'House of Cards': Catch Up on Season 1 Before Marathoning Season 2
This Friday is what we've all been waiting for—not Valentine's Day, do you know who I am? But the Netflix premiere of Season 2 of House of Cards. Last year, the first season of the Netflix original was released over Superbowl weekend, which proved difficult for some if sports are your thing. This year they delayed the release a week, waiting for Valentine's Day, which seems a perfect choice for Season 2 of the bloody, darkly-lit political thriller starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright to air.
Before you watch Season 2, though, you should probably brush up on what went down in Season 1. Spoiler alert: A LOT OF SHIT WENT DOWN. Rewatching it is ideal, but if you don't have 13 hours to spare before Friday, you can take a look at our brief recaps of each Chapter of the first Season.
In like the first ten seconds of the show we see House Majority Whip Francis “Frank” Underwood murder a dog. Hitting the ground running, Fincher! In his breaking-the-fourth-wall soliloquy style, Underwood tells the audience that he has “no patience for useless things.” Needless to say, he’s not a dad.
What we learn: Underwood, a Congressman from South Carolina , is the House Whip but is gunning for the Secretary of State seat which he’s been promised by future President Walker. But then, surprise, Walker’s secretary Linda Vasquez calls Frank into her office and tells him he’ll be staying in Congress even though he’s paid his dues, and the position is going to David Kern. Underwood tries to protest but Linda is like “YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US,” which is sad, even for evil Francis.
We also meet Frank’s wife Claire (Robin Wright), whose cheekbones are as killer as her spirit. She runs a charity (irony!) and is Frank’s partner in crime. Then there’s Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara), a reporter at the Washington Herald who is really hankering for an Internet Web Blog instead of the small time crap she has to write. She goes rogue, and shows up at Frank’s home at the end of the episode, wherein these two bastard people enter a deal: Frank will be her source, and she’ll print anything he says no questions asked. Very good journalism if you ask me.
Other players: there’s, of course, Peter Russo, a bro in Congress just lookin’ for a good time. He’s sleeping with his secretary and a bunch of hookers, which Frank catches wind of, and in Chapter 1, Frank blackmails Peter into being his pawn—Frank will protect Russo’s vices in exchange for Russo’s “unquestioning loyalty.” No one is allowed to ask questions on HoC, apparently.
Best Frank Quote: “I love that woman. I love her like a shark loves blood,” oh so romantically about his wife Claire.
Frank starts knocking people out. First up is Donald Blythe, who wrote the education bill (first copy of which Frank gave to Zoe to publish online). He drums up some obscure, anti-Israel op-ed that Secretary of State Kern wrote in college (and he sends party boy Russo to get the scoop from a former college classmate of Kern’s, and they end of smoking weed and blowing coke together, naturally). Frank gives the op-ed to Zoe who again, blasts it to the world wide web.
Claire fires everyone at her charity which is not that charitable. We learn, though, that she sort of had to do so; she was counting on a donation from Sancorp, the giant corporation that was betting on Underwood being Secretary of State and doing some dirty diplomacy for them. At the end of the episode, Underwood’s pawn Catherine Durant is in line for the Secretary of State nomination. We also learn that Frank loves eating barbecue and we reluctantly identify here with our anti-hero.
Best Frank Quote: “When the tit’s that big, everyone gets in line.”
Frank has to take a little jaunt to his home-state of South Carolina to settle a scandal: a giant water tank in the shape of a peach, the Peachoid, is somehow responsible for the death of a 16 year old girl who was texting a joke about the thing. The community has banded together around her family and wants their Congressman, ol’ Francis, to take responsibility for her death. So Frank begrudgingly takes a trip south, where he gives a terrifying sermon at the local church and somehow manages to charm everyone while actually being the devil. Also he knocks out the education bill. Everything’s coming up Francis!
