After doing reviews for the first half of the season individually, we decided that in the interest of staying relevant, we would just review the second half of House of Cards on its own.
My perception of this series has been consistently positive, however, with in the confines of positivity, it has been a bit of an up and down venture. It took 3 chapters to find its groove, and save for a couple stumbles, made it to the finale in fine fashion. Unfortunately, the finale was one of the weakest chapters in the series.
The implied long-term mission of Frank Underwood was somewhat clear early on, the Presidency. Once Frank starts positioning himself and subordinates within different strata of beltway culture, things start looking up. But the series did a very unusual thing, and that is that it made you second guess on what his long-term goal really was. After five or 6 chapters you start to wonder how any of this is actually helping him, and the writers really leave viewers in the dark as to what is going on until much later in the series. At this revelatory moment you first think, well that was a waste of five episodes, until you realize that this was the plan all along.
I will try to avoid saying what actually takes place, but it is a brilliant bait and switch maneuver between our man Russo and the sitting VP (who essentially plays real life VP, Biden). The whole course of this is really smartly put together, but I still have a nagging feeling that the whole thing was written without the viewer in mind. When I watch a mystery show (not that this is a mystery show), I expect to see all the clues the second time around that I did not see the first time, but they simply are not there, so it made the first three-quarters of the series feel a little cheap to me.
Now when we get to the season finale things are set up for a grand conclusion. Francis has successfully maneuvered himself to take the VP seat (and subsequently the Presidency) by playing the VP and President off each other (as with everyone else in this town), Claire reached the end of her emotional journey, and Miss Barnes and her posse have finally put all the puzzle pieces together. The only problem is that the finale ends about forty-five minutes before it should. In fact, you can clearly see where the original British series ends, was hacked off, and subsequently stitched together with a cliffhanger for season two, which completely sucks the air out of whatever had happened up to this point. This obviously was not a story from which a second season was meant to be drawn. What should have been a confrontation between Zoe and Francis never happens, he gets what he wants and the Zoe posse are ready to pull the trigger and unleash a nightmare for Francis. But when it just stops, you feel like you watched the penultimate episode instead of the finale.
I really enjoyed the vast majority of my experience with this show, everything from the set-pieces, dialogue, cast and acting was very well handled. But in the end, I know commercialism wins in America, where the British series had the balls to ends things when they naturally should, we just can not create something new (the show is a remake for goodness sake). I knew it was destined for a second season, but at the very least, end the first season before you start the next.
So instead of the common saying “in-spite of all its faults, I love it”, I say “in spite of all its strengths, I like it”.