House of Cards Season Two Blu-ray Review
Ultimate power knows no bounds
And the butchery begins …House of Cards, Netflix’s premier show (though other Netflix-made shows are now snapping at its heels) shows no signs of slowing, if anything, it’s gaining in popularity and reputation. Starting off at the point where the first season ended it flows on seamlessly with Francis, now Vice President, continuing to use his power and influence to out manoeuvre and destroy the reputation of those that he feels slighted him only a year ago. Undoubtedly Kevin Spacey is the star of the show and his fourth wall breaking is more prevalent in this season making for an even more compelling watch. The opening episode is as thrilling as it gets and his addressing the camera is a piece of genius! To keep the show alive there are a number of new characters introduced and side stories that run concurrently with the main story thrustSo we get interesting sub-plots related to Claire’s assault, cyber terrorism and trade embargos with China (to name but a few) but they never threaten to derail what is ostensibly Francis’ vendetta. Filmed with the same slick nature, attention to detail and style as Fincher’s pilot episode, the second season looks and, crucially, feels like a continuation of the same story, it even utilises chapter numbers continuing after the first, which makes it just the second part of one overall story. The lobbying during the more political elements, and how the American system works do remain somewhat baffling as to how corrupt the governmental system appears to be, but once immersed into the whole, you simple can’t come up for air until the credits roll on the final episode – excellent stuff.
The disc presents a broadcast correct 2.00:1 1080p transfer using the AVC codec and is Region locked to A and B. Following the trend of stunning looking TV shows, this image is absolutely spectacular; shot on the RED Epic with close attention to detail, framing and setting, along with that wide ‘scope’, the picture is best described as cinematic. Detail is out of this world, from skin texture to clothing weaves (check out how soft towels look!), clutter on desks, or grime of pavements/underground stations, the leaves in the trees a so three dimensional they look like you can pick them! All round top tier detail.
This image is absolutely spectacular
Colours are also very well realised with all primaries coming off with aplomb, and that’s even with the slight stylised grading given to the series. Reds hold sway, blues grade wonderfully and greens (again looking at trees) are suitably lush. Gradation is fine even in low lighting. Contrast and brightness are set to give very strong blacks with magnificent shadow detailing, check out the dark suits with all their folds etc. to see, with no digital noise to spoil the view. Digitally there are no compression problems, no edge enhancement, no aliasing or banding issues. Indeed the entire picture is clean, clear and outstanding.
The English dts-HD MA 5.1 surround track sounds every bit as good as the video is detailed, with absolute attention to the surround environment. Dialogue is clear and precise, given the occasional bout of directionality, sounds perfectly natural but dominated by the frontal array. But it is the surround speakers that are the real stars of the show by providing such ambience that you feel you are in the same scene playing out on screen and totally immersed by the sound design.
Subtle noises that occur in offices, or streets, or in cars or, indeed, anywhere are faithfully represented to really bring the scenes to life. Effects such as a TV in the background, or construction workers fixing up a room, or weather, are layered so expertly into the mix that they can fool you into thinking the sound is real (especially the latter two); it really is that good. The score is a big part of the sound field and perhaps has the most bass to offer, with some of the low notes managing to rock the foundations of your house. But the overall sense of ‘real’ is what makes this track so inviting and absorbing, top tier once again.
ExtrasUnlike the first season, we have a number of featurettes that range for five to fifteen minutes in run time, though they all relate to the first season, specifically the pilot episode, which begs the question, why were they not included then?
Politics for the sake of politics – Brief feature that looks at the themes of the show, relationships and power, while the politics, ostensibly what the show is about, take a backseat.
Direct address – Examines the ‘breaking of the 4th wall’, Francis taking/looking direct to camera and discusses how this this has become a defining part of the show.
Two Houses – Mainly looks at the differences between this re-make by detailing the original show, but delves a little further into the conception of the US version, the admiration that the cast and crew have for the British mini-series and how determined everyone one is that it should be a success. The portions of the British show used as illustrations are poor quality, cropped and judder terribly.
Table read – As the title suggest, is a behind the scenes feature of a cast read through; but goes on to highlight how a scene can alter from its written script once it gets on set and the director/actors re-pace/re-word/re-design how its plays out, normally to the betterment of the show.
Line of succession – Delves into the creative process that goes into making the show happen; how two episodes are recorded at once helping to create a sense of flow and how it feels like a motion picture shoot, albeit much shorter.
Season Two of the mighty House of Cards starts off exactly where the first season ended and hits the road running. Francis now Vice President shows no signs of slowing down on his vendetta against those he sees that have slighted him and his manipulation of the senate and congress knows no bounds in his quest for ultimate power. There are a number of other stories that run concurrent with main story thrust, and there are new characters woven seamlessly into the mix, making the whole season every bit as enthralling and entertaining as the first – roll on the third!
Sony has produced the goods when it comes to the picture and sound
As a Blu-ray set, Sony has produced the goodswhen it comes to the picture and sound, both of which are reference all the way. The picture is detailed, moody, clean and absolutely pristine, while the sound design puts you firmly in the centre of the action. This time around there are a number of brief featurettes, but all pertain to the filming of the first season and are ultimately a bit of a waste. Don’t let that put you off though, the season is a belter!
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £39.99
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