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House of Cards (season 2)

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House of Cards (season 2)
HouseOfCardsSeason2Teaser.jpg
Season 2 promotional poster
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 13
Release
Original network Netflix
Original release February 14, 2014 (2014-02-14)
Season chronology
← Previous
Season 1
Next →
Season 3
List of House of Cards episodes

The second season of the American television drama series House of Cards began filming a set of 13 episodes on April 29, 2013 and concluded on November 8. Filming occurred primarily in Baltimore. On December 4, 2013, Netflix announced that the season would be released in its entirety on February 14, 2014. Set in current day Washington, D.C., season two deals with topics such as entitlement reform, Chinese cyberespionage, anthrax scares, Senate parliamentary procedure, and government shutdowns. It begins at the exact time that season one ended.

Critics previewed the first four episodes of the season under non-disclosure agreements that they not reveal any spoilers. Reviews began appearing as early as January 31. Many critics who previewed the season noted the first episode was shocking, but withheld the surprises of the four episodes made available for preview. Willa Paskin of Slate broke the embargo nearly a day early revealing several spoilers. Whereas critics had been somewhat split on the propriety of binge-watching the first season, they were more supportive of the practice for season two.

Early reviews were largely positive, noting that the second season had a darker tone than the first. Molly Parker was praised as an addition to the cast. Nonetheless, many critics were concerned at the domineering presence of Underwood, who appears to have no worthy adversaries. Viewership of the second season was many times higher than season one. The season earned thirteen Primetime Emmy Award nominations for the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards and three nominations at both the 72nd Golden Globe Awards and the 21st Screen Actors Guild Awards. Kevin Spacey won Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama for playing Frank Underwood in season 2. Season 2 of House of Cards was one of the first shows available in 4K video format on Netflix's streaming service.

Summary[edit]

Francis spends most of the season as the newly appointed Vice President of the United States. Early episodes see Frank vanquish reporters on the trail of a murder he committed in the previous season. However, the drama soon shifts to tensions involving Frank, President Walker, the Chinese government, and the wealthy Raymond Tusk, eventually culminating in a bitter political war between Frank and Tusk. Frank's wife Claire publicly reveals that she was raped in college by a prominent general and pursues anti-rape legislation. The most significant new character is Jackie Sharp, Frank's successor as House Whip, who soon finds herself embroiled in Frank's plans. As the war between Frank and Tusk consumes the Presidency, things culminate in a scandal that leads to Walker resigning, Tusk being arrested, and Frank ascending to the Oval Office.

Cast[edit]

Among the new cast members in season 2 are Molly Parker and Sam Page, while directors include Carl Franklin, Jodie Foster, James Foley and Wright.[1] The season features cameos by several notable journalists,[2] including Ashleigh Banfield, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Matt Bai, Morley Safer, Sean Hannity, and Kelly O'Donnell.[3][4][5]

Episodes[edit]

