House of Cards

I’ve just finished watching all 13 episodes of the new ‘House of Cards’ on Netflix. It’s taken me 4 days. I’m surprised it took me that long. Thats my recommendation in short form but allow me to go into a bit more depth.

First just a bit of background. ‘House of Cards’ was first a book, then a BBC TV Series and now a Netflix original drama starring Kevin Spacey. I saw the original BBC TV show about 2 years ago and loved it, in a ‘how haven’t I heard of this before’ kind of way. It follows the almost Shakespearian anti-hero Francis Urquhart (Underwood in the remake) as he devises a plan to take revenge after the newly elected Prime Minister/President goes back on a promise to make him Secretary of State (citing his influence as Chief Whip being too important to lose with a tight majority) and he sets his sights much higher than the cabinet post he feels was rightfully his.

When I heard about an American remake I was interested to see what they’d do with it, but since the US Remake of ‘State of Play’ had been good but not essential viewing I was nothing more than interested. Then I heard it had been bought by Netflix has it’s first big original drama, my interest grew slightly. Finally I heard Kevin Spacey was attached to play the lead and that David Fincher would produce and direct the pilot, at that point hopes and expectations shot up quite dramatically.

Netflix released all 13 episodes of the first series on the 1st of February (they are already committed to a second) so on Saturday evening I thought i’d take a peak. I haven’t really stopped watching it since, apart from to sleep, eat and work. Fans of the original should have absolutely no worries about the remake, it’s faithful in all the right places, deviating and expanding to add depth and layers without adding unnecessary flab. Indeed the expansion of certain story elements and characters make the familiar plot points more powerful and hit you harder. One moment in particular stands out, it’s in the original TV show just in a slightly different form, and if you’ve seen the original you’ll be able to see them working up to it. In the original it’s a nasty moment for Urquhart, you quite dislike him at the time. In the remake I got very angry as I saw them work up to it, that if presented with the opportunity to enact physical violence against Spacey’s Underwood at that moment I probably would have taken it. All because the remake does such a good job of presenting it’s ensemble as full and realistic people.

Many of the reviews i’ve read for the show comment about how their aren’t many likeable characters in it. Thats a reflection on most reviews being based on the first two episodes. You’ll get to like quite a few of the characters as you get to know them better and it’s a sign of the shows confidence that it doesn’t rush to show you every side of the characters in the first 2 hours. Congressman Peter Russo played with great warmth and depth by Corey Stoll is one such character, at first he seems to be just another one of the pieces Underwood moves around the chessboard, but at times Stoll’s performance had me in tears. The entire ensemble are top notch.

I don’t want to over sell the show too much, your mileage will vary and it isn’t perfect. At times in the first two episodes you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d heard it’ll all before when it’s focussing on the relationship between the Press and Politