House of Cards Season One (2013) TV Review “Netflix Has Truly Arrived”

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Season 3 of “House of Cards” is less than a month away and I have been re-watching the first two seasons before the newest one drops online and I have just completed the first season.  Netflix had “Lilly Hammer” before this but “House of  Cards” is really the first big original series from Netflix.  It maybe their first big series but Netflix showed with one definitive swing that there are here to compete and excel at original television programming.   Loaded with A-List talent, brilliant production values, intricate storytelling, and excellent direction, this first season of “House of Cards” is not to be missed.

“House of Cards” follows a United States Congressman Francis “Frank” Underwood.  Feeling betrayed by the new President of the United States of American for not following through on his promise to nominate him as the Secretary of State; Francis and his wife Claire start to exact their revenge in the political realm of Washington D.C. full if lies, deceit, greed, and corruption.

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Politics shows are a tricky matter.  Easily forgettable if not written well enough but profoundly memorable if intelligent enough.  “The West Wing” from Aaron Sorkin is one of those political dramas that has lasted in the public mindset as an intelligent political drama.   But, it showed a very different type of political drama than “House of Cards”.  “The West Wing” showed mostly good natured  people whom wanted the best for their country.  “House of Cards” shows devious political power types that will do anything to get what they want.  Making deals with other politicians for political favors, backing out of political promises, going against moral beliefs,  lying, betraying; anything that can be done to achieve their goals, these people will do.  You hope that real life Washington isn’t like this but “House of Cards” has an aura of realism to it that, it almost convinces you that this is true to life; which is a scarier proposition than most horror movies.

One of the biggest keys to this series is the team of writers that have been assembled.  The writers all feels consistent, spinning lines of fierce and manipulative dialogue with story lines that have you gripped without having a need for any characters to fire a bullet.  Writer/Executive Producer Beau Willimon works incredible strokes of genius with the amount of characters he has to juggle, while making the show easy to understand without “dumbing” the show’s intelligence; keeping a strong feeling of realism, and also keeping the show exciting without feeling the need to be outlandish.  Even though there is a moment late in the season that makes you question whether the show did quote on quote “jump the shark”.   You sort of let it go simply because of the way the show handles it, even though that certain event (which I won’t spoil here) might irk you a bit.

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Putting his signature style on the series is executive producer David Fincher.  Helming the first two episodes of the show, the director gives the series the digital greenish brown glossy look that we’ve been accustom to seeing in many of his past feature films like “The Social Network” and “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”.  Visually the show is gorgeous and even when Fincher is not behind the camera you can feel his finger print on the entire show.  Bringing the talents of Fincher, one of the best film directors working today, gives the series a prestige that it wouldn’t have without him.

Carrying the show on his shoulders is star Kevin Spacey.  Playing Francis Underwood to great effect.  Spacey loses himself in the role, sporting a thick accent, cunning determination, and a seduction that oozes onto the viewers.  Francis “Frank” Underwood is by all accounts in the show a ruthless man that is un-empathetic  and will exploit anything for his own personal gain.  This sort of devious character would normally be the antagonist of our story but instead he front and center the main character.  Despite all the horrible things Underwood does on the show, we can’t help but root for him.  Spacey pulls his own set of strings on the audience, entrancing them in his eventual Golden Globe winning performance.

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The rest of cast is a plethora of A-list talent.  Robin Wright plays Frank’s wife in Claire Underwood.  Almost as cunning as Frank, Claire can be just as determined as he can but uses her soft and inviting presence to lure in their combatants.  If that doesn’t work though, she can turn fearsome and as powerful as Francis in the very next second.  One moment you’ll hate her and then others like her but that due to the show’s direction and because of the brilliant performance by  Robin Wright, whom is a perfect pairing with Spacey.

Playing a young and hungry journalist is Kate Mara. Sister of David Fincher veteran actress Rooney Mara (“The Social Network” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”), Kate proves she isn’t someone who plans on staying in her sister’s shadow or riding off their family name.  Kate brings a down to earth but at the same time equally as cunning type of performance.  Vulnerable, tough, and seductive, Mara breathes life into a naive character and her own potential acting career.

The rest of the supporting cast as equally as good.  Corey Stoll brings a soul to the series with his character in Peter Russo.  Michael Gill as the President of the United States, Michael Kelly in a breakout supporting role, Kristen Connelly and so many others bringing out their full loaded talents to this small screen giving the show one of the best ensemble casts around.

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It’s been said that House of Cards” might have changed the way shows are made single handily.  Regardless if has or not, Netflix showed  that they have come to play and stay in the realm of television.  Striking hard with a memorable and strong 13 episode season in this new series that has very little flaws or weaknesses. “House of Cards” is a real winner.

Final Score

9/10

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