I was surprised to hear that Netflix was able to get such a big star like Kevin Spacey to spear point their new show, “House of Cards,” last year. Since its exclusive airing on Netflix last year I have heard nothing but praise about the show, and it was nominated for an Emmy for Best Drama.
I had meant to watch season one many months ago, but I never got around to it. It’s lucky that I started season one last week because season two was released on Valentine’s Day, and what better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than watching dirty politics with your significant other and getting continuously more and more worried if anything you see on the show is even slightly feasible.
The show is about a congressman named Frank Underwood (played by Kevin Spacey). We are quickly told that Underwood helped a man named Garret Walker win the presidential race in exchange for becoming Secretary of State for his administration.
After Walker wins the election, Underwood is denied the position even though it was promised to him. Underwood is furious and decides to use every trick, legal and illegal, to climb the ranks of political spectrum, and he won’t stop until he gets to the top. He uses every asset at his disposal to absolutely obliterate his opponents politically and sometimes physically. When you think he finally has good intentions you realize a few episodes later that his initial good intentions were only for his benefit and inevitably ruin the person he was originally trying to “help.”
Frank’s wife, Claire (played by Robin Wright) is equally devious. In season one she is the head of a non-profit, and while this seems harmless enough, she only does it in order to help promote Frank’s image and to help Frank whenever he sees fit.
The greatest thing about this show is that it uses a dramatic technique called an aside. An aside is when a character, in this case Frank, speaks directly to the audience.
Most of the time when this happens Frank tells us what his next move is or he predicts the actions of another character. That’s what puts the show above several others because it is so unique.
It’s like a game of professional chess. Each player, especially Frank, has an idea of what his or her move is going to be months down the line while simultaneously predicting each other’s’ moves. It truly is fascinating to see how one comment or one conversation in one of the earlier episodes can spiral into a huge deal further down the line. Frank is a cold-hearted political genius, and I’m not sure if I like him or not.
Of course there are other characters besides Frank. For example there is a political news reporter named Zoe Barnes who leaks stories for Frank in order to smear political adversaries for his own benefit. This favor in turn helps Zoe become a more respected reporter because of the high level stories she writes. That’s the thing about this show – there is no favor without a counter favor.
The show’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. As I said earlier, this show is cold-hearted, and I mean that about nearly every character in the show. There is so little real emotion that it can be off-putting. Frank and his entourage are so single-minded to get ahead that they screw over everyone in their path without any hesitation.
While it is awesome in some respect to see him do this, it is also a little depressing. If the political world is anything close to how the show depicts it, then I am very worried about the future of our country.
I wrote about “Breaking Bad” a few months ago, and while some of Walter White’s actions are similar to Frank’s, Walter always showed a little more emotion than Frank has showed so far. Walter White was a good man who went rotten, but Frank Underwood was rotten from the start. It also is extremely politically centered (duh), and that might deter some people from watching it because it does take some focus to keep up with the events. Once it starts, it is nearly impossible for it to stop.
I mark my words, however, because I am basing this review on season one and only some of season two. I have been able to watch a few episodes of the new season so far, and while it is cliché to say this season is better than the previous one, in this instance it is true. On IMDb “House of Cards” is rated very highly at a 9.0 which puts it at the 28th best show of all time.
If you have Netflix and nothing to do, then this is a great way to kill some time, and you might actually learn something about our government in the process.