few episodes, the storylines become boring and lose that effect entirely. Now, after completing a season which paled in companion to it's predecessor, fans must wait almost a year to see a third - which was commissioned (luckily) before the second was even released. Has the show done enough to keep it's fans interested until a third season is released? Personally, I won't be holding my breath.