No.
overall
No. in
season
Title Directed by Written by Original release date Prod.
code
14 1 "Chapter 14" Carl Franklin Beau Willimon February 14, 2014 (2014-02-14) HOC-201
Newly selected Vice President Frank Underwood's chief of staff Doug Stamper warns him about journalists investigating the death of Congressman Peter Russo. Frank attempts to steer journalist Zoe Barnes away from it but when she suggests Russo was murdered, he pushes her in front of an oncoming train. Zoe's colleague Janine Skorsky receives nude photos of Zoe that Frank had taken, and is frightened into abandoning the investigation, but Zoe's lover, editor Lucas Goodwin refuses to desist. Doug forcibly relocates the prostitute Rachel Posner, who was involved in Russo's covered-up DUI and also his eventual downfall, and is now afraid of the consequences. Frank makes a new ally in Jacqueline Sharp, a former war hero, as his choice to replace him as House Majority Whip, and suggests an open race within the House to allow Jackie to compete against the expected candidates. Connor Ellis, a smooth talking media consultant becomes Communications Director for Claire Underwood. Claire leverages her former employee Gillian Cole's expected lawsuit by fraudulently excluding vital medication for her unborn child from her health insurance, and then offers her total control of the Clean Water Initiative company allegedly as a peace offering.
15 2 "Chapter 15" Carl Franklin Beau Willimon February 14, 2014 (2014-02-14) HOC-202
Frank is appointed Vice President and declines to move into the Naval Observatory. The Secret Service renovates his town-house with required security features. Frank uses Secretary of State Catherine Durant's team to stall a trade meeting with China, in order to loosen billionaire Raymond Tusk's influence on President Walker. Frank convinces President Walker to stand tough against China's indignant withdrawal, resulting in China cutting off further trade talks with the United States. Jackie Sharp strengthens her race for House Majority Whip, eventually destroying her mentor's career in order to secure the position. At his first formal engagement as Vice President, a military awards ceremony, Claire tells Frank the newly-commissioned General Dalton McGinnis is her college rapist. Lucas Goodwin looks for a hacker on the Deep Web to access Frank's phone records and connect him to the deaths of Russo and Zoe.
16 3 "Chapter 16" James Foley Bill Cain February 14, 2014 (2014-02-14) HOC-203
As President Walker crafts his State of the Union address, Raymond Tusk reluctantly agrees to postpone resumption of trade negotiations with China, and Frank negotiates a bipartisan agreement with Senate Majority Leader Hector Mendoza on a compromise over reform of public entitlements and retirement age, to avoid a government shutdown. The Senate Republicans renege on the agreement, attempt to avoid a quorum and then filibuster, but Frank thwarts both moves and secures passage of the bill. Doug Stamper requests his FBI contact to run a sting operation on Lucas Goodwin, who is contacted by a hacker Gavin Orsay, claiming to be able to retrieve Zoe's phone records. Rachel Posner contacts her mother and then reaches out to a religious stranger, Lisa Williams, despite Stamper's instruction to speak to no one.
17 4 "Chapter 17" James Foley Laura Eason February 14, 2014 (2014-02-14) HOC-204
The Underwoods prepare for their first media interview, and Frank works to secure votes in the House for an amendment to entitlements. Donald Blythe, who previously was burnt by the late changes in the education bill, opposes the entitlement amendment in principle. Frank and Blythe become quarantined inside the Capitol due to receipt of a package containing suspicious white powder. Interviewed alone, Claire is pressured into revealing she once had an abortion, and then lies that the pregnancy was a result of her much earlier rape by General Dalton McGinnis. Her account is supported by a woman who claims she also was assaulted by him in the army. Jackie Sharp and Remy Danton lobby for votes to avoid the government shutdown, both revealing negotiating skills unexpected by the other. Gavin Orsay is revealed to be facing federal charges for his association with a hacktivist group, and is reluctantly informing for the FBI as part of a plea bargain. Frank and Claire once again enjoy a smoke at their window, and Frank sings the murder ballad "Pretty Polly" for her.
18 5 "Chapter 18" John Coles Kenneth Lin February 14, 2014 (2014-02-14) HOC-205
While attending a Civil War reenactment, Frank holds back-channel negotiations with Xander Feng - a billionaire unofficial Chinese diplomat working with Raymond Tusk to build a refinery for rare earth elements in Beijing - over construction of a bridge over Long Island Sound. Frank discovers Feng and Tusk are manipulating a trade summit in Washington using a U.S. lawsuit against China at the WTO to benefit their business and strengthen their influence with the Chinese government. Frank acts to drop the lawsuit against Feng's request and falsely accuses Feng of double-dealing, driving a wedge between Tusk and President Walker. Feng refuses to build the bridge, and President Walker finally withdraws the U.S. delegation from the trade summit, risking an international trade war to maintain his leadership. Claire enlists support from First Lady Tricia Walker to advocate with military officials for more protection against sexual assault in the armed forces. An alleged media consultant, Seth Grayson learns that Claire Underwood's abortion is not related to her rape, and leverages it to replace Connor Ellis as the Underwoods' Press Secretary. Lucas Goodwin visits an AT&T data center allegedly to write an article on cyber security, and he surreptitiously inserts a USB flash drive into a data server to provide access to Gavin Orsay. His tour guides reveal themselves to be undercover FBI agents, and arrest him.
