“There are two kinds of pain. The sort of pain that makes you strong, or useless pain. The sort of pain that is only suffering. I have no patience for useless things.” The first line of the entire show. And it only gets better.
This is my first TV series review, so we shall see how it plays out.
House of Cards is a political drama television series developed and produced by Beau Willimon. It is an adaption of the BBC mini-series of the same name, original based on the novel by Michael Dobbs. It is Netflix online’s second original production for online screaming following Lilyhammer (2012). It had its first season premiere on February 1, 2013. The series stars Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Kate Mara, Corey Stoll, Michael Kelly, Sakina Jaffrey, Kristen Connolly, Constance Zimmer, Michel Gill, Mahershala Ali, Molly Parker, Nathan Darrow, Rachel Bronsahan, Gerald McRaney, and Sebastian Arcelus. The first season consisted of thirteen episodes, running 60 minutes each. Rated TV-MA.
The story is set in modern-day Washington, D.C., telling the story of Frank Underwood (Spacey), a Democrat Congressman from South Carolina and House Majority whip, who is betrayed by the newly elected president, and works with his equally conniving wife (Wright) to exact revenge on the people who betrayed him.
I have never seen so many believable, one-liner threats until this show! Because from beginning to end, it’s all of Frank Underwood’s threats to everyone he knows.
The major thing of the series that stands out to me is lead actor Kevin Spacey. His performance is electrifying! My fondness for his pure, unwavering talent has skyrocketed over the last year, since I watched him in movies like Se7en (1995), American Beauty (1999), and even the computer voice in Moon (2008)! The part of Congressman could have been portrayed in a very dull, stiff kind of way by any other actor, but Spacey brings a new life to screen (with a great South Carolina accent). All the little “isms” are consistent and reflect the character in whatever way is appropriate to his interaction with other players in Washington, or to the audience beyond the fourth wall, which he breaks in every episode. I know I would not be able to follow the show nearly as much if Spacey did not deliver a curiously strong, intent, sometimes funny matter-of-fact statements and questions to the audience. I am sure he took good screenwriting and turned it into great acting. Also, with almost all of his parts–which he reinvents every time, I think–he has such great power behind his eyes. Whatever he does, so much of the emotions are in his eyes. Magnificent.
In the vein of talking about the narration through the series, I believe the screenwriters deserve some credit. Although the story does not take totally unexpected turns in the series–except for some great scenes you never anticipate–they do a good job of explaining the characters over the coarse of thirteen episodes. We find out some of Underwood’s faith in the final episode, some of his past in the tenth, and so on and so forth. It goes to show that we do not need to know everything all at once, but riddled with facts here and there throughout.
I’ll say it again: some of the best threats ever written are in House of Cards.
Although I believe the show could not function without Spacey in the lead role, the supporting cast needs to be given some credit. Robin Wright is a very classy lady, and delivers a very firm-believing politician’s wife in the series. She proves over the series that she is not to be reckoned, same as her husband. Thumbs up for Robin, who I have always enjoyed watching. The rest of the cast I…well…would say they could be switched up with different actors and it would not have hurt things terribly. They are consistent, but maybe not solid. And I do not feel a lack of it in their characters or their scenes, but some of the acting just seems a little short–but that is probably because they are in the same room as Underwood. Nevertheless, they support the progression of the series overall.
Netflix has gone above and beyond in their business in the last few years. In creating an original series of their own, they would have almost total control with what they would be showing to the public, since they were financing and streaming the series on their own. This freedom got the attention of a lot of filmmakers, including David Fincher (who directed the first two episodes) and Joel Schumacher, amongst others. I am sure in the seasons to follow there will be plenty of mainstream directors raising their hands to fill the slots on set.
The series has a very professional “aroma” about it. In terms of lighting, cinematography, editing, and so forth, it reaches the level of cinema quality that I find very tasteful. Their production value is very high on my list!
To sum up, a very tasteful, unique series that I am sure will effect modern-day television enormously! Not just in terms of style and contrast, but the delivery and expectations new viewers will have for other stations than just Netflix. But to compare? House of Cards somehow or another is a potent combination of The West Wing, Game of Thrones, and…well…something new! I would give it a healthy 5 out of 7.