In Depth

House of Cards season two 'a gruelling form of masochism'

Frank Underwood is back on Netflix in new season that's 'every bit as brutal and sanguinary' as the last

THE second series of the dark political drama House of Cards was released on Netflix today and is said to be "every bit as brutal and sanguinary" as the last.

In the first episode, Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, is poised to accept the nomination for vice president but has to battle to keep his army of skeletons in the closet.

There is also a "shocking moment" in the first hour but critics are kindly keeping schtum - even US President Barack Obama has asked his Twitter followers to resist the urge to post spoilers.

A third series of the show, which was arguably the first big success of the internet-television age, has already been commissioned by Netflix. "If the first episode is anything to go by, their confidence is not misplaced," says Ed Potton in The Times. As ever, it is all about the central couple, says Potton, "Robin Wright as Underwood's wife - part Hilary Clinton part Lady Macbeth - and Spacey, delighting in his arch asides to camera, and capable of communicating an ocean of meaning in a simple 'Good morning'."

The Daily Telegraph's Benjamin Secher describes the new season as "an irresistible feast" that is "deliciously acted". It is directed with a "confidence and sophistication that, for all that the television landscape has changed in recent years, is seldom matched elsewhere on the small screen", he adds.

The tone "remains the same, glum, serious, and cynical", says James Poniewozik in Time magazine. "It is the same show you saw last season, the same weaknesses and strengths intact, but, as it makes clear before the first hour is over, every bit as brutal and sanguinary."

Hank Stuever in the Washington Post says the series is "almost wilfully and sadistically atonal" and a "deeply depressing way" to spend 13 hours.

"What we are engaged in here - and make no mistake, after the four episodes they've let me see, I'm game for the other nine - is a form of post-television masochism," he says.

"By being so cruel, so gruelling, 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. It's as if, knowing how 'messed up' 'Washington' is, we've turned to this fictional big shot politico Underwood and asked him to slap us, hard, over and over. You don't want to like it, but a twisted part of you really does."

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