19 6 "Chapter 19" John Coles John Mankiewicz February 14, 2014 (2014-02-14) HOC-206
The White House develops a strategy to prevent a national energy crisis due to the stalled trade negotiations with China. Frank proposes establishing a federal subsidy for raw materials for nuclear power, enraging Raymond Tusk. Claire Underwood hints to Tricia Walker that a presidential aide, Christina Gallagher could be pursuing an intimate relationship with President Walker. In custody, Lucas Goodwin refuses to plead guilty, and requests his former boss Tom Hammershmidt to continue the investigation. The FBI intimidate Janine Skorsky into convincing Lucas to accept a plea deal. Doug Stamper attempts to pressure Rachel Posner into cutting ties with her new friend Lisa Williams and discontinuing her regular church attendance. Jackie Sharp and Remy Denton discuss the proposed emergency energy legislation and they end up sleeping together. Tusk intimates his intention to fight the legislation, and Frank encourages President Walker to raise the stakes using FERC. Frank is about to throw the ceremonial first pitch at Camden Yards, when the stadium lights go out as Tusk's utility company shuts off power to the grid. Tusk blames the ongoing heat wave and threatens another power outage in the south-east states. Frank advises President Walker to have the federal government take over Tusk's power plants. Frank meets Tusk at Freddy's barbecue joint and reminds Tusk that he owes him nothing.
20 7 "Chapter 20" James Foley Bill Kennedy February 14, 2014 (2014-02-14) HOC-207
Raymond Tusk pressures the Walker administration by funding Republican attack ads for the upcoming midterm elections. Frank learns that the donations are disguised through a Kansas City casino and he sends Doug Stamper to investigate. Doug learns that Feng is donating the money and he flies to Beijing to negotiate. Frank learns that Tusk is orchestrating Feng's donations, which puts Frank himself in a tricky position, since he should have known about it when he was the Whip. Frank requests the casino owner Daniel Lanigan to stop the attacks but he scoffs at Frank's offer of political influence. Feng requests approval to build the Long Island bridge as a consolation for losing the refinery deal. Seth Grayson is revealed to be a double agent working for Remy Denton; however, Grayson confesses this to Frank and expresses his desire to work for Frank's power over Tusk's money. Wall Street Telegraph reporter Ayla Sayyad links Tusk and Feng to the refinery business deal and decides to investigate their business for illicit activity. Frank organizes Jackie Sharp to whip support for Claire's sexual assault legislation but she quietly stalls it. The Underwoods host President and Mrs. Walker for dinner and confirm their marital problems. Freddy Hayes is approached to franchise out his restaurant brand.
21 8 "Chapter 21" James Foley David Manson February 14, 2014 (2014-02-14) HOC-208
Frank lobbies Linda Vasquez and President Walker to approve the bridge contract, but they are focussed on the midterm elections. He meets with Daniel Lanigan and Raymond Tusk, who offers to discontinue Republican funding in exchange for reconciliation with President Walker. Frank clashes with Linda over the bridge proposal, resulting in Linda's resignation. Doug Stamper informs Feng that the bridge is approved and instructs him to abandon the refinery project with Tusk. Pvt. Megan Hennessey has a panic attack and is unable to testify against General McGinnis. Claire suggests that Tricia convince her husband to attend marriage counseling, and President Walker reluctantly agrees. Lisa Williams moves in with Rachel Posner and they become lovers. Jackie Sharp and Remy Denton's relationship progresses. Remy tracks down Claire's former lover Adam Galloway, and Tusk authorizes publication of an intimate photograph of Claire.
22 9 "Chapter 22" Jodie Foster Beau Willimon February 14, 2014 (2014-02-14) HOC-209
Claire requests Adam Galloway to publicly deny their affair and he complies, but then Claire and Frank lie to the media that they had commissioned Galloway to take the leaked photograph as an anniversary gift for Frank. Remy Denton pressures Adam to release a second intimate photograph of Claire, blackmailing him with a threat to his fiancée Inez's father in Bogotá. Claire intimidates Adam into claiming that the whole episode is a publicity stunt to stimulate his languishing photography business. Doug Stamper cautions Seth Grayson about his ambitions in Frank's team. Ayla Sayyad interviews Raymond Tusk, who orders her to stop investigating him and Xander Feng with veiled threats. Tusk assumes Frank is driving Ayla's investigation and orders Remy to publish Freddy Hayes' criminal past and felonies. Freddy loses the restaurant franchise deal and he is forced to sell his restaurant to pay his son's bail. Frank visits him one last time and Freddy accepts his apology but refuses to accept financial assistance. Frank feels the loss of one of his few friends, and it motivates him to destroy Tusk.
