Netflix’s amazing House of Cards returns for its second season next Friday, February 14th. The first season is a riveting 13-episode political drama about Congressman Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), his wife Claire (Robin Wright), and their ruthless attempt to gain power and position in Washington. Thirteen hours in five days is doable and I recommend watching the entire, brilliant series. But just in case you don’t have that time and want to be part of Cards conversations next weekend (and there definitely will be one), here are the 6 episodes I think you need to see to be prepared for season two.

Since most of the delight of Cards lies in its surprises, I’ll keep the descriptions vague.

Chapter 1

The introduction to Cards’ world of power players and those who they play. All the hallmarks of the series debut: Frank’s address to the camera; the Underwood’s late night smoking; insight into their marriage (Frank about Claire: “I love that woman. I love her more than sharks love blood.”). But every small detail (Zoe and Frank’s initial meeting; Peter’s dalliance with a prostitute) proves to be important.

Chapter 4

Zoe’s profile rises within the media world and her relationship with Frank takes a dramatic leap. Meanwhile, Frank’s begins to exert his control over Peter.

Chapter 8

A rare detour out of the world of politics and into the past of Frank Underwood. He and Claire visit his college, The Sentinel, a South Carolina military college. Not only do you see what Frank was like before power corrupted him but you learn he was in love with one of his male classmates.

Chapter 10

This episode is worth watching alone for a scene where Claire enters Zoe’s apartment and slinks around like a lion sniffing its prey. Peter’s disastrous radio interview is also one of the most difficult scenes to watch and is just the beginning of his character’s tragic descent.

Chapter 11

The fallout from Peter’s radio interview provides the material for Cards most shocking and ultimately heartbreaking episode. The fact that Corey Stoll didn’t get an Emmy nom for this episode is a tragedy.

Chapter 13

It’s probably best for me to say nothing about this chilling cliffhanger, only that I could not be more excited to see where season two takes viewers.

Agree with me Cards fans? Are there different episodes you’d suggest for Cards virgins?