DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS
Focusing on the dealings of House Majority Whip Francis Underwood, House of Cards is the seedier, darker cousin of NBC’s The West Wing. Loosely based on the 1990 mini-series, which in itself was loosely based on the novel of the same name by Michael Dobbs, House of Cards premiered on Netflix on February 1st. Unusually, Netflix released all 13 episodes at once allowing avid watchers to get their teeth into the entire series over one day. I can assure you, it would not have been a wasted day.
I won’t pretend to know much about American politics, about presidency campaigns and reform bills passing through congress but I know a good drama when I see one. This is one. On paper the talent behind this project is incredible. Directed by legendary director David Fincher and written by Beau Willimon, House of Cards stars Kevin Spacey as the ruthless, ambitious protagonist Francis Underwood. His South Carolinian accent oozes gravitas and seduces you within seconds his mouth opening. I’m not ashamed to admit I fancy him immensely.
The plot centres round Frank and his wife Claire – played effortlessly by Robin Wright who holds her own, representing a decade of powerful women in American politics – and their personal and professional goals. After being passed over for Secretary of State, Frank sets his eye on becoming Vice-President and is willing to do anything to achieve this. Whilst his goal is not revealed until the later episodes, what is obvious is the threat and request nature of politics, of favours earnt and cashed in and how there is always someone higher up the food chain willing to sell you out to put themselves ahead. How true this representation is I cannot prove, but it makes thrilling television. Spacey is cool as a cucumber, fully aware of the cards in his hand throughout the series until his murder of troubled congressman Peter Russo reveals an unforeseen spontaneous, and dangerous, nature.
Kate Mara – sister of Rooney – stars as Zoe Barnes, an ambitious young journalist who embarks on both a professional and personal relationship with Frank. His inside information sends her career into the stratosphere but it is clear the relationship is simply a business transaction for both parties. Commentators in Washington have been debating whether political reporters have or do engage in sexual trysts for the sake of a story, unsurprisingly there is no evidence to prove it though it is not an entirely unfeasible idea.
House of Cards is a deeply cynical show. Each character is out for themselves. Washington is portrayed as a dog-eat-dog world and this show is full of dogs. Zoe is willing to sleep with a man double her age for the sake of her career, Claire will betray her husband for the development of her business, Frank will murder a friend to keep him quiet and us the audience, we will lock ourselves in our bedrooms unable to stop watching.
House of Cards Series One is available on Netflix with Series Two expected next year
Watch the trailer here … http://youtu.be/ULwUzF1q5w4