23 10 "Chapter 23" Robin Wright Laura Eason and Beau Willimon February 14, 2014 (2014-02-14) HOC-210
President Walker responds to a Chinese blockade of a Japanese island, to prevent military action. At the Underwood residence, Secret Service agents apprehend a bomber who confesses that Claire's pro-abortion public confession influenced his wife to abort their child. Seth Grayson leaks information to Ayla Sayyad linking Raymond Tusk to Daniel Lanigan's casino, confirming her suspicions that Tusk is using laundered money to influence Congress. Ayla publishes the story, causing a huge stir in national media. President Walker consults the White House Counsel but eventually appoints a special prosecutor to clear the White House of involvement. Based on her military service, Jackie Sharp attempts to alter the proposed sexual assault legislation but Claire refuses to negotiate. Seth learns of Remy Denton's relationship with Jackie, leading Frank to believe that Jackie's opposition to the legislation is another attack from Tusk. Frank berates Jackie and suggests that Remy is playing her. Frank chooses Seth Gayson's strategy despite Doug's protest; he informs Doug that Doug's rivalry with Seth is affecting his work. Miserable, Doug permits Rachel Posner to allow Lisa Williams to stay with her. The Underwoods appreciate Meechum's loyalty and share an informal drink with him. The code Lucas Goodwin inserted into AT&T's data server enables Gavin Orsay to track Doug's movements.
24 11 "Chapter 24" John Coles John Mankiewicz and Beau Willimon February 14, 2014 (2014-02-14) HOC-211
Frank stonewalls Heather Dunbar, the special prosecutor leading the corruption investigation, but when she reveals a photograph of Doug Stamper at Daniel Lanigan's casino along with proof of his trip to China, Frank is forced to confirm his back-channelling effort with Xander Feng. Frank appears to cooperate by submitting his and President Walker's official travel logs. Daniel Lanigan accuses Remy Denton of making him a patsy to save Raymond Tusk. Remy tries to pressure Jackie Sharp to falsely implicate Frank in the scandal but she refuses to be manipulated. Unsure of which side will win, Remy offers Frank reduced attacks in return for Frank's influence should Raymond Tusk lose. Tricia Walker withdraws her support for the sexual assault legislation, so Claire encourages Megan Hennessey to go public with her story. Frank returns home to a drunk Claire and Edward Meechum, and joins them in a threesome. Doug mends his relationship with Seth Grayson. Doug struggles with his obsession with Rachel Posner, and sees her in bed with Lisa Williams. Dunbar finds President Walker's marriage counseling sessions in his travel logs.
25 12 "Chapter 25" James Foley Beau Willimon February 14, 2014 (2014-02-14) HOC-212
President Walker accuses Frank of engineering his downfall, and breaks off all contact with him. Frank convinces Catherine Durant and Heather Dunbar to obtain Xander Feng's testimony by offering him diplomatic immunity and political asylum. This forces President Walker to waive the therapist-patient privilege with Reverend Larkin. Heather Dunbar discovers Larkin was coached by the White House to withhold that he prescribed medication to President Walker, which further weakens President Walker's position. Seth Grayson reveals to Raymond Tusk that Remy Denton offered to rejoin Frank's team. Tusk is subpoenaed but he invokes the Fifth Amendment, confident he will get a presidential pardon. Megan Hennessey publicly derides Jackie Sharp for opposing the sexual assault legislation. Jackie publicly derides Claire, who then withdraws the sexual assault legislation, destroying Megan's composure. Doug Stamper forces Rachel Posner to break up with Lisa Williams and evict her. Gavin Orsay blackmails the FBI for his freedom and other conditions. The Underwoods convince Jackie to guide President Walker's impeachment, for the best interest of the Party.
26 13 "Chapter 26" James Foley Beau Willimon February 14, 2014 (2014-02-14) HOC-213
President Walker requests Raymond Tusk to implicate Frank in the money laundering scheme, in return for a pardon. Frank makes the same request, in return for an assurance to restore trade relations with China. Claire attempts to console Megan Hennessey, but she is pushed away by the newly broken girl. Gavin Orsay informs Doug Stamper that he knows about Rachel Posner, and pressures him for protection. Doug relocates Rachel, but terrified, she leaps out of his car and then beats him unconscious in the woods. In a risky gesture of fake loyalty, Frank sends President Walker a signed admission of sole responsibility for the scandal. President Walker requests Frank to produce results by whipping votes to stave off his impeachment, but Frank drives the opposite vote. President Walker revokes his offer to pardon Tusk, who then implicates him in the scandal, and is arrested. President Walker's approval rating drops to 8% and The House votes to pursue his impeachment, which forces him to resign. He parts with Frank on good terms, unconvinced of Frank's treachery. Frank is sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. He swiftly restores trade relations with China by extraditing Xander Feng to face corruption charges in China. Claire gifts Frank a copy of his class ring, which he previously buried at the Civil War memorial. He enters the Oval Office, puts on the ring and triumphantly double knocks on the desk, in his signature style.

