Monday, March 3, 2014

House of Cards Season 2 Review: At heights of danger

[Fair warning before I continue with this review. If you haven’t watched season one of House of Cards, then run-off and do something else or run-off and start watching.]

It’s been a whole year since the debut of the first season of “House of Cards” and it’s been quite a long wait. Season two finally came storming in this Valentines—and it surely wasn't a love story. It brings back all that we loved about the first season and more.

“House of Cards” is perhaps one of the darkest shows there are out there. It even beats “Walking Dead” which is definitely considered to be one of the top contenders for “dark shows”.  But, both shows are in different realms, miles apart. While “Walking Dead” follows the survival of a group of people in a zombie apocalypse, “House of Cards” focuses on a congressman’s machinations and betrayals as he navigates towards the oval office.

Season 2 continues where season one ended, without taking any pit-stops or moments of air.  The first episode is almost equally shocking as the previous seasons’ major character death. While fragments of this plot-line cover the first part of the season, the true spot-light falls on Frank Underwood’s ascent to presidency. With his grasp of presidency so close, Frank becomes ever so brutal and relentless. Similar to the previous season, Kevin Spacey often breaks the fourth-wall and speaks right to the audience. Although this form of dialogue is rarely seen in movies, it is very apropos especially considering the political nature of the series. Without the short asides, we are only exposed to the deceptive façades and “political crap” that comes out of the politicians. They also often contribute to the humor of the series—which to some is considered inadequate, but in reality, it is well-tuned with the atmosphere of the show.

It is true that Frank Underwood is the protagonist; however his wife, Claire Underwood (Robin Wright), is unequivocally the genuine heart and center of the story. Their relationship is very reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, yet also quite different. In contrast to Lady Macbeth, Claire plays a strong role in the series and indulges her own share of the plot. Their marriage seems less built on love but more on mutual desires and correspondent goals. She might sometimes even seem more ruthless than her husband but, in fact, she just puts a strong and unwavering veneer. As a result, the most powerful scene of the whole show is when the audience finally sees Claire flesh deep—without any of her masks. Although it’s just a small glimpse of humanity, it is definitely something to look forward to in the next season.

“House of Cards” is impressive on all levels, but the most remarkable aspect of the series is the visual design and cinematography. The color palette used in the episodes are not the usual bright warm colors instead they are slightly tinted—making the images more absorbing. The most attractive colors are the crisply dark wooden oak against the blue colors of the American flag. The overall effect reflects the tone of the series that is far away from the security and comfort that one would expect and closer to a mysterious unravelling.  Another visually spectacular scene that translates from the first season is the end-of-the-day lighting of the cigarette. The dark night superposed with the elegantly growing smoke is definitely a central tableau. Specifically, the contrast of the fume and the night creates a blue-tinted smoke that is exquisitely striking. It’s dark but it is a beautiful dark.

The second season of “House of Cards” reaffirms its place as one of the best TV shows; it comes with a few shocking surprises along the way – but never depicts the protagonist at anything but his highest. To end the analogy with Macbeth, only when the tragic hero or in this case the villain is at his paramount is he meant to go down. And that is what we should expect from season three.

No comments:

Post a Comment