'House of Cards' Season 2 Review: Burning Questions Remain After Netflix Binge

 @EllenKilloran
on February 18 2014 12:15 PM
House of Cards Season 2
Claire and Frank Underwood of "House of Cards" have an unusual marriage. Netflix

Like many of you, I watched all 13 episodes of “House of Cards” season 2 this weekend, and like many of you, I’m not proud. But it had to be done. In the spirit of the Winter Olympic games, the second season of “House of Cards” gets a 7.8 out of 10 from the International Business Times. 

[Major spoilers ahead, obviously.]

I appreciate many things about “House of Cards,” chief among them that while most episodes end on something of a cliffhanger, the season 1 and 2 finales both resolved major plotlines: Mainly, whether Frank Underwood’s calculations have landed him where he wants to be on the political chessboard. But as it would be impossible to address all of the curious nuances in “House of Cards,” I’m left with some lingering questions about the second season:

Is Walker playing Underwood?

Sure, President Walker’s approval rating dropped into the single digits as the threat of impeachment grew nearer, but did anyone else think he gave up just a little too easily? I find it hard to believe that a single, transparently manipulative letter from Underwood was enough to change Walker’s mind about him. Sure, it took him a while to figure it out, but Walker eventually caught on to Frank’s scheming, and he pretty much nailed it. I don’t have a fully formed theory as to how Walker plans to take Underwood down -- if that is indeed his plan -- just a hunch that the (former) President and First Lady may have come up with a scheme of their own while hunkered down at Camp David. I thought it was notable that Walker gave the letter back to Underwood when he was standing right next to a burning fireplace, and that Underwood didn’t open it before he tossed it into the flames. How do we know for sure it was the same letter Underwood typed? We don’t.

Do Claire and Frank ever have sex?

Yes, we saw Frank and Claire Underwood participate in what looked like the beginnings a bona fide threesome, but when was the last time they had sex, just with each other? They certainly have an emotionally intimate relationship, but does that intimacy extend to the bedroom, or is their open marriage a byproduct of an agreement that they would have a celibate marriage, the better to achieve their shared goals?

There’s a revealing scene in episode 10, when Frank asks Claire if she misses being with Adam; in return she asks him if he is satisfied. Frank points out that they don’t have the same freedom they used to, but says, “I don’t mind the sacrifice -- we chose this instead,” gesturing toward the computer screen playing the couple’s very first TV interview. I got the sense that Claire and Frank weren’t just talking about extramarital sex, but sex, period.

Now, Claire did admit to having an abortion during Frank’s campaign for congressman, but she never said explicitly that he was the father of the unborn child -- it was just assumed. And it’s not an invalid assumption: They are a married couple who appear to love each other, albeit in a twisted way, and you would think both of them would be extra careful about using birth control in their extramarital dalliances. Still, I can’t shake Frank’s quoting of Oscar Wilde in season 1: “A great man once said, everything is about sex. Except sex. Sex is about power.” Perhaps keeping sex out of their marriage -- or at least to a minimum -- is Frank and Claire’s way of maintaining the balance of power between them. That said, just because we never see them having sex doesn’t mean they’re not having it -- but I doubt its conspicuous absence is an accident.

What’s the deal with Rachel’s church friend Lisa?

When we last saw Rachel Posner, she was fleeing the scene of a crime that took Doug Stamper’s life. She’s clearly in a lot of trouble, but she sure does have an ace to play if she’s prosecuted. Rachel’s fate is a question that will undoubtedly be answered in season 3, as she is in a position to expose Frank Underwood’s murderous side. For the moment, it seems like a pretty safe bet that Rachel will go straight to her new friend/girlfriend Lisa -- since she has absolutely no one else to turn to -- but does Lisa really offer a safe haven? She showed up out of nowhere, very soon after Rachel was relocated, and didn’t waste any time setting up camp at Rachel’s apartment. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t completely buy her story about the falling out with her roommate, and if she’s an established member of the Bible group, as she seemed to indicate, why was Rachel her only option? You would think she’d have other friends who can help her. Perhaps she is driven by her attraction for Rachel, or is staying close with the intention of converting her.

But maybe there is something else going on: The Underwoods have plenty of enemies with resources -- Remy Danton and Raymond Tusk, for starters -- and it isn’t out of the question that the hacker informant isn’t the only one who knows about Rachel, or why she’s being kept in quasi-witness protection.  I’m not totally convinced Lisa isn’t who she claims to be, but the double-crossing inherent to the climate of “House of Cards” makes it difficult to take anyone at face value.

We only have to wait a year for some answers: The third season of “House of Cards” is already in the works, and is expected to drop sometime in 2015, though there is no official premiere date yet. 

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