Background[edit]

The second season was made available in its entirety on February 14, 2014 (Valentine's Day) at 12:01 a.m. PT.[6][7] Prior to the release of season 1, three reviewers, Hank Stuever of The Washington Post, Nancy deWolf Smith of The Wall Street Journal, and Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times, commented on possible binge viewing by Netflix customers.[8][9][10] Stanley notes that the show "is probably seen best one episode at a time. It's a delicious immorality play with an excellent cast, but the tempo is slow and oddly ponderous—a romp slowed down to a dirge".[10] Smith also notes that due to its "relentless theme", "House of Cards might go down better in smaller portions and thus be enjoyably prolonged", deriding potential binge watchers as people who liken a delicacy to a "bag of M&M's".[9] However, Stuever disagreed about season 1 saying "So, on the iffy chance that House of Cards draws you in and you simply cannot stop watching, then, yes, you may power-binge your way through all 13 hours at once".[8] Upon viewing the four episode season 2 preview Time's James Poniewozik says "I could easily see powering through the season in a free weekend, precisely because no individual episode needs much time to sink in".[7] Stanley also felt the second season was "binge-worthy" upon viewing the preview.[11] However, Ellen Gray of Philly.com supports not binge-watching the season, as she believes it does not serve it well.[12]

Production[edit]

Writing[edit]

Showrunner Beau Willimon drew inspiration from a book about Lyndon Johnson (pictured).

In interviews during the writing and filming of season 2 showrunner Beau Willimon said he had drawn inspiration for the series from a variety of sources including Robert Caro's The Years of Lyndon Johnson and Jeremy Larner's Nobody Knows. Lyndon B. Johnson was a repeated source for themes and issues. Willimon also commented on the fictional world of politics that the show represented: "It's a rough-and-tumble game whenever power is involved—people's ambitions, their desires, their competitive spirit will often push them to play outside the rules."[13] Willimon noted that "I don't think about topping things ... The evolution of character is not a game of one-upmanship. It is about change. Souls are vast and so the opportunity to explore ways in which characters contradict themselves and evolve is also vast" and that season 2 provided the opportunity "to expand the world and more deeply explore the characters".[14]

