Warning: This recap of season 2 of House of Cards contains spoilers.
Throughout season 1 of House of Cards, you couldn't help but wish someone would come along and challenge Frank Underwood and his unstoppable wife, Claire. Though reporter Zoe tried, bless her heart, she was always too deer-in-headlights to get the job done, and it was only fitting that Francis pushed her in front of a moving train in the very first episode of season 2. The truth is, you forget about Zoe very quickly. So many other characters step up to take center stage as the season unfolds -- along with several who actually make Frank sweat, for once. It's not that you want to see Frank and Claire fail, it's that you begin to feel this weird need to test them, poke them, see if they're actually human -- find out how they'll react when driven to desparation. This season flawlessly delivers that -- and so much more.
It's kind of easy to spot the weak links in Frank's world from the very start of the season. Doug Stamper, his loyal right-hand man, is going to be a problem, evident from the moment you detect compassion on his face when he visits -- and continues to visit -- Rachel. His previous obsession with alcohol is simply tranferred over to this poor woman, who does everything she can to keep things amicable between them -- including sleeping with him -- but can't shake his creepy, stalker tendencies. I wasn't shocked when she killed him in the last episode and I definitely expect this will cause Frank a ton of headaches in season 3. Will his administation cover up Stamper's death? Will Rachel finally let loose with what she knows about Peter Russo?
When Frank assumed the position of vice president, Congresswoman Jackie Sharp also proved an interesting opponent because from the moment she takes over for Frank as majority whip, it becomes clear she isn't about to let herself become his puppet. Her relationship with Remy reinforces the idea that she is a complicated woman, torn between her professional obligations and the potential for personal happiness. In the end, she chooses the former and provides for us yet another strong female character who isn't completely willing to lay everything on the line for Frank.
Claire's abortion and cheating scandals allow us to see her in a brand new light. Robin Wright has never been better than in this role. She wants desperately to be the ice queen Frank requires, but she can't keep from breaking down when she confronts Dalton McGuinness, the U.S. general who raped her at school. She holds her own against her former lover, Adam -- even when he basically tells her she was nothing compared to his new fiance -- but gives us a glimpse at the mother she might have been when she loses it after visiting Megan, who has just attempted suicide.
Claire exits this season as one of the most compelling female characters on TV. I can't wait to see what mayhem she cooks up as First Lady.
You could say Frank doesn't deserve the Oval Office seat he conspired his way into at the end of the season, but you'd be wrong. Walker was an ineffectual president whose greatest flaw was trusting those around him -- including Frank -- more than he trusted himself. Tusk, who was the only one who could have brought the Underwoods down, didn't because, in the end, even he had to admit he'd rather be in jail than reside in a country with a weak leader. And if there's one thing House of Cards won't tolerate, it's weakness.
For now, Frank and Claire prevail because they are the fittest and the strongest. Let's see how long that lasts.
Did you watch every episode of season 2 of House of Cards? What did you think?
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