As most of you know, I live in the DC metro area. Being in what is considered the most powerful city in the world, or one of the most, comes with certain privileges, annoyances, and a lifestyle that’s surrounded by politics. But only if you make it. I am a chemistry researcher and being such I do not have a daily interaction with politics, and personally, am glad I don’t. I say this to preface this review primarily because I was hesitant to watch House of Cards for a long while.
There has been an exceptional amount of buzz around the show for some time now, and I thought it was just another West Wing-like show. Oh, was I wrong. I didn’t binge watch the show, even though it’s probably better to watch it in multiple hour segments because of all of the details that are embedded into each show, but watched it over a few week span. Each night I would watch one episode, on weekends some times two or three. I would advise, if you have an addicted personality, you already know going into it that you will binge watch this show.
Returning to the actual premise of this piece, House of Cards is a great piece of drama. At times, you have to remove yourself from reality and allow the show some leeway and fictional allowances for all of the back stabbing, political games, and character flaws that this show portrays. But oh how juicy it is.
There are only two seasons available on Netflix currently and how much plot and character development is held within just those two seasons of 13 episodes could easily fit into an entire series in Primetime. This is both good and bad (mostly good, however). The plot essentially follows Francis Underwood and his political ramblings from being House Whip to Vice President (first season) then onto the issues that plague his Vice Presidency and beyond. You can’t hate but to love Frank. Some may consider his evil, some may consider him politically savvy, and others may just consider him a power hungry politician. Regardless, you can’t deny that he is great at his job. He was great as being a Whip, and he was great at being a Congressman in the White House, exuding his “power” over his fellow Democrats.
For how much I enjoyed Frank as a character, I loved Claire Underwood even more. Robin Wright does a superb job of being the rock that Frank leans on when he needs support. Yet she keeps her independence throughout the entirety of the two seasons. In the episode where she divulges that she was raped by a boyfriend in college was amazing. Yet her character was not only beautiful and politically savvy herself; one can argue she was even more cunning than Frank. A recurring theme throughout the entire two seasons draws an emphasis that Claire is NOT Francis’ wife but rather his partner in the political game in which they live in (she only calls his Francis, providing evidence for this argument).
Now, this show may tell the tale of the Underwoods, but it is the supporting characters that make this series truly magnificent. The first season revolves around a plot to get a junior Congressman,Russo, to run for Governor of Pennsylvania. He is a recovering addict and has a challenging time gaining trust in the Pennsylvania public. The other plot that season one concerns is the evolution of Frank’s relationship with Zoe, a junior reporter for a DC newspaper. Not only is the relationship mutual for work, but it turns sexual. I wasn’t particularly a fan of this turn of events, but it provides a bit of evidence for the argument that Frank craves power, especially in the bedroom. These two characters add substantial plots to an underlying theme of Underwood’s scaling the political ladder, and are just two examples of characters that made this series fabulous.
From the above few paragraphs you may think that I have put House of Cards on a pedestal of TV amazingness. Don’t get me wrong, there are aspects in which I wasn’t a fan of. There are two things (for lack of a better word, because I don’t know quite how to characterize them) that annoy me about the show. One is the level of fictional allowances you have to give to the plot as a whole. Spoiler Alert: Do you really think that an individual can climb the chain of command in the US government to the most powerful seat in the free world in a matter of a few years? The Underwoods were great at rubbing elbows with people who they could feed off of, but to consider that they had a plan for every person they interacted with and how they could benefit in their rise to power is a little too far-fetched. The other “thing” that bugged me about the show was the superfluous sexual encounters. Again, Spoiler Alert: the Underwoods have a three-way with a member of their security detail. And Doug spying on Rachel and her GF getting it on was just stupid. The three-way was unnecessary, and quite frankly, we didn’t need the visual of Rachel and the GF when we could hear their moans through the door. And the reason for this was…for viewers to get their jollies? I don’t know, if anything these situations detracted from the plot line.
Overall, the pros outweigh the cons of this series. I would suggest many people should watch the show and delve into the world of politics. You will become either disenchanted that these are the people the American public votes into office to lead the country or you will take the entire show for what it is. Great Drama. The entire cast and crew deserve every accolade they get for providing viewers with some great drama, some of which may be lacking a component of reality to it. But really, it’s better than some reality shows (ahem, Jersey Shore or Real Housewives) that are based on reality, yet you fully know are not real. Netlfix you have outdone yourself and should be given props. I’m happy I pay for you, and I’m happy that you don’t have the same rules and regulations as Primetime. For that, I am eternally grateful.