The Rundown: 4 out of 5 stars – House of Cards is a show about scheming politicians, tenacious reporters, and government corruption. I never know if I should root for Frank Underwood and his determination to destroy his enemies, or hope one of tenacious reporters exposes his lies and corruption. That being said, it remains a political drama, and if you don’t like a lot of scheming behind closed doors punctuated by occasional acts of violence, this show is not for you. Jeffrey Roth: House of Cards is one of Netflix’s original series, and definitely the most impressive one I’ve seen thus far. Hemlock Grove‘s advertising never really grabbed me, and there’s stuff they’ve been putting up that never even got on my radar. House of Cards is really the first one I’ve looked at. Paul Brian McCoy: I’ve got to agree with you there. When I first heard about this show I knew that Netflix were beginning to launch original programming, but their first venture, Lilyhammer didn’t really interest me at all. And I’d never even heard of The Ropes until sitting down to write this review! Both of those launched at the start of 2012, and then a year later, when news that they were going to do an American adaptation of the British series House of Cards broke, I was intrigued. I’ve got me a love for British television that can’t be quenched. Hell, this affliction got me to watch the first five episodes of the painfully depressing Low Winter Sun on AMC thanks to the strength of the UK original series, and I don’t think anyone else lasted that long. And when they announced the cast for House of Cards, I knew it was game on. Jeffrey: Yeah, the BBC knows how to do good TV, and when I first heard that House of Cards was an adaptation of a British show, that almost made me not even bother. What really got me curious despite myself was the great cast they brought to the table, and they do deliver. The storyline of House of Cards primarily follows Congressman Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) starting from the eve of a great triumph. He has just helped secure the President’s victory in the latest election, and he has been promised the position of Secretary of State for his trouble. Instead of the coveted seat on the President’s cabinet, Underwood is pushed aside, and told he’ll be better suited where he’s at as the Majority Whip in Congress. As a result, Underwood vows revenge on the President and all those who had a part in his slight. So starts a journey to gain political power wherever possible, and by any means necessary. Paul: And Robin Wright as his wife Claire is right by his side so steadfastly she could give Lady Macbeth lessons. The original series (and novel) by Michael Dobbs was partially inspired by both Macbeth and Richard III, so that Shakespearean level of political intrigue is deep in the bones of this story, which helps elevate the narrative in ways that you just don’t get with a lot of mainstream television. I mean these are people, Frank and Claire, who are clearly sociopathic and driven to do horrible things in the pursuit of not just power, but as you say, revenge. And that first time that Frank turned and addressed the viewer, giving a soliloquy about what was going on around him and expressing his desires and hostilities with a poetic wit and vulgarity, I was immediately won over. He was a horrible person, but I couldn’t help but root for him. It’s insidious. Jeffrey: Yeah, he does really horrible things, but at the same time you understand all his motivations, because he explains them to you. The show does revolve around him, so with that explanation I can definitely understand rooting for him. Sometimes the things he does to those around him are appalling though, and it’s hard not to cast him as the villain. I’m still not quite sure he’s not. I started watching House of Cards immediately upon finishing The West Wing, and the contrast between the two political dramas is quite apparent. The West Wing shows the staff of the White House and the President as important, wondrous, and at times very fun. As a contrast, Frank Underwood’s Washington is brutal, cruel, and full of people who only move when leverage is applied. It is a pleasure to watch him work sometimes, as aspects of his plan are revealed piecemeal throughout the season, and you never quite know where he’ll take you next. Paul: Seriously! The characters from House of Cards would take the characters from The West Wing and do brutal things to their psyches while smoking cigarettes and drinking scotch. Then Frank and Claire would laugh and mock them as they huddled together in the corner and cried. Jeffrey: Oh god, I really would not want to see that mashup. Let me keep my good West Wing memories damn you! SORKIN FOREVER…. ahem. anyways. back to, uh, this. While Spacey and Wright almost dominate the whole show, the supporting cast provides plenty of entanglement and suspense. From the ambitious Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara – the new Sue Storm!!), who tries to use Frank to further her career while Frank uses her right back, to disgraced Congressman Peter Russo (Corey Stoll) who Frank tries to use for his own devices after helping him out of a jam. All the characters are given depth, and their own roles to play in their own stories, as well as parts of Underwood’s larger plans. Paul: You’re right. Mara and Stoll really shine in this. I was a little put off by the relationships between Zoe and Frank at first — it seemed almost too exploitative for a show this good on every other level — but as she began developing into a person who could stand toe-to-toe with Frank, I saw what it was they were doing. It was a nice grounding in carnality and flirtations with power that served to really contrast the real power and strength of Frank’s relationship with Claire (who had her own flirtations with carnality to explore). In some ways their marriage is one of the purest love stories I’ve ever seen. In other ways it’s just chilling in its political efficiency. By the end of the season, Zoe had so many intangible ways of manipulating Frank right back that I was expecting something horrible to happen to her at any moment. But she was kind of the soul of the piece. The person who started out as a relative innocent who just has her whole world opened up in both good and bad ways. Horrible ways, quite frankly (no pun intended). And Stoll’s Peter Russo was heartbreaking. I hated him at first and before everything was said and done, he became something just tragic. Frank is the devil at times, just goading and prompting, teasing and tempting, all for his own secret reasons. What did you think of Michael Kelly‘s performance as Doug Stamper, Frank’s chief of staff? I really wasn’t expecting him to get a real storyline of his own; especially with the way it involves Rachel Brosnahan‘s former prostitute character, Rachel Posner. Jeffrey: Doug Stamper is definitely one of my favorite characters. He makes his motivations clear without telling them to us verbatim, and what motivations they are. Rachel Posner was another pleasant surprise, and I like her as the voice of the ‘average joe’ that’s basically the prize being fought over. She gets tangled up in Frank’s mess pretty much by accident, and it really gives us a character to relate to on a civilian level. It doesn’t hurt that she’s a Chicago native; we’re a very talented city. Paul: And does anybody play slimy businessman better than Gerald McRaney? I still have difficulty reconciling the fact that one of the Simon brothers and Major Dad was such a threatening and evil presence in this. He might be more evil than Frank. Jeffrey: Raymond Tusk is also a really awesome character, though his part was important yet short, I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of him in season 2. Paul: So, what did you think overall? Jeffrey: Overall I was pleasantly surprised by House of Cards. It definitely shows that Netflix has some quality programming to offer, and it draws me towards Orange is the New Black to see how that measures up. If political drama is your thing, and intrigue makes your heart race, this is for you, but if you’d rather see assassinations, terrorist plots, explosions, and SWAT teams, this may not be your thing. Paul: Oh yeah. This isn’t the sort of show that’s going to try and distract you with spectacle when it comes up short on story. Watching House of Cards is like mainlining narrative so pure it gives you the shakes when it’s all over. And I just checked! All three seasons of the original series are now streaming on Netflix too! At four episodes per season, I think this might be another weekend I spend on the couch never seeing sunlight. See larger image House of Cards: Season 1 [Blu-ray] New From: $8.25 USD In Stock House of Cards Season 1Jeffrey RothPaul Brian McCoy4.0Overall ScoreShare this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response Catch Up on House of Cards! - Psycho Drive-In March 4, 2016 […] First up, we have Paul’s overview of House of Cards Season One! […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.