Howdy ladies and gents, time for a TV review again, YAY! Today I’ll be talking about the first season of House of Cards. I recently gave my quick thoughts in a recent blog post, but this post will be a little more expansive.
Story-wise the show can be summed up as the following:
“A Congressman works with his equally conniving wife to exact revenge on the people who betrayed him.”
At first things unfold in an interesting way. You’re basically being introduced to this world through Frank Underwood’s eyes, you learn about the world of politics and government, and then there’s the journalism side of things as well. And you see how these two things operate separately but also how they intersect and have positive and negative effects for the people on either side. But what you learn quickly is that this is Frank’s story, everything is about him, and even when he isn’t the primary focus, in some way things will tie back to him, and there lies the show’s biggest strength and flaw. Frank’s a character with ambition and aspirations, but in order for him to get from A to B, he has plot and plan ahead and this involves everyone around him whether they are his wife, friends, enemies, other colleagues or people he doesn’t know, as they serve a purpose in the grand scheme of things. It is really smart and creative to see how these stories pan out and how the characters do things that intentionally and unintentionally relate back to Frank’s main plan. Of course there are parts of the story that don’t directly involve Frank like the smaller stories involving Claire, Zoe, Peter or Doug that have varying levels of significance. I will say Peter Russo’s arc is one of the most intriguing and dramatic and Claire’s story certainly gets more dramatic towards the latter half of the season. In terms of negatives HOS takes a little while to get into, the pace is slower than most shows I normally watch, I wasn’t completely sold on the first few episodes and a lot of the time I forgot the names of many characters and sometimes couldn’t follow certain conversations because of the political jargon. And finally certain stories set up some interesting possibilities, however they don’t all pan out the way you’d want them to (or at least the way I wanted them to).
As the cast there are all pretty good. Kevin Spacey just kills it as U.S. Congressman Francis “Frank” J. Underwood. Frank’s a thinker, he’s proactive and is always a few steps ahead, and if something isn’t going his way he knows how to flip it and make the situation work for him. In some ways Frank reminds me of Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones in the sense that they are smart, cunning and confident. They know the game when it comes to politics and power, they know how to manipulate and persuade people, they’re stubborn and know no defeat. Rarely are they on the side of failure. So when they do trip up or make a mistake it is worse because they’ve been right for so long. I’ve always liked Spacey as an actor and this show really displays his acting talents in full force as he is charming, aggressive, relatable and just fun to watch. Robin Wright is just as important as Claire Underwood, at first she does come across as Frank’s wife and rock who supports him in all that he does, but as things progress you start to see that she’s a very strong individual who’s just as smart and cunning as her husband. Plus there is moments dedicated to her backstory and seeing how she develops as a person. Wright is an actress I haven’t seen that much of in recent years so it’s nice to see her in such a great role here. Kate Mara as Zoe Barnes is really good, Zoe is a young, gorgeous, intuitive and forward-thinking kind of woman who wants to further her work in journalism and will do so whether the means are morally or ethically correct or not. I love the working relationship that she obtains with Franks and how they help each other but also how the relationship changes when they really start to need things from each other. Mara plays this character pretty well with style, grace and beauty.
Corey Stoll may be the season-stealer as Peter Russo, Russo is a good man with a troubled background, he’s involved with a lot of bad stuff and that in turn leaves him in dangerous situations which he eventually gets out of thanks to Frank. So Peter, through manipulation actually gets his act together and tries to do good, and I’d like to say more but it would be ruining things. Peter’s story arc is one of the best aspects of the season and Stoll is brilliant and I really like what he brought to the role. Michael Kelly as Douglas “Doug” Stamper is great, I’ve seen Kelly in a few TV shows and films here and there, but this is the most substantial role I’ve seen from him and he’s really good as Frank’s Chief of Staff. Kristen Connolly is great as Christina Gallagher and I also liked Sakina Jaffrey as Linda Vasquez. Sandrine Holt as Gillian Cole was quite good too, at first she’s a nice and respectable lady, but then she really grows some balls and goes into some aggressive places. Constance Zimmer is good as Janine Skorsky, at first I found Janine quite mean and frustrating but she eventually cooled down and showed more resourceful and nicer side later on. Michel Gill does well as President Garrett Walker, even though his character seems a little plain at times, at other points he’s shown to be smart and cunning too. Mahershala Ali is also great as Remy Danton, I like how he and Frank have history and sometimes are opposed but other times need each other for mutual purposes. Ben Daniels as Adam Galloway was good, however I felt like his character could have been delved into a little more or just been taken out altogether. Reg E. Cathey is good as Freddy Hayes, even though he’s only around every so often, I love his interactions with Frank and how relaxed and friendly he is. And finally Rachel Brosnahan as Rachel Posner is good as well and I found her character interesting considering her line of work and how she progresses.
Oh by the way the presentation is great. The show is shot really well, everything looks so clean, the lighting is nice and the cinematography in general looks pretty. The soundtrack is also very good as it is very dramatic, haunting and disturbing, most times it feels unsettling and it works with the action on-screen. Oh and that opening, at first I really didn’t care for it as it came across as a bit plain with the music and just a time-lapse of different locations in DC, but I started to get into it and I will say that both the music and imagery gets more interesting after the sun goes down.
In conclusion season 1 of House of Cards is pretty damn good. It introduces you to the world of politics and journalism, and how they intertwine. There is tension, drama and chaos, and it is just intriguing to see how these key characters interact and develop. I will say that certain story aspects didn’t pan out the way I would have liked and some of the political jargon lost me, but overall a good start to an interesting show.
So have you seen the first season of House of Cards and if so what do you think of it? Please be sure to comment below and I’ll see ya on the next review, laters! 😀