Why you should watch House of Cards immediately
“I have zero tolerance for betrayal, which they will soon indelibly learn.” – Frank Underwood
Corruption. Revenge. Murder. No, it’s not another poorly scripted Nicholas Cage movie, but the incredibly well scripted Netflix original House of Cards, produced and developed by Beau Willimon. An adaptation of the British series of the same name, House of Cards is a political drama series following the House Majority Whip for the Democrats, Frank Underwood, portrayed by the ever-wonderful Kevin Spacey. The series joins Frank just as he finds out that he has been overlooked for the position of Secretary of State, a position he had all but been promised by the President. Following this betrayal, the series documents Underwood’s intelligent and calculating attempts at exacting revenge on those who played a crucial part in this deception.
The series contains a few big names; needless to say the most prominent of which is Spacey, as well as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’s Robin Wright, who portrays Underwood’s equally calculating and power-crazed wife, capable of almost as much evil and manipulation as her husband in the name of supremacy. On top of that there is The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Rooney Mara’s, sister Kate Mara filling the role of a young, but far from naive political blogger and journalist who becomes involved in Frank’s plots. However, perhaps the biggest name tied to this project is David Fincher. The esteemed director, famous for films such as Fight Club, Panic Room and The Social Network, holds the title of executive producer and even directed a couple of episodes. His artistic influence is evident from the get go in the series, with his odd mixture of moodiness, grit and clarity giving the series a recognisable and identifiable aesthetic identity.
Fincher stated that his interest in the series was first sparked after seeing the acclaimed but out-dated British version, after which he decided that the remake was inevitable and to snap it up while it was still available. Perhaps the most interesting stylistic tweak which Fincher made to this remake was his use of breaking the fourth wall. This is an often risky move for filmmakers, and the fourth wall is a very volatile beast to tame. When used correctly, from Ferris Bueller to the Great Dictator, I can’t deny my soft spot for that subtle wink to the audience, the charming monologue or the look to camera that sends a shiver down your spine, but I must say I was sceptical at first about the fourth wall’s place in a political drama. However, it is truly Spacey’s performance and execution of these risky scenes which truly convinced me.
Spacey’s character is conniving, ruthless, unforgiving, and absolutely, unequivocally divine. Fincher recalls in an interview that he gave the script to Spacey and that “it was a good thing that he responded because we didn’t have anybody else on the list”. It’s clear why Spacey was his only choice; though his trade-mark firm, monotone drawl is hidden by a rich Southern twang, he still commands the absolute authority and presence that only Kevin Spacey can. This confidence and charm is what allows Underwood to walk the thin line between villain and anti-hero; simultaneously making us hate and adore him. Underwood is undeniably a vicious man, but he carries it with such an effortless elegance and je nais sais quoi that you find yourself utterly spellbound by his charm. Spacey acts not as devil’s advocate but the devil himself, walking you through the hell of the American political system and exposing the misdeeds and corruption in modern politics in a truly thought-provoking way. While in some TV shows you can’t shake the feeling that the characters and indeed the series itself takes a few episodes to really find a clear identity; Spacey, Fincher and Willimon seemed to have a strong and defined idea of the direction in which the series would go, and you really feel like you’re in the competent hands of professionals while watching it.
Terrifying, intelligent, exhilarating, witty and moving all at once, this series is a rare example of directing, scripting and acting coming together in the perfect balance to make a piece of television which is truly exciting. With a second series already in the works, I suggest you all stock up on cupboard food and lock yourselves in your houses immediately to watch the entire first series, because my God is it addictive.