We’ve reached the finale of S2 of Netflix’s House Of Cards. It’s time to see whether all of Francis’ (Kevin Spacey) plans have paid off or if everything comes tumbling down.
Let’s bitch it out…
It’s been quite a week. I feel almost as exhausted as President Walker (Michael Gill) looks after marathoning the ups and downs of House Of Cards‘ second season. We’ve lost a ton of characters over the thirteen episodes (Zoe, Gillian, Lucas, Sakina Jaffrey’s Linda, Freddy, Christina & Adam) and in the season finale, we lose another pair: President Walker and his wife Tricia (Joanna Going) who, like everyone else, are outmaneuvered by Francis and Claire Underwood (Robin Wright). Throw in Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) and this season has carried quite the body count.
Compared to the other episodes this season, I have the least to say about this one. It’s very, very similar to the S1 finale: Francis is on the verge of getting his ass handed to him, but pulls off a brilliant upset and not only manages to stave off defeat, but improbably climbs the political ladder to the next level of power. At this point he’s risen to the top of the food chain without ever facing an election, which I imagine for some is completely unbelievable (if so, welcome to Hollywood; enjoy your stay). Whether or not audiences can suspend their disbelief, this result has been telegraphed for at least the last few episodes; we’ve known for quite some time that this is where Francis would end up. Let’s not lie to ourselves: there was never a chance that he would be indicted, and despite Walker’s best efforts, Francis clearly plays the game better than him. Taking over the office of the President was always where S2 would end.
If nothing else ‘Chapter 26’ serves as closure for a number of remaining story lines (Side Note: it’s easy to imagine the episode acting as a series finale had Netflix decided not to order another season).
- Jackie (Molly Parker) keeps her position of power and presumably finds a place for Remy (Mahersala Ali) who will return to the White House.
- Tusk (Gerald McRaney) lies about Walker’s involvement in the money laundering scheme, but his cooperation with Dunbar (Elizabeth Marvel) means he’ll likely get a reduced sentence.
- Feng (Terry Chen) is sacrificed by Francis and Durant (Jayne Atkinson) in order to soothe tensions with the Chinese. Feng’s rescinded amnesty means that he’ll be executed, but – as Francis has demonstrated time and again – it’s okay to sacrifice one for the good of many.
- Last but not least, Rachel (Rachel Brosnahan), fearing for her life after Stamper orders her to once again pack her bags, clubs the Chief of Staff with a rock in the woods and leaves him dead in the woods. At this point she can disappear and Gavin (Jimmi Simpson), whose blackmail of Stamper instigated these events, no longer has any leverage.
In between there are a few powerful moments, such as when Claire’s carefully maintained façade breaks down following Megan’s suicide attempt. She gives herself a few moments to cry, then quickly regains her composure, putting the mask firmly back in place. As we’ve seen, there’s no room for emotional weakness on House Of Cards and that clinical detachment is necessary to achieve goals.
In reality, however, everything else is lip service to the final scene of the season, which is the moment that Francis silently enters the Oval Office, clears away the chair and stands behind the desk. For a moment I thought that he might address us as he did at the end of the first episode of the season – after all, House Of Cards loves to repeat and recycle scenes. Instead of offering up more purple militaristic prose, the silence continues. After nearly one year and two birthday gifts (FU cufflinks and a recreated ring to replace the one he buried in 2×05 ‘Chapter 18’), there’s nothing left to say: Francis’ silver tongue has already given him everything he desired. And so, with a trademark double rap on wood, Francis bids us goodbye and another chapter – and season – of House Of Cards comes to a close.
- Linda (to Tusk, once again showing her naivety): “Good things happen to those who do the right thing.” Oh Linda, this is why you couldn’t stay on this show.
- Megan (to Claire, echoing Adam’s hatred): “I wish I never met you.”
- Tricia (after Claire apologizes): “You’re a good person, Claire.”
- Francis (when Tusk inquires what a VP can offer): “I think I’ve proven that I’m not your typical Vice-President.”
And that’s a wrap on S2. Did you like it more, less or the same as S1? What was the most shocking twist to you (Zoe’s subway murder? The threesome? Doug’s death?). Who filled the Peter Russo void this season? And what do you hope happens in S3 now that there’s a relatively clean slate? Sound off below.
House Of Cards is available in its entirety on Netflix. A third season has been ordered, though conflict over Maryland’s tax incentives may prevent it from debuting in a year’s time.