THE REMOTE: ‘House of Cards’ paints the White House black

THE REMOTE with Ryan Pait

Ryan Pait

Is TV’s most twisted power couple too powerful?

That’s the question I found myself asking at the end of season two of Netflix’s original series “House of Cards,” which was released last Friday.

Season two sees Francis (Kevin Spacey) and Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) going up against all kinds of foes, and absolutely obliterating them at every turn.

Their enemies see themselves locked up in prison, thrown out of office, deported or shunned professionally. The Underwoods are not to be trifled with.

They’re Machiavellian titans surrounded by miniscule stooges.

Which isn’t to say that they’re not entertaining. Because they so are.

Season two of “House of Cards” takes all the good from season one, recycles it, repackages it, and ups the stakes.

It hits the ground running in its first episode, with a water-cooler moment that’s sure to shock.

It’s like getting hit full on by a train.

From there, the show moves zippily along, pushing, punishing and pruning with as much ruthlessness as the Underwoods themselves.

Characters and storylines that have met their expiration date are swiftly dealt with, and new ones are introduced. The ultimate effect is that season two feels more focused than season one.

It also moves much faster, which is Netflix’s endgame with their instant-release model: getting people like you and me to watch all of “House of Cards” as fast as we can.

The most notable new addition to the show is new majority whip Jackie Sharp, played by Molly Parker of “Deadwood” fame. She replaces Francis after he’s promoted to vice president.

As Sharp, she butts heads with both Francis and Claire. She also falls under their toxic spell. Parker’s an intriguing presence, and fits well within the show.

Season two also gives us contrast between Frank and Claire. Both are ruthless, cold and calculating.

But with Claire, especially in this season, we see glimmers of humanity. Some doubt, perhaps even remorse reflected in Wright’s luminous eyes. We learn why her Lady MacBeth has become Lady MacBeth.

Wright breathes new life into Claire this season, and her storyline gives Wright all kinds of fascinating material to work with. Episode four, in which Claire faces a high-stakes interview on CNN, is stunning. Wright is sublime in this episode, and her performance may net her another Emmy nomination, just like last year.

And let’s be honest, Spacey will probably be picking up another nomination too.

Also great is the show’s sense of humor. Frank plays the aptly-titled “God of War: Ascension” to let off steam. He also builds an elaborate diorama that wouldn’t look out of place on “Game of Thrones.”

A late-season ménage à trois also provides some sexy shock value.

So where do the titanic Underwoods go from here? They’ve gone up and up, but where do you go when you’re on top?

Season three needs to introduce more worthy opponents for the Underwoods. It also needs to shake up its format.

What it’s been doing has worked well — twice — but the end of season two seems to promise a change in the winds at 1600 Penn.

And if it can deliver on that, nothing can topple “House of Cards.”