'House of Cards' Season 2: What the Critics Are Saying

"House of Cards"

Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright and Kate Mara return for the sophomore season of Beau Willimon's original series on Netflix, released on Valentine's Day.

Netflix showed its fans a ton of love by releasing its second season of House of Cards on Valentine's Day, resuming the cynical, power-hungry antics of Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright and Kate Mara. The sophomore set of Beau Willimon's series features episodes directed by David Fincher, Jodie Foster and Carl Franklin, plus a few fresh faces and satisfying surprises.

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Read what top critics are saying about the series' sophomore season:

The Hollywood Reporter's chief TV critic Tim Goodman said in his review that the first four episodes made available to critics are similar to the pace the first season ramped up to. "It's entertaining and cruises along with a strong pulse. There's a core mystery and American politics is mocked, appropriately, for being a two-party hustle of recrimination and separatism.… It can be overly dramatic, perhaps too neat and simplified (especially for an immensely complicated place like Washington, D.C.), and it still sells husband and wife power-at-all-costs couple Frank (Spacey) and Claire (Robin Wright) Underwood as a little too oily and reptilian for anyone's good.… But it's also a joy to watch."

The New York Times' Alessandra Stanley warned, "While the second season picks up where Season 1 left off (the tagline is “The race for power continues”), this continuation is possibly even darker and more compelling than the first.… There are few starry-eyed depictions of government anymore; cynicism is the currency of choice. And there are many variations on the theme."

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Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times noted that the season "opened big with lavish early episodes, two of which were directed by David Fincher, before settling into a fairly standard, if extremely well-produced, series that would have not been out of place on any broadcast network … it's Claire, and the Underwood marriage, that makes House of Cards more than just a better-than-average addition to the genre of Antihero Drama Being Used to Establish a New Fiefdom in the Television Landscape."

Time's James Poniewozik said that after its debut season, "it was and is a Next Good Enough Drama, damn entertaining on the level of sheer plot, like 24 with political maneuvering instead of bomb-defusing." Still, he asks for more: "Underwood is playing 3-D chess, and everyone else is playing tic-tac-toe with crayons. Francis needs a stronger nemesis, if not for the sake of justice then for the sake of excitement. And House of Cards would be a greater show if it had characters who were people more than game pieces."

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The Washington Post's Hank Stuever acknowledged that the series "clings to this notion that Washington power (or "power") centralizes and eventually edits itself down to the shrewdest player, who gets to become a master puppeteer.… Viewers can’t be blamed for seeing House of Cards as an appealing antidote to partisan powerlessness, and it’s not entirely baseless." While Netflix fans have made a term out of "binge-watching," Stuever calls this show in particular "post-television masochism. By being so cruel, so grueling, House of Cards is the perfect show to dump on viewers all at once: It’s a test to see how much hurt we can take."

Email: Ashley.Lee@THR.com
Twitter: @cashleelee