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HOUSE OF CARDS Season 2 Finale Review

House of Cards (2012) poster

Written by : published Saturday 5th April 2014

Everyone watches House of Cards at different speeds. Some will plow through a batch of thirteen episodes within two days of its release. Some may watch a single hour per week, like most TV shows air. I decided to go for a middle ground when picking when to post this review. If you watched two episodes per week every week since season two was posted, you'd be right at the season finale now, as I am.

IMPORTANT: If you have not watched all of season 2 of Netflix's House of Cards yet, I recommend stopping here. Important story points will be spoiled if you continue. You have been warned.

"Chapter 26" is undeniably a big one for House of Cards. Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey) is losing his tenuous grasp on power as President Walker (Michael Gill), Raymond Tusk (Gerald McRaney), and Linda Vazquez (Sakina Jaffrey) plot to see Francis wind up behind bars, pinning the whole mess with the Chinese on him. His wife, Claire (Robin Wright), who has come through on her end of the bargain, basically tells Francis to step up, no excuses, and complete their scheme. So he does.

Claire has every reason to be frustrated with Francis. While they are a team, and have been so even more in the second run than the first, they respect one another because of their strength and commitment to the cause. Claire hurts people she cares about, playing on First Lady Tricia Walker's (Joanna Going) insecurities, secretly betraying their friendship while seducing her, all the while destroying Megan (Libby Woodbridge), a girl Claire works with. This costs Claire much emotionally, as we see in a private moment on the staircase.

Yet, Claire can live with her actions because, in her mind, the ends justify the means. She resolves not to care about others, even as she can't help but let a little humanity slip through, but in the end, she still is willing to sacrifice them. She's the queen on the chessboard, and sometimes pawns and bishops alike must take the fall.

Francis can learn a lot from his wife, and he does. Many of his power plays have been ruthless, smiling while slipping the knife between the ribs. In "Chapter 26," Francis takes a page from Claire's playbook and uses affection to win over Walker. Kind words, perfectly crafted to appeal to both Walker's ego and soul, worm their way into Walker's head and turn him to Frank's side, which, in the end, results in Francis winning the day and Walker resigning in disgrace, all the while believing Frank has only Walker's best interests at heart.

More impressive than how Frank and Claire carry out their plans is the emotional depth, not lack of emotion, in which they do it. They care about themselves and each other, and they do have things and people they value, but because their frame of reference is so different from most viewers', it's almost like the actors are playing aliens. While a select few grow wise to their methods, many others continue to believe in them. The couple is reptilian in nature, cold-blooded. They can put on a front so completely and sincerely as to draw their prey in, as a true predator does, then somehow manage to keep those masks in place. It's not only brilliant writing, but supreme acting talent that delivers the subtlety needed to pull such characters off, and House of Cards blows me away once again in this season finale.

Now, Frank is the president and the Underwoods seem to have realized their dreams. From here, Francis can't go up, so he must go down. The ending of "Chapter 26" implies that next year's third outing will be the show's last, mirroring the British model's trio of (much shorter) miniseries. Netflix could stretch things out (no ending has yet been announced), having Frank hold onto power longer, but it seems unlikely. With such a high-quality show, working through defined arcs, the end feels nigh.

Frank must lose because viewers will never be able to stomach him winning. He's too conniving, corrupt, selfish, and evil to be allowed to keep the Oval Office. As much as we root for him not to get caught because that will end the game, that is what we want to see in the end. Season two forestalled this feeling by pitting Frank against those almost as bad as he is, Tusk chief among them. Now, it's time for Francis' rule to come to an end.

are no shortage of people who could and would bring Frank down. If they can unite, he doesn't stand a chance. Hacker Gavin Orsay (Jimmi Simpson), along with his fan-favorite guinea pig, Cashew, knows the government is bad, and seeks to free Lucas (Sebastian Arcelus), who might just be dumb and idealistic enough to go back into the fray. Jackie (Molly Parker) has a bone to pick, as do Tusk and Remy (Mahershala Ali). Rachel (Rachel Brosnahan) could be the key to finding Francis guilty of murder, and with her guardian, Doug (Michael Kelly), now dead in a surprise twist, she's available to assist. And these are only the tip of the iceberg.

Which is why I think time is running out for the Underwoods. Francis and Claire have their day, as many do, but it won't last. I will enjoy seeing them in the seat of power until they aren't any more, and will revel just as much in their downfall. Whatever twists and turns the writers come up with, season three should not be boring in getting to that final destination.

House of Cards will return to Netflix next winter.

About the author JeromeWetzelTV

JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome Wetzel is a huge fan of stories, in both books and television. He writes TV reviews and fiction. He currently posts articles for TheTVKing, Seat42F, and BlogCritics, as well as his own personal blog, as well as writing fiction. His website is www.jeromewetzel.com Follow him on twitter @JeromeWetzelTV

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