Get ready, Washington: Frank Underwood is back and he’s more devious than ever. The official trailer for the second season of House of Cards was released, and it promises even more of the manipulation, underhanded deals, and secret affairs that made the first season of the show so addicting. Frank has succeeded in his goal of becoming Vice President, all without needing a single vote (“Democracy is so overrated”) but the web of lies and crimes he wove on his way to the top seems to be unraveling. In addition to Zoe Barnes digging into Frank’s past, it seems like several other media outlets have discovered reason to be suspicious of the new VP, which means Frank needs to keep his secrets buried if he wants to hold onto his power. Unfortunately for him, he’s got plenty of enemies who would like to see him fall from grace.
But in addition to all of the intensity and scheming, the new trailer promises something else. Something ultimately much more satisfying. The trailer promise that, despite so many other political thrillers’ penchant for losing all hold on realism or logic, House of Cards will try its best not to fall into the same trap. While it’s hard to describe any show that involves a maniacal Kevin Spacey drawling into a camera as “realistic,” House of Cards has done a pretty good job of managing Frank’s power grabs so that they make sense, as well as ensuring that all of his actions have consequences. Watching him deal with those consequences created many of the more compelling storylines on the show. However, there was one thing Frank did that didn’t fit in with the realism established by the show, and could have been an indicator of House of Cards jumping the shark. We are, of course, referring to the murder of Representative Peter Russo.
It’s not so much that Frank wouldn’t be capable of murdering someone, as a character so ruthless and determined to get his own way would certainly be capable of anything, but rather the fact that he was able to get away with it so easily. If a U.S. congressman turned up dead, there would likely be a very in-depth investigation, and even if the authorities were unable to tie Frank to Peter’s death, then there would certainly have been a great deal of suspicion surrounding him and everyone else who was close to Peter. And with Frank about to become the new Vice President, the press would have spent a great deal of time digging through his past, and possibly finding some way to connect him to his colleague’s death. However, it seems like the closure and consequences that Peter’s death was lacking in the first season is finally coming into play in a major way this time around.
Based on the trailer, it seems like the media is particularly suspicious of his actions, and someone may have stumbled upon a conspiracy that goes “all the way to the White House.” The last thing that Frank needs is added scrutiny as he takes office, as that will keep from being able to continue to manipulate everyone around him the way that he used to, and it means that someone could possibly uncover the relationship he has with Peter’s death. All of that added scrutiny is also making the President more aware of Frank’s behavior, which could put his new job in jeopardy just as much as a murder investigation. It also seems as if Zoe is getting close to discovering something, and with their relationship fractured, Frank can’t guarantee that he will be able to control what she prints anymore, leaving himself open to being betrayed by his former trusted reporter. As ambitious as Zoe is, it’s hard to see her letting something like this slide, so it’s in Frank’s best interests to keep her from revealing anything to the public.
As fascinating as it is watching Frank wheel and deal, we’re really excited to watch him try and scheme his way out of this situation. Convincing congressmen to go back on their promises and treating people like pawns in a giant game of chess is one thing, but attempting to keep a murder covered up as the second most important man in the country is something completely different, and it might be too much for Frank to handle. More than just creating addicting television, though, forcing Frank to deal with the collateral damage of his rise to power keeps the show from flying completely off the rails. Even though it might be a bit far-fetched to begin with, the universe established in House of Cards has always been one that deals with actions having consequences, and often, those consequences are massively debilitating. If the show just allows Frank to kill off other senators as he chooses, without any repercussions, then that grasp on reality is gone, and the show will suffer as a result.
One of the biggest criticisms that plagued the most recent season of Homeland was that it seemed to lose touch with any sense of reality or consequences in favor of putting the characters in crazy situations just to generate shock from the audience, and it’s a problem that political thrillers often face. Because House of Cards is not as heavily reliant on action as shows like Homeland or 24, it has allowed them to keep things smaller, and therefore more in line with reality. Peter’s murder could signal that the show is moving in a more action-intensive direction, but that would take away a lot of what made the first season interesting. Hopefully, the second season will manage to follow through on the promise made by the trailer, and will avoid following in the path of Homeland and 24 by bringing the more off-the-wall aspects back down to earth.
Although, if anyone could manage to talk down a terrorist cell, it’s probably Frank Underwood. The new season of House of Cards will be available to stream starting February 14 on Netflix.