‘House of Cards’ mirrors capitol’s reality

Posted April 12, 2013


Kevin Spacey shines in Netflix’s original series “House of Cards,” a political drama centered on the corrupt nature of politics in modern day Washington, D.C.

houseofcards“House of Cards” follows the lives and careers of politicians and journalists in D.C. for this Machiavellian thriller, focusing on the sex, greed and malfeasance so prominent in our nation’s capitol.

Kevin Spacey (“The Usual Suspects”) plays Francis Underwood, a Democratic Congressman from South Carolina who will stop at nothing to get what he wants: power.

Spacey is so smooth in this role that even the viewer is easily swayed by his sugary sweet southern accent, no matter how wrong the words coming out may be. Playing on the weaknesses of his opponents and “co-workers,” Francis Underwood is the quintessential cunning and manipulative Congressman that is carefully and mercilessly making his way to the top of the political food chain.

The first episode opens with a black screen as the viewer hears the sound of a car crash and a dog whimpering. The camera shows Underwood at the scene stooping to look at the dog hurt in a hit and run, while looking directly into the camera and narrating about putting it out of its misery as we see the grimace in his face and the whimpers of the dog suddenly stop. Underwood strangled the dog in an apparent act of mercy, though the viewer wonders if he enjoyed it.

Zoe Barnes, a young, aspiring political journalist for The Washington Post, proves to be just as ruthless as the politicians she writes about. The role is played by Kate Mara, known for “American Horror Story.” Mara plays the character with a very controlled determination with a hint of doe-eyed innocence.

Barnes is a no nonsense reporter, hated by the senior staffers for her mysterious source that suddenly appears, giving her unbridled access to stories no one else can find. Congressman Underwood, Barnes’ source, uses Zoe as a tool to promote his political agenda as her writing career gets a sudden jolt of fame, all the while instigating a steamy, taboo romance. The characters have a mutual symbiotic relationship that has only one potential ending.

Corey Stoll (“The Bourne Legacy”) plays Peter Russo, a Congressman from Pennsylvania who hides many struggles behind his suit and flag pin. Russo, who Underwood is grooming for governor of Pennsylvania, is a mess of a man, struggling with substance abuse and alcoholism, not to mention a re-occurring habit of prostitutes.

Congressman Underwood’s wife Claire Underwood, played by Robin Wright (“The Princess Bride”), is as cold-hearted as her husband, suddenly firing over half of her staff of the highbrow philanthropic organization that she runs.

Claire is concerned with only one thing and it is the same thing her husband wants. Turning a blind eye when her husband has affairs — only asking “What does she do for us?” — it is apparent that Wright’s character has the same callous personality as Francis.

The ultimate slimy politicians portrayed feeds right into what most of America thinks of Congressmen in general, with a job approval rating of only 13 percent according to the Gallup Poll in March 2013. Only 11 percent of Americans believe members of Congress have a very high level of ethics and honesty.

“House of Cards” creators David Fincher (“The Social Network”) and Beau Willimon (“The Ides of March”) exploited the popular American beliefs of a corrupt government to mastermind this hit series.

The full first season is available for streaming on Netflix, which outbid other networks such as HBO, Showtime, and AMC hoping to start its own original programming.  Producing a show that allows the entire season to be available to stream all at once has the potential to change the world of TV production.

With the popularity of websites like Netflix and Hulu that allow entire seasons of shows to be aired at once, people are able to watch what they want to watch when they want to watch it. Weekly broadcasts airing new episodes of shows are becoming less and less popular, due to the convenience factor of having online streaming and being able to “binge view” entire seasons at once.

Netflix has produced three shows and a movie that are currently available for streaming and is in production with seven other series set to air later this year and in 2014.  The long-awaited fourth season of Arrested Development (originally on FX) is one of the most hyped shows to air on Netflix.

The full second season of “House of Cards” will be available to stream in 2014.

  • Title: House of Cards
  • Network: Netflix
  • Release Date: Feb. 1, 2013
  • Length: 13 episodes, 60 minutes
  • Genre: Political drama
  • Actors: Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Kate Mara, Corey Stoll
  • Creators: David Fincher, Beau Willimon
  • Rating: A