Did you spend all of Presidents Day weekend breathlessly binge-watching the second season of House of Cards? Good — because so did I. (It’s what George Washington would have wanted.) And after coming up for air, fortifying myself with a few racks of slow-cooked ribs, and spending way too long Googling variations on “fluffy pet from the future and/or outer space” — seriously, there is no way Cashew is actually a guinea pig — I’m finally ready to process what I just saw.
(Spoilers, obviously, follow.)
First and foremost: Oh, so that’s why Netflix chose to release season 2 on this particular weekend. The drama’s first batch of episodes concluded with Frank ascending to the vice presidency; its latest upped the ante, ending on an image of the newly sworn-in President Underwood defiantly pounding his new ring on the Oval Office’s Resolute desk. That move, as you may recall — or not; season 1 seems like it came out ages ago — is a callback to Frank’s old habit of tapping twice every time he gets up from a table or leaves a lectern. As Frank once told Raymond Tusk, he picked this up from his father: “It’s meant to harden your knuckles so you don’t break them if you get into a fight. It also has the added benefit of knocking on wood. My father believed that success is a mixture of preparation and luck. Tapping the table kills both birds with one stone.”
Only a lifetime of lucky taps could explain how Frank managed to get pretty much everything he wanted in season 2 while suffering barely any consequences… and, even more improbably, without more than a handful of people so much as growing suspicious of his meteoric rise.
House of Cards has never been overly concerned with plausibility; if it were, then security camera footage of Frank leaving both the garage where Russo died and the Metro station where Zoe died might have foiled him long ago. That said, I’m not sure if I really buy how easy it was for him to supplant President Walker — though I guess it helps that Walker is the most useless fictional Commander-in-Chief this side of Scandal‘s Fitzgerald Grant III.
Still, given the way things go on Cards, Frank’s ultimate triumph has to rank among the least surprising things about season 2 — right up there with Claire’s flawless wardrobe and the gradual corruption of Jackie Sharp. The finale did, however, leave me with a pile of burning questions, including the following:
Is Doug Stamper truly dead, or could Frank’s right-hand man pull through to season 3? Whoops — as that brief blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene near the end of the finale proves, Doug is dead as a doornail. (British spoiler alert: In the U.K. version of House of Cards, Stamper dies at the end of the second series when his car explodes.) Are you going to miss him?
– What’s going to happen to poor ex-prostitute Rachel, who smacked her jailer in the head with a rock before taking off in his extra-fancy car? No matter where she’s headed, at least she’ll be entertained; the audiobook of A Tale of Two Cities is like 15 hours long. Maybe she can pick up Lisa and listen to the whole shebang while driving to Canada or something.
– Is the Slugline Gang — now just Janine and incarcerated Lucas — really out of the “get Underwood” game forever? Janine decided to back down from their investigation of Frank awfully quickly; I’m sort of hoping that she throws herself back into it now that he’s managed to snake his way into the presidency. Maybe she can team up with New Zoe, a.k.a. intrepid Wall Street Telegraph journalist, to actually bring down the Underwoods.
– Speaking of the Underwoods and, er, going down: Aside from Zoe’s brutal murder, was the Meechum Threesome the most shocking thing to happen in all of season 2?
– And speaking of Scandal, sort of: Was Cards‘ first lady supposed to be a much less awesome version of Mellie Grant, or was that totally unintentional?
– What was the point of showing Xander Feng’s penchant for erotic asphyxiation — pure prurience, or some kind of silly metaphor? (Frank is the plastic bag!!)
– Did anyone ever actually believe billionaire Raymond Tusk would be a worthy opponent for Frank? After watching a full 13 episodes of his machinations, I’m still not sure if I actually get what makes him tick — and I also never doubted for a second that Frank would be able to squash him like a very rich bug.
– Is poor Freddy going to be okay?! Please say Freddy is going to be okay. Could Frank issue him/his son a presidential pardon and invite them to be the White House’s official secretaries of barbecue?
– What do uber-hacker Gavin Orsay and his alien gremlin Cashew have up their furry little sleeves? Is he going to bring down Frank? Is anyone?
– Which brings us, perhaps, to the most important question of all: What do you want to see in season 3? Your answers may vary depending on whether this is House of Cards‘ final outing or something more open-ended. Note that the British version (spoilers, again!) concludes with Francis’ wife orchestrating his assassination in an attempt to preserve his reputation; while there’s no guarantee that Beau Willimon and co. would follow a similar path for the American House of Cards, there are enough similarities between the two that we shouldn’t rule out the possibility.