Kevin Spacey, left, and Molly Parker in a scene from Season 2 of 'House of Cards.'
(Photo: Nathaniel E. Bell, AP)
(USATODAY.com) - Let the binge viewing begin.
A second season of House of Cards, Netflix's hot political drama, arrives early Friday (3:01 a.m. ET/12:01 a.m. PT), all at once, just as Season 1 was last year.
Kevin Spacey's conniving congressman Frank Underwood continues his political climb. And the spotlight shines even more on his equally conniving wife, Claire, played by Robin Wright.
Should we expect more dark and twisted dealings in the Washington political corridors?
"I can't give anything away - this is the no-spoiler generation, after all," says Spacey, his deep voice sounding exactly like the smooth and in-control Underwood. "But it's safe to say Frank has lost none of his Machiavellian instincts, and with greater political power comes even more potential for plotting and scheming."
The actor says to look for "lots of intrigue and surprises and unexpected turns. We hope even some humor."
"We went into it to see just how dark it can get," he says.
As for specifics, Spacey's right: No spoiling allowed. But we guarantee there will be "wow" moments right off the bat.
And we can tell you to look for new cast member Molly Parker (Deadwood), who plays Jacqueline Sharp, a third-term Democratic congresswoman from California, an Underwood ally whose "ruthless pragmatism" appeals to him.
Ruthless is a word that can apply to just about every character on the show, although Parker prefers another. "Every character in this show is ambitious. Every single one. Within their ambition, they're differentiated by how far they're willing to go."
In some cases, that means murder.
"If you aim to be a politician that assumes any higher office, you have to be willing to kill," explains creator Beau Willimon. "I mean that not just in House of Cards, I mean that in the real world. You have to be willing to send people off to war, pass or block legislation that means someone doesn't get health care they need, you might make choices that someone remains in poverty or escapes it. You have to be willing to have blood on your hands. We see a condensed microcosm within Frances that allows him to do that. Anyone who has ever been president, or a senator or congressman, has done that. They just might not think of it that way."
One criticism last season was that there weren't enough sympathetic, likable characters. But that's "just not a spectrum I operate on," says Willimon. "The problem with talking about characters or likability or sympathy, you're neglecting the far more important thing, which is attractiveness. What is that aspect that keeps you glued to them? That keeps you either rooting for them despite yourself or rooting against them? That's a far more powerful thing. It's not about who you want to go about and get a beer with or invite to Thanksgiving dinner. It's what it is about that journey that is so compelling that you return again and again."
Spacey concedes that Underwood will stop at nothing to achieve his political goals, but he won't make a "moral judgment" about the character. "You can't walk onto a set and play evil. You have to walk on and play intention and purpose and reasoning. I think it's more interesting to have that moral conundrum."
That's also why Underwood's unusual marriage to Claire makes sense. "What's extraordinary about Frank and Claire is there is deep love and mutual respect, but the way they achieve this is by operating on a completely different set of rules than the rest of us typically do," says Willimon.
"To me, the story feels Shakespearean," says Parker. "It feels like Richard III and Macbeth. Those are the themes the show is dealing with. It's essentially a show about power, and that shows up in the relationships. Every scene I did was a scene about power."
But while the characters do things that may "seem reprehensible," she says, the more we get to know them, "we understand more and more of their humanity."
To prep for her part, she read autobiographies by Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi andCondoleezza Rice. And what did she learn?
"I learned a lot of things. I learned a whole lot of things about politics, about how legislation is passed. I'm from Canada, I missed the American civics class. ... But I learned mostly it takes an incredibly dedicated person to devote themselves to public service." She's quick to add, "None of those women are anything like this woman I'm playing."
But "the cost is high" to play the political game. So why do they? "They could do other things. They could make money. So it's not that. Is it power for power's sake, and what do you do when you have power? It's fascinating."
Good television, says Parker, "is about what happens next. There's an underlying thrust of 'What's going to happen next?!"
Spacey, a producer on the series, says he "had an even better time shooting Season 2. I didn't think it could get better. I really am very proud of this new season and can't wait to hear the reactions this weekend."