Spacey viewed continuing to portray Underwood for a second season as a continuing learning process. "There is so much I don't know about Francis, so much that I'm learning ... I've always thought that the profession closest to that of an actor is being a detective ... We are given clues by writers, sometimes clues they're aware of and sometimes not. Then you lay them all out and try to make them come alive as a character who's complex and surprising, maybe even to yourself".[15] Gerald McRaney spoke about his expanded role by saying that whereas in season 1 the challenge to playing his character, Raymond Tusk, was in "having to learn Mandarin", in season 2 his character has become "somebody who you don't know which color hat he's wearing".[16]

Filming[edit]

Netflix had ordered two seasons of 13 episodes when it made its original commitment to the series in 2011.[17][18] According to Governor of Maryland Martin O'Malley, production of the first season brought $140 million in the form of 2,200 jobs and transactions with 1,800 vendors to the Baltimore metropolitan area economy and the Maryland General Assembly expanded its Film Production Tax Credit so that season two could have similar impact over the course of 150 days of filming.[19][20] Like the first season, the second season was largely filmed in the Baltimore area.[21][22] Although production was publicized as being in Baltimore, Season 1 had based production in Harford County, Maryland,[23] and season 2 also had its production office in Edgewood and a Joppa sound stage.[24] The April 27, 2013 White House Correspondents Dinner spoofed House of Cards from the Maryland set prior to the beginning of the filming of season 2.[20] Filming began on Monday April 29, 2013,[25] which was just a few weeks later in the year than season 1 had started.[26] On May 14, O'Malley visited the set to publicize the success of the tax incentives.[27]

During spring and summer 2013, the show hosted several large casting calls some of which had over 1000 hopefuls.[28][29] On June 13, crews began preparing the State House for filming on June 17 and 18. The Maryland State House is not available for rent so the producers made donations to various organizations.[30] The show filmed in Annapolis at the Maryland House of Delegates and the wife of House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Cynthia, was cast as an extra. She played a United States Senator as the set depicted the United States Senate chamber.[31][32] The scenes were used as part of "Chapter 16" (season 2, episode 3).[33] On July 24, the show announced that it would film at the Baltimore County Circuit Courthouses in Towson, Maryland on July 31.[34] The filming occurred at this location on August 7.[35]

There was controversy regarding filming at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

On August 3, House of Cards was going to film a presidential motorcade at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. at 3 PM. However, Chief of police Cathy L. Lanier of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia (MPD) revoked the permits that morning. An MPD spokesperson explained "The Metropolitan Police Department is not the lead agency on presidential motorcades and we did not want to portray ourselves as such". As a result, the production crews did a last minute filming of the desired scenes back in Baltimore.[36] The next day, Mayor of the District of Columbia Vincent Gray stated that there was confusion on what role the MPD would play in the filming. A spokesperson from his office stated that ""MPD is not going to rent itself out as extras for film ... That's what MPD's decision was focused on. We're not going to be actors."[37] On October 2, all issues were resolved and the motorcade was filmed as originally planned without any MPD personnel "actively participate in the filming".[38]

In August, several areas in Harford County were used for filming season 2, including areas in Bel Air and Edgewood. Havre de Grace had been used in season 1 to depict Underwood's home district in South Carolina. The Liriodendron mansion was the scene of filming on August 12 and 13. Bel Air police were paid $1550 for August 13 duties at another filming location.[24][39][40]

Although there were reports that the filming was largely completed by October 1,[41] Willimon tweeted on that date that he had just finished writing the season finale.[42] Willimon and others tweeted that filming was completed on November 8.[43][44] The following week, House of Cards workers got involved in the Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts.[45]

According to an October 10 story in The Huffington Post, executive producer Rick Cleveland stated that he believed that season 2 would be the final season because both Spacey and Wright prefer to act in movies than in television.[46] However, Willimon remained optimistic that the show will continue.[47] The Baltimore Sun reporter, David Zurawik contested the journalistic process of The Huffington Post report because he says Modi Wiczyk, CEO of Media Rights Capital, the company that produces House of Cards, told him "I would basically be shocked if there wasn't [a season 3, 4 and 5]".[48] A few weeks later, Netflix's Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos confirmed that Netflix had an earnest interest in continuing House of Cards beyond its second season.[49]

