Note: This article contains spoilers for the show. If you are a newcomer to the series, refrain from reading.
Netflix released Season 2 of its highly-acclaimed political thriller “House of Cards” in full on Valentine’s Day. With much anticipation built into this upcoming season, the metaphorical “house of cards” came crashing down slowly around everyone, except for Frank Underwood, of course.
Frank, played by the phenomenal Kevin Spacey, had finally been tapped to become the nation’s vice president at the end of last season. Well, this season picked up right where it left off, with Frank and his wife, Claire (Robin Wright), running on a midnight jog.
What separates this series from other great shows is the propensity for the main character to routinely break the fourth wall, helping us as viewers to feel a strong, real connection to someone whom we know we are supposed to loathe and despise at all turns. In the first episode of Season 2, titled “Chapter 14,” with all episodes following this chronological label, Frank takes his time to dive into his euphorically drawn out soliloquies, while always saying something substantial. When he asks the viewer, “Did you think I forgot about you?” I knew this season would be an emotional roller coaster much like the last.
What drives Frank’s motives is not the belief that he as a politician has a duty to the American people, but that he only has a duty to himself and whatever he sees as beneficial toward his own cause. If you haven’t picked up on it before, Frank is driven, obsessed really, with the idea of becoming the president of the United States.
Late in Season 2, Frank writes a letter to the then-president explaining the motive for his actions. While it is hard to find a time when Frank is being honest with himself and his motives, he does take the time in his letter to say the underlying theme of the show: He says he would by lying to the president if every time he walked in his office, he wouldn’t find himself imagining what it would be like to be the leader of the greatest country.
This power-driven man’s ego continues to be fed throughout the season, but those accomplishments are only a mere appetizer to what he truly desires. The real meal Frank desires stares at him every time he walks into the president’s office: the desk and chair that when shown, seem larger than life. He feels it deep inside him when he gets near it — the never-ending desire to be the one person in the world who has more power and control over everything, but how he gets there is where the story lies, no pun ever being more meaningful.
Frank knows that in order to work his way into the chair of the presidency, he must do what he does best: make the stable house of cards, consisting of everyone who stands in his way, fall down, card by card.
After speaking to Raymond Tusk (Gerald McRaney), the president’s right-hand man and no stranger to the political game himself, Frank acknowledges “the gift of a good liar is making people think you lack a talent in lying.”
But with all the lying surrounding and holding up Frank’s political career, viewers begin to question if he has reached the point where every lie he tells actually feels like the truth to him. Blurring the lines between the truth and lies is a tight rope to dance, but to this point, Frank hasn’t faltered one bit and balances both of these with the prowess of a savvy, cunning politician. This leads to how Frank will eventually find his way to the seat he covets most — through political backdooring and handshakes made to be broken. How he meticulously finds a way to connect and turn all the political slander is unfathomable, but at the same time makes viewers question the integrity of our political system.
Yes, this is a fictional story about a politician’s obsession with becoming president, but when we have become accustomed as a society to think all politicians are crooked — willing to do anything to maintain their stature and act as puppets for those who actually control their votes — you begin to see similarities between this world and Frank’s world. Where we see collusion and political fixtures not suitable for the highest office in the land, Frank sees manipulation pouring from his body, willing to do anything and everything to get his way. The art of deception is just that: making those who surround you not know what you are actually doing to them until it is too late. Although some people see through Frank’s ruse, it often leads to them succumbing to his own will, whether they like it or not.
Already renewed for a third season, Netflix has positioned itself to back a strong show with great acting, directing, writing and most of all — storytelling. There is a reason why it is called binge–watching. If you create a series great enough that people can’t turn it off, then you have done something right. Frank is that character whose hubris is detectable as soon as you hit play. It is just too hard to find a way to turn it off.