House of CardsÂ is West Wing’sÂ evil twin; theÂ Game of ThronesÂ of American politics. Cards shows us the seedy underbelly of Washington D.C. — shady deals, corruption, murder, and corporate intrigue.
Netflixâ€™s original series House of CardsÂ came with the promise of Kevin Spacey and the directing talents of David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club) and Joel Schumacher (The Lost Boys, Tigerland) to name a couple. The writing team also showcases a variety of talent, ranging from True Blood, Madmen, West Wing, and even Six Feet Under (and some less exciting shows). Season one of Cards was released on Netflix on February 1st, which was a cunning move to hook us right away. No waiting, just a lot of snacks and late nights for television addicts everywhere (well, in the U.S. anyway).
Kevin Spacey plays the cunning and intimidating Congressman Frank J. Underwood. His character falls somewhere between a southern gentleman and a hardened, middle-aged man from the streets of Washington, D.C. The first thing that will shock you about the show is that it almost immediately breaks the 4th wall (a term that refers to when a character addresses the audience directly). However strange it might feel the first couple times, I was inevitably won over by the cajones of a show that would attempt this nontraditional feat. Moreover, it is done fluidly and functions well by letting us into the twisted mind of Spaceyâ€™s character: a place that otherwise would take a lifetime to enter.
Spacey is fantastic in season one, especially backed by his cold, calculating wife Claire (played by Robin Wright). There are several likable characters throughout the season. In particular, Congressman Peter Russo, played by Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris, Law & Order: LA). Russoâ€™s narrative allows Stoll to really shine as a performer. By the time his storyline hits a crescendo we are fully invested in his story and want him to succeed. However, we know that his narrative will likely be a tragic one.
Doug Stamper (played by Michael Kelly) is also a notable character. His dead pan, all business personality creates layers of intrigue in the show. As Underwoodâ€™s right hand, we are constantly left questioning how evil Stamper really is and what the engine is that drives him. Between Stamper and Underwood, we wonder if there is anything they would not do for power — and how long it will be until they are caught.
In the end, Spacey’s character manages to steal the show every time. His one liners and camera presence makes for an intimidating villain/anti-hero. Although the show will no doubt change its focus a little every season, we know that we will ultimately watch Underwood as he descends further into the darkness, only to eventually find some kind of redemption by the showâ€™s end.
I highly suggest you take the time to watch the first season ofÂ Cards. It is an amazing first attempt by Netflix for a series that rivals those of HBO and Showtime (and cheaper). However, the constant product placement in a television series is a little annoying; especially the constant AppleÂ plugs.Â I will be waiting patiently for season 2.
Once you are hooked, and you will be, there is about eleven hours of awe-inspiring television.
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