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'House of Cards' Season 2 review: A joyride

Kevin Spacey in a scene from the Netflix

Kevin Spacey in a scene from the Netflix series "House of Cards." Credit: AP

"House of Cards," one of the pleasures of small screen (assuming you have a small screen) returns Friday in all its binging glory. Here's my review, and a quick piece of viewer guidance, assuming you're either behind on this or need a refresher: Go to your Netflix account, log in, and watch episode 11, when Peter Russo is killed, and watch the finale. Of course, best to watch all 13 episodes of the first season, but if time is an issue on this snow day, then that would be my advice.

Meanwhile, here is my review of the Season 2 episodes provided by Netflix. A personal guarantee: No spoilers!

"House of Cards," Netflix, second season begins Friday.

What it's about: Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) ended the first season poised to become vice president in the administration of Garrett Walker, by manipulating the pre longtime friend and kitchen cabinet member, Raymond Tusk (Gerald McRaney) into supporting his nomination. But Tusk -- a billionaire with nuclear interests in China -- is a dangerous ally. Meanwhile, Frank has murdered - that's right -- murdered one opponent, Rep. Peter Russo (Corey Stoll), who threatened to blow the whistle on one of Frank's scam. Fortunately, the dogged reporters Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara) and her lover Lucas Goodwin (Sebastian Arcelus) have no idea of his involvement in Russo's "suicide." Or do they?

My say: That human cobra, Francis Underwood -- a veritable Devil's Dictionary of aphorisms - offers a particularly memorable phrase at the outset of the second season: "The higher up the mountain, the more treacherous the path." For those who have yet to begin this Valentine's Day binge project (assuming you're reading this in the paper, as opposed to online before today's 12:01 launch) this offers the slimmest of clues of what to expect.

Frank is under intensified pressure -- from reporters, from Tusk, from the president, from ideologues on the Hill. He has moved closer to the "center of the frame" - the center, or the peak of the mountain, remain the ultimate goals - but you do begin to wonder whether he's having second thoughts about the brutality of the process.

"Listen," he says wistfully to his wife Claire (Robin Wright) during one rare moment when the din of the outside world isn't intruding: "Silence..."

But do not be fooled: Frank Underwood has no remorse, no superannuated sense of Washington tradition or decorum, and certainly no second thoughts. He is TV's perfect monster of the moment - a compleat malefactor, with a pleasing honey-toned drawl.

That Spacey continues to nail this role and nail it hard should not surprise any fan. But Spacey's Underwood is even more sinuous, more complex, more treacherous and so -- as a result -- is the deeply pleasurable show that surrounds him. There's pleasure in every frame here - from terrific new cast additions (Molly Parker, David Glennon) to richer D.C. subplots. It all works, and it is all addictive.

Bottom line: A joyride.

Grade: A

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