DVD Review: House of Cards (Season Two)

Last year, House of Cards arrived on the scene and made huge waves due to the fact that it was one of the first major forays into original series programming for the streaming giant Netflix, and also because it nabbed up some of the most prestigious television awards from some top tier contenders — ahem, Breaking Bad. It’s definitely no easy task to live up to such a critically acclaimed first season, and yet, season two is arguably even better than its predecessor.

It’s one of those arguments that could easily go either way, and is comparable to those who like The Empire Strikes Back better than Star Wars, The Godfather Part II better than The Godfather, or Temple of Doom better than — okay, let’s not go that far. Picking up just minutes after season one ended, House of Cards sees Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey) on a jog with his wife, with the job of becoming Vice President right within his grasp. Honestly, that’s pretty much all I’ll say about the plot of season two, mainly because it’s just so intricate to get into without spoiling even the smallest of twists. What I will say is that this season ups the ante for every character involved in the show, throwing huge curve balls at anyone and everyone, and that starts right in episode one.

It’s so hard to review a show of this caliber, simply because you don’t want to ruin any of the fun for potential viewers. Those who come here to know if they should continue watching (because why would you read this if you haven’t seen season one?) likely already know that they’ll keep watching. If for some reason you’re new to the series, don’t feel that the above line about Underwood potentially becoming Vice President a spoiler, because it’s not. Well, not really. It’s fairly clear what his goals are in season one, so it won’t wreck anything — but more importantly, why are you still reading? Go and watch season one!

For those wondering if Season Two is worth purchasing? That question gets a resounding yes as an answer. This is masterful television at its best. There’s a reason season one beat Breaking Bad as the best television drama on TV, and Breaking Bad is one of my favourite TV shows ever. That’s not to say one is better than the other, it’s more to say that both are so well crafted, and so well planned that they find themselves on the same level production and story wise. It’s not easy to make every episode in a 13 episode show as vitally important as the last, but that’s just what House of Cards does. Breaking Bad did it for six seasons (I don’t view it as season 5.5, or The Final Season as it’s called on the DVDs and Blu-rays), and it wrapped up beautifully. Can House of Cards do the same? Time will tell. However, if Season Two is any indication of what’s to come, then I believe we, the viewers, are in good hands.

Kevin Spacey is magnificent once again, as is Robin Wright, Michael Kelly, Kate Mara, Michael Gill, and well, everyone who is returning. The acting on this show could take up paragraph after paragraph in this review, so we’ll just wrap it up in one and say that this is some of the best you’ll find on any series. A new player enters the game this season, with Molly Parker joining the cast as Jackie Sharp. Again, I won’t get into her character description much to avoid spoilers, but lets just say she’s a welcome addition to the show, and her character is quite interesting.

House of Cards is such a unique show that simply can’t be missed. Of course, it is somewhat politics heavy, which may turn some off; however, it’s done in quite the viewer friendly way, where no knowledge of how the United States government or inner workings is needed to follow the gripping story taking place in this show. If you haven’t started watching yet, go pick up both seasons and get watching. Even if you’ve had one or two of the shocks or surprises spoiled for you along the way, the show is so high quality, that shouldn’t detract from the enjoyment one bit.

The video transfer for the show onto DVD looks great, and the sound mix is on par. The dialogue is fast and sharp in this series, and luckily it comes out of the speakers beautifully on DVD. Visually, as mentioned above, the show looks wonderful. This is a series that originally runs streaming, so for many this will be an upgrade depending on how their connection holds (and likely still so even if your connection is top tier). Thumbs up in both departments, as both only add to the quality of the show.

Disc One Special Features:

Politics for Politics Sake – Here the shows top dogs talk about the shows themes and how the dynamics in the show aren’t so different than that of your normal workplace. Also joining them is their political consultant Jay Carson, and together they delve into the world of revenge, power and greed…albeit briefly, as the featurette is only four minutes long.

Direct Address – This one comes in two minutes longer than the previous featurette, running a cool six minutes in length. Still, as short as it is, it’s still great to hear the thoughts of the cast and crew as they talk about Underwood breaking the fourth wall, and some of the differences between this and the BBC original series.

Disc Two Special Features:

Two Houses – This feature runs at 11 minutes in length and gets into the history of the show, starting with its origins with the BBC series, and leading into what made David Fincher want to update it now. Oh, I should mention that most of these special features focus on season one, as that just seems to be how it worked out. It still fits nicely though.

Disc Three Special Features:

Table Read – This is a really fun way to spend eight minutes, as you get to watch the actors all sitting around in street clothes doing a table read together for the first time. Again, it’s a script from season one, but it’s really fun to see people testing out ways to say the lines, and then having the featurette jump to the actual scene to show us what finally made the cut.

Disc Four Special Features:

Line of Succession – This is an 18 minute feature, and it’s a treat to watch. It’s a major behind-the-scenes piece, and it shows everything that goes into making an episode, how they film two at a time so that each one is like a mini-movie. It also allows them to take advantage of having actors around in ways they otherwise couldn’t. It’s a great watch all around.

House of Cards is one of the best shows on right now, and the best part is, it’s made for binge watching, with every episode made available on Netflix once the season begins, or all wrapped up in a beautifully packaged DVD/Blu-ray. I personally couldn’t imagine having to wait week to week with the cliffhangers this show leaves, so once you start, make sure you’ve got your snacks and drinks handy, because you likely won’t be getting up for a while. Highest recommendation.

Sony Pictures Entertainment Presents House of Cards: Season Two. Starring: Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Michael Gill, Kate Mara, Michael Kelly, Sebastian Arcelus, Constance Zimmer, Molly Parker. Running Time: 663 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released: June 17, 2014.

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