Re: Zoe, she now has a front page on the Herald and is being interviewed on CNN. Not sure that this breakneck speed is believable. Peter professes his love to Christina by asking her to stay as his assistant. Loving, indeed. Claire, who’s fired just about everyone, is trying desperately to woo philanthropist and actual Good Person Gillian Cole to join the Clean Water Initiative.
Best Frank Quote: “I hate god!”
Frank’s wheeling and dealing turns really ugly in this episode and he just manipulates the crap out of everyone. He forces Claire not to take money from Remy, the lawyer from Sancorp; he forces Peter Russo to close the shipyard in his hometown, thus alienating his entire constituency; and he accepts Zoe’s sexual advances. Okay, maybe the last one isn’t so evil, because she asked for it, but do we really want to see Kevin Spacey have sex with anyone?
Claire meets up with hottie-with-a-body photographer and former lover Adam Galloway (who Frank obviously knows about) but for some reason, leaves his hotel room after just one kiss. MISTAKE!
Christina dumps Peter after he goes out and gets totally smashed while his children are in his apartment. Wise move on her part.
Also, Zoe’s career is skyrocketing and suddenly she’s the being offered the job of White House correspondent. Her editor at the Herald, before firing her, calls her a c–t. Heavy language, Netlflix!
Best Frank Quote: ”It’s so refreshing to work with someone who’ll throw a saddle on a gift horse rather than look it in the mouth.”
Frank goes home and tells Claire that boinking Zoe is strictly business, and Claire is like, k. Obviously she’s thinking what we’re all thinking: ya should’ve slept with Adam, Claire! Oh well, the opportunity will arise again. Frank and Claire pull off the most implausible gala on earth; since they don’t have enough funding to have the party IN the hotel, they just have it outside, and serve barbecue to everyone dressed in very expensive gowns and suits. Still, it’s a hit! And the Underwoods even gain the trust of members of the teachers’ union, led by Frank’s newest enemy Marty Spinella, that are protesting Claire’s gala by giving them BBQ. I would honestly trust anyone if they gave me free BBQ.
Zoe has taken a job at a New Media Website called Slugline, which is all the dirty politics exposed. So startupy with its open plan and beanbag chairs. Peter is downward spiraling fast because he’s so alone in this world, and in a shocking scene Frank dares him to kill himself (by placing a razorblade on the edge of the tub where Peter is crying in his bath). That’s messed up.
Best Frank Quote: “Friends make the worst enemies.”
A lot of things get violent in this episode and a lot of things simmer under the surface. Frank throws a brick through his own window and blames its on the teachers’ strike, and Zoe publishes a piece for him saying that the strike has gotten out of hand. Frank and Spinella meet head-to-head on CNN, which TOTALLY backfires for Frank; he tries to make Claire look like the helpless wife but Spinella doesn’t let him, and Frank Underwood is actually—dare I say—embarrassed!
We also see that Claire really hates being used by Frank sometimes, and also hates that she has less power than him right now in the relationship. Meanwhile, Peter is apparently on the straight and narrow and going to run for Governor. That will probably end well!
Best Frank Quote: ”From this moment on you are a rock. You absorb nothing, you saying nothing, and nothing breaks you.”
We meet sad Vice President Jim Matthews who is painted, like the VP in almost every White House drama, as powerless. There is a bill-signing ceremony in which Frank gets a presidential pen and the VP does not, which delights Frank and destroys Jim.
Zoe is like, super pissed that Frank hasn’t called her in weeks, but finally he does, because he needs her to write a profile on Russo who is running for Governor. Frank has made Peter confess to all of his sins, which are A LOT. Also, in what seems like a thoughtless and tactless move, Underwood and his right hand lapdog Stamper put up a hooker that Russo previously had a fling with in an apartment so she won’t talk. But what if she does? And by some godforsaken miracle, Frank convinces Christina to get back together with Peter.
Bonus gross-out: at the end of the episode Frank goes down on Zoe Barnes while she’s on the phone WITH HER DAD. With. Her. Dad.
Best Frank quote: “After all, we are nothing more or less than what we choose to reveal.”
