1416286_House_of_Cards_kdm_Darkness prevails in House of Cards—the hit political drama on Netflix—and Season 2, recently released in full, only gets darker. We won’t indulge in any spoilers for those still following the show, but let’s just say that protaganist Frank Underwood (a bloodthirsty politician in present-day Washington, chillingly played by Kevin Spacey) and his wife Claire (played by the perfectly poised Robin Wright) get more and more ruthless in their climb to the top.

House of Cards is an extreme view of politics and power,” showrunner Beau Willimon told The Telegraph, in an interview. “All politicians are murderers or have to be willing to be murderers. Here you have a dramatization of that thing in them which allows them to do the unspeakable, whether

[it’s] facilitating the death of a congressman or sending 100,000 troops to war.”

At the center of the show are the Underwoods as a couple. It’s almost an alarmingly voyeuristic endeavor to watch them because, although you know they’re evil—even sadistic—they’re charming and seductive on the surface, and you just can’t get enough. Both are elegant blue-bloods, well-spoken, well-educated, and full of wit. They’re attractive and fearless.

130315_XX_underwoods.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-largeBut what makes them truly scary, especially as characters in the political realm, is that all they really desire is supreme power—and they’re insatiable, bulldozing obstacles and unremittingly wrecking lives on their way, whether it’s one of their own (a young congressman) or a prying newspaper editor who could expose them. It’s not about money: early on, Frank tells the audience that he pities his former press secretary, Remy Danton (played by Mahershala Ali), who left to join a much higher-paying job as a lobbyist, since he hadn’t grasped the full-on value of power (and instead opted for money).

And then there’s Claire—beautiful, icy, manipulative. A subtle, yet memorable scene in Season 1 has her in a coffee shop, losing patience when a hapless older woman, apparently unfamiliar with aspects of the point-of-sale system, has trouble ringing up her order and has to relinquish her post to a younger cashier, much to Claire’ relief. Nothing is said, but it seems Claire is disgusted by both the former worker’s incompetence (having wasted some of her precious time) and her older age. Yet having children (to put out into the world as youthful, productive, would-be-successful progeny) isn’t a priority for her: in Season 2, when questioned about it, she (somehow) diplomatically dismisses family as secondary to the Underwoods’ life-goal to “serve the public.”

House of Cards is particularly relevant at a time when Americans seem less trustworthy and more frustrated with Congress and the White House. And the voracious race for power in our political arena isn’t too far-fetched either. As Kevin Spacey told ABC’s This Week, when George Stephanopoulos asked him if Washington is more exciting than Hollywood, “Look, for me, it’s like performance art. We can get done shooting on a day, and I’ll come home and turn on the news and think: ‘You know, our storylines are not that crazy, they’re really not.’”