Back in the beginning of February Netflix released House of Cards, it’s first original series. That part of the story was secondary, though as the real news was that Netflix was bucking tradition and dropping the entire first season of the show, all thirteen episodes at once.
Was it revolutionary?
Was it idiotic?
Was it even a good show?
All of these questions were subsequently forced to be answered over night as opposed to stretched out over thirteen weeks, like most shows. This could be seen as both a pro and a con.
In fact, the show is best discussed through the prism of pro’s and con’s.
But first, if you haven’t seen House of Cards, then here’s what you need to know…(SPOILERS)…
There’s Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, a Congressman from South Carolina. He’s a Democrat and House Majority Whip. When a new president is elected, Underwood is passed over for the Secretary of State position he was promised. This is where the scheming starts and Underwood loves scheming- especially while smoking one cigarette a night with his wife Claire, played by Robin Wright. Claire is a steely-eyed vixen who may or may not have killed anywhere from 1 to 30 hobo’s in her life. The Underwoods are a power couple and now have the president in their cross-hairs. They start scheming, Frank starts boinking reporter Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara) and poor Peter Russo, a Congressman from Philly, ends up drunk & dead by episode 11. Heading into season two, Underwood has been asked to be Vice President but doesn’t know that Barnes, no longer his eff buddy, is starting to get wise to his scheming.
Ok, so moving on…
Pro: The Lump Sum Release Catered to Binge-Watchers Everywhere
Thanks first to DVDs and then On Demand and DVR, binge-watching television shows has become our nation’s new pastime. Whether it’s an older show like The Wire or a new show like Breaking Bad, it doesn’t matter when you started watching the show as much as if you finished it. And playing catch up is almost better than watching shows in real time. You are in control that way. You don’t have to wait a week for a new episode, only a few seconds. You can bang out an entire season in a week or series in two weeks with the right amount of tenacity and perseverance.
Con: Makes It Hard to Talk About, Though
If you are binge-watching that means you are most likely doing it solo or with your significant other. This makes it tricky however when you finally do get off the couch and re-enter the real world. Unlike when you’re watching a show in real-time, where you can pretty much talk about it with everyone the day after it aired, when it comes to binge-watching, you’re on an island. Instead of fighting off sharks and cannibals and smoke monsters, you’re fighting off spoilers. While it was innovative for Netflix to drop House of Cards all at once from a consuming perspective, it muted any potential conversations about the show. People weren’t watching it at the same time. That effectively made online discussions and recaps obsolete and both of those things have enhanced the TV watching experience, especially during this “golden era” of television. Netflix might have been better served to release House of Cards on two different occasions- splitting the season in half. That might have increased the number of conversations about it, as well as kept the buzz going about the show.
Pro: Frank Underwood Reminds Me of Caleb Crawdad
Hailing from South Carolina, Spacey’s Underwood speaks in a delightfully syrupy southern accent. It constantly reminds me of this…
That is a good thing.
Pro: Fourth Wall Schmourth Wall
What was initially off-putting and occasionally a little creepy ended up being really beneficial for House of Cards. I’m talking about when Frank Underwood breaks the fourth wall and addresses the camera directly. He explains the characters in a scene and how what’s going works either for his benefit or not. It’s very helpful. I’m not ashamed to admit it. Can someone on Game of Thrones do that too?
I just wish Spacey didn’t do it with such creepy eyes.
I do declare, it kind of makes me uncomfortable.
Cons: Happy Trails Congressman Russo
House of Cards hit it’s stride halfway through the season and rode of wave of suspense and really well directed drama all the way through the season’s end. A main contributor to the uptick in quality was Russo, played by Corey Stoll, who was last scene playing Ernest Hemingway in Midnight in Paris. Stoll was as good in House of Cards as he was in Midnight in Paris, where he played Hemingway as well as Clive Owen played Hemingway terribly in Hemingway and Gellhorn. Peter Russo’s story was a classic redemption story, as he tried to overcome a series of mistakes to turn his life around and run for Governor of Pennsylvania. Unfortunately for Russo, Stoll, and the audience, House of Cards isn’t about Peter Russo. It’s about Frank Underwood and Russo was just a pawn in Underwood’s plan. So basically Peter Russo was the Jimmy Darmody of House of Cards, a super interesting character who the show could have built itself around, but instead was killed to serve who the show was really built around.
Pro: Another Mara Sister!
First we had Rooney Mara and now we have her sister, Kate, who plays Zoe Barnes. I’m of the opinion that Rooney is the better looking sister, but you could easily convince me otherwise.
Pro: Doug Stamper.
Doug Stamper might be my favorite character, especially in the wake of Russo’s death. Stamper is Underwood’s Chief of Staff. He’s the one that knows where the bodies are buried, probably because he’s the one that buried them.
Con: Our View of Politicians
Is Washington really like that? Or is Washington more like the Washington in Veep?
Either way, no exactly flattering portrayals of our countries’ government.