Post-production[edit]

On December 4, 2013, Netflix announced that the 13-episode season would be released in its entirety on February 14, 2014.[6] Along with the scheduling announcement, Netflix confirmed that Francis (now Vice President) and Claire would "continue their ruthless rise to power as threats mount on all fronts".[6] After season 1 received four nominations for the 71st Golden Globe Awards on December 12, a season 2 trailer was released on December 13.[50] However, the first official full trailer was released on January 6.[51]

Willimon has stated "In conception of the second season, I put a lot of thought into the doors open to us in seasons three and beyond ... I didn't want to paint ourselves into a corner in the second season."[14] On February 4, 2014, Netflix announced it had renewed the web series for a season 3 of undisclosed length.[52] In May 2014, the season became one of the first Netflix streaming offerings available in 4K video format.[53][54]

Reception[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

The season was generally well received. The review aggregator Metacritic gave the season a score of 80 out of 100, based on 25 critics.[55] Another review aggregator, Rotten Tomatoes gave the season a rating of 85%, based on 34 reviews, with an average rating of 8.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "House of Cards proves just as bingeworthy in its second season, with more of the strong performances, writing, and visual design that made the first season so addictive."[56]

James Poniewozik of Time says "It is the same show you saw last season, the same weaknesses and strengths intact, but, as it makes clear before the first hour is over, every bit as brutal and sanguinary."[7] According to Sara Smith of The Kansas City Star, "The shock and delight of the showy storytelling ... has faded a bit".[3] Smith says that Barnes, Skorsky, and Goodwin's "investigation sucks them down a rabbit hole into a surreal underworld no sane reporter would explore".[3] Regarding Frank, Smith says "A show can successfully revolve around one man, but a flawless winning streak gets monotonous" and that "it's time for someone to take Frank down a notch".[3]

Willmore says that since characters have been introduced, "season two of House of Cards begins in a fashion that's far more free and quick-paced" than season 1.[57] Willmore also notes that, "If season one slowly grew blacker in tone as it went from serious games of power and manipulation to life-and-death ones, season two starts off there and looks to only get darker in content."[57] However, she stated that season 2 appeared to be lighter than season 1: "delivered with more of a wink by Frank than before. It may be darker, but it's also less heavy".[57]

Stanley praises the series saying "It's not clear exactly why this bleak series is so exhilarating and binge-worthy. It could be that just as victims of tragedy find it hard to accept that their suffering is random and purposeless, voters find it intolerable that so many of the petty, shortsighted moves by elected officials have no greater meaning than small-time expediency." She also notes that the series "is more cynical than The Americans on FX and more pessimistic about human nature than The Walking Dead on AMC".[11] However, The Americans "is more complex and inventive" according to Stanley who concurs that season 2 is darker but notes it is more compelling than season 1.[11] Stuever compares the show unfavorably to both Veep for its "bumbling chaos and ego implosions" over House of Cards "prohibitively sinister" execution and The Good Wife for its superior delivery of "nastiness and self-interest in power plays".[58]

Many critics criticized the lack of reasonable challenge for the Underwoods. James Poniewozik notes that "Francis needs a stronger nemesis, if not for the sake of justice then for the sake of excitement. And House of Cards would be a greater show if it had characters who were people more than game pieces. Still, on its limited terms, it's absorbing to watch".[7] According to Entertainment Weekly's Karen Valby, the show's fundamental problem is that "The Underwoods have no worthy opponents."[59] According to Variety's Brian Lowry, as conniving as Underwood is, it is unfathomable that "nobody else in a town built on power seems particularly adept at recognizing this or combating him".[2] Valby notes that neither Tusk nor Goodwin is an effective foe, leaving the audience longing for a comeuppance in the first four episodes that served as a preview for critics and his hopeful that Sharp provides a good foil as the season progresses.[59] He also wrote that House of Cards overplays its depiction of the edginess of "Washington being venal and corrupt". He describes the show as a "mixed bag".[2]

Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter describes the preview of the season by saying "It's entertaining and cruises along with a strong pulse. There's a core mystery and American politics is mocked, appropriately, for being a two-party hustle of recrimination and separatism."[60] Goodman notes that writer Beau Willimon has Frank "pontificate to the point of spouting cliches from time to time" and Frank's "conniving wins too often".[60] Goodman sums things up by saying "There's a heavier hand than is necessary at times" and "House of Cards needs to stay more focused to be successful."[60]

Chuck Barney of the San Jose Mercury News had a more mixed response, noting that the preview episodes show that the series is as "handsomely crafted and marvelously acted as ever" but the episodes don't "provoke the same kind of adrenaline rush as last season". Barney was also impressed with newcomer Parker: "She's an agile actress who can deliver a sense of soft-spoken warmth but also a steely fierceness that comes with an underlying message: 'Underestimate me at your own peril.'"[61]

The addition of Parker was well received among critics. Stanley notes that as Underwood's "protégée and, like everyone else in his poisoned orbit, soon discovers that Underwood expects his people to cast aside principle and pursue his grand plan."[11] Valby describes her performance as one "played with throbbing edge".[59] Goodman notes she serves to somewhat counterbalance Frank.[60]

Verne Gay of Newsday notes that "Spacey's Underwood is even more sinuous, more complex, more treacherous and so—as a result—is the deeply pleasurable show that surrounds him."[62]

Awards[edit]

On July 10, 2014, House of Cards earned thirteen Primetime Emmy Award nominations for the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards.[63] Among its nominations were Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for Kevin Spacey, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Robin Wright, Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for Beau Willimon and Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for Carl Franklin.[64] The second season was also nominated for several 66th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards, including Kate Mara for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series and Reg E. Cathey for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series.[64] Other Creative Arts nominations were received for Casting, Cinematography, Picture Editing, Music Composition, Sound Mixing, and Art Direction.[65]

Other recognitions included a TCA Award for Outstanding Achievement in Drama nomination at the 30th TCA Awards and the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series for Wright at the 4th Critics' Choice Television Awards.[66][67] For the 67th Writers Guild of America Awards, the series was nominated for Best Drama Series.[68] For the 21st Screen Actors Guild Awards, the cast was nominated for Best Drama Ensemble, Spacey won for Best Drama Actor, and Wright was nominated for Best Drama Actress.[69] For the 72nd Golden Globe Awards, the series was nominated for Best Television Series – Drama, Wright was nominated for Best Actress – Television Series Drama, and Spacey won for Best Actor – Television Series Drama.[70] For the 67th Directors Guild of America Awards, Jodie Foster was nominated for Outstanding Directing – Drama Series for the episode "Chapter 22".[71]

Impact[edit]

U.S. President Barack Obama quipped about his interest in an advance copy of the second series: "I wish things were that ruthlessly efficient ... It's true. I was looking at Kevin Spacey thinking, 'this guy's getting a lot of stuff done'."[14] The evening before the season was posted, someone responsible for the @BarackObama Twitter account (which is run by Organizing for Action[72]) tweeted a request that no spoilers be posted online.[73] Since the season debuted on Valentine's Day, The New York Observer created themed cards in honor of the series with quotes such as "A great man once said everything is about sex. Except sex. Sex is about power"[74] (an Oscar Wilde quote Underwood had stated during season 1).[75]

Whereas less than 2% of Netflix subscribers streamed season 1 during the first weekend last year, over 15% streamed at least one hour during the business day on February 14.[76]

Home media release[edit]

The second season was released on DVD and Blu-ray in region 1 on June 17, 2014 (2014-06-17),[77] in region 2 on June 16, 2014 (2014-06-16),[78] and in region 4 on June 19, 2014 (2014-06-19).[79]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]