Frank goes home again, this time for sentimental reasons; he goes back to his alma mater The Sentinel where a library has been built in his honor. Because he is very honorable! He meets up with his old boy buds from school, and he’s super jovial; did you know Frankie used to sing in a barbershop quartet? Frank seems happy and it’s unsettling. Oh yeah, Claire goes with him. Frank has a nice time with his boys, but at the end of the episode, after he gives a really touching speech, something changes in him and he’s back to being a ruthless villain. Which is how we like him.
Peter goes home, too, to Pennsylvania, where he’s running for governor, to deal with the mess he’s made with the shipyard. He also goes to visit his mom, who not unsurprisingly, hates him. Not a wonder that he seems to have some Mommy issues.
Best Frank Quote: “How quickly poor grades are forgotten in the shadow of power and wealth.”
Back to DC! Peter is on a bus tour campaigning like a real politician, and reluctantly, Vice President Matthews has to campaign for him. Zoe is back, too, although she tells Frank she doesn’t want to have a sexual relationship anymore, which he pouts about. So she relents, but insists that she’s just screwing him to get a scoop. I don’t know, though; I think our lil friend Zoe has a crush.
As for Claire, three cheers for Claire! Because in this episode she finally screws Frank over after he’s so unduly done so to her. So this chapter’s best quote goes to Claire: “What a shame.”
Everyone is sick of Frank’s shit, because there’s just so much of it. The golden moment of this episode is, after Zoe tells Frank that Claire killed his bill so as to benefit her organization CWI, Frank bursts into Claire’s office and they just go at it. And Claire is a contender for sure in this fight. A lot of people are losing it in this episode: Peter tells Frank he’s not afraid of him anymore, which viciously in return Frank has Rachel (the hooker!) get Peter super boozed up, just ruining him. Claire goes over to Zoe’s apartment (totally intimidating move) and basically calls it disgusting (which it is). Claire then succumbs to her lover Adam, which, good for you Claire, have a little fun. The end of the episode sees everyone as sort of a mess, though.
Best Frank Quote: “It only takes 10 seconds to ruin a man’s ambitions.”
REALLY BAD STUFF HAPPENS IN THIS EPISODE! It was probably the weirdest of the season. Frank reveals to Linda that he wants to run for the VP spot; I’m not sure why he tells her this. But of course the worst is that Frank murders, YES, MURDERS, Congressman Peter Russo who was a drunk and a cheater and a drug abuser but honestly did not deserve to die. All so he would keep his mouth shut. Well, he will now! Forever! Because he’s dead!
Best Frank Quote: Not including one for this chapter because Frank’s behavior was just too disgusting.
The freefall. Claire fires Gillian, because Claire fires everyone who doubts her. May I mention that Gillian is pregnant? The President wants to vet super rich dude Raymond Tusk for Vice President, which panics Frank, who wants to vet Tusk himself, and it turns out that Tusk is vetting Frank. A lot of heavy vetting. It seems like Frank is no longer in a position of power and it’s freaking Frankie out! Christina is obviously really sad because Peter is dead, and even though he was a prick, he was HER lovable prick. Zoe and Janine have teamed up and are finally like, Wait, Frank is a bad guy. Also, Zoe and Lucas are dating and in love now, meaning more time has passed than we all thought. The most important development is that people are starting to sniff Frank out for what he really is: a dog!
Best Frank Quote: “I’ve worked too hard to get within arm’s reach of the prize only to have my hand bitten off before I seize it.”
Ah, unlucky 13. Frank is angry but is still nominated for VP; Frank and Tusk spar about stuff; Janine, Zoe and Lucas investigate Frank’s dealings with (see: MURDER) of Peter. This was a pretty boring end to a d
ramatic first season of House of Cards, and I think intentionally so; it leads cinematically well into the second season. Best part of this episode was Claire, and the best quote goes to her, too: “What do we leave behind?” She’s not talking babies (well, maybe a little bit), but legacies. What is Frank Underwood’s legacy going to be? Ugly, that’s for sure.