Last week, while I was not updating my blog (which seemed to be the theme for this week as well, sorry guys!) I watched House of Cards and got lost into its intrigue and complicated political terms I can’t even comprehend with the help of Wikipedia. It was created by Netflix and the show’s entire first season, all of its 13 episodes, were released at the same time (finally, somebody understands how TV-shows are made to be watched) and it stars the brilliant Kevin Spacey.
Whilst I myself am not the first person to be talking about politics,well I know something but I’m far from knowing the system, I want to talk about House of Cards so badly! I saw this a week ago, after seeing the title on my Twitter feed and it took me about two days to finish the entire season. And now you’re thinking, but if you wanted to write about it, why not last Saturday? Well, I wasn’t home, so a blogger had to do what a blogger almost always has to do, remember things! And oh, how well do I remember House of Cards’ first season highlights from personal relationships to alcohol to manipulation to the well executed plans to the plans that did not fall through. So it will be a difficult task to talk about the show without spoiling it, but I shall do my best! Now, must add that this American show is based on the British series of the same name which itself is based on a novel. Meaning, there’s a lot of House of Cards that people might be familiar with but I have no idea how good/bad the predecessors of this show actually were.
Francis “Frank” J. Underwood (Spacey) isa Democratic congressman, a man one should most likely not mess with, we learn that right in the beginning with a disturbing scene of “finishing things off” – I shall not speak of it but one thing is for sure, it sets Underwood on a certain level of cruelty and justice. The events before the plot are said to be revolving around Underwood helping and basically assuring the win of the newest American President Walker – he had promised to make Underwood the Secretary of State but he does not deliver on his promise and well, Underwood doesn’t take that news well. While I might not understand the job requirements and the political titles, I do understand the premises: a smart and intelligent man has been lied to, his integrity has gotten a strong hit and this is not something Francis Underwood will forget about. Together with his wife Claire Underwood (Robin Wright), an environmental activist, they start building their house of cards to bring down the President – using people, laws, journalism and everything Underwood can think of, to get what he wants.
There are three key people that play an important role in Underwood’s plans, in addition to his wife, out of whom two are by far a stand-out characters as well. One of them is Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly), Underwood’s chief of staff who never asks questions and solves most of Underwood’s problems. He is definitely an Igor of the political drama, helping his boss with all kinds of things, never questioning him: he knows his place and that makes him loyal. The second, and a very controversial character is a journalist Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara) who forms an alliance with Underwood in order to get classified information. She is also addicted to power, I assume this because she develops an interesting relationship with Underwood, to say it bluntly, she becomes his booty call. Now, I know this is a bit of a spoiler but I can’t leave it out, since that’s the thing that makes Zoe so interesting – a young girl who wants to become a good journalist shacks up with a congressman in order to get her story. The key player in Underwood’s plans is the third main character Peter Russo (Corey Stoll) who either is disliked or liked, I didn’t really enjoy him but I guess that was the point. Underwood was using him as a pawn in his plans, getting him to do things against his own will because of his bad habits of alcohol and drugs.
There are couple of elements that makes House of Cards stand out, one of them is the direct conversations to the viewers Underwood uses to add context, spice things up and explain some things. The usage of this method was a bit off-putting in the beginning, but I guess it’s common for a less used element to feel a bit foreign before getting used to it. Plus, Spacey does it in a way that it’s hard not to enjoy those moments of direct communication, as almost being in the show yourself. Now, the first two episodes (or chapters) are directed by one of the show’s producer David Fincher, yes, the Oscar nominated director who has directed some amazing movies. Now, the directing seems to be divided into two episodes per director with Allen Coulter, Charles McDougall, Carl Franklin and James Foley (he directed 3 episodes) but I couldn’t really tell the difference. There were some subtle nuances that might describe the specific director but House of Cards has a balanced vibe of sophistication to go with the high level writing. So the directing is certainly a stand out as well but I have to admit, it was difficult to follow every element while trying to understand all that political stuff and intrigue House of Cards was throwing at me all the time.
Now the creator and the writer (not the only one credited) for House of Cards is Beau Willimon, who’s name might ring a bell since his play was adapted onto the screen by George Clooney (The Idles of March). I’m not an expert, for me the series sounded smart and witty most of the time, but I must admit that sometimes I wanted more. I wanted more sarcasm, I wanted more wit and power behind the words. But then again, it’s mostly just looking for things to criticize because it’s hard to find any in House of Cards. Is it perfect? Well, when ever is a TV-show close to perfection – I’d say it’s a matter of subjective taste and I happened to love House of Cards! Plus, I’ve always enjoyed Kevin Spacey, though I haven’t seen him a lot, he is a solid actor who is accompanied by an equally strong cast, experienced directors and a plot that is most definitely going to end the season on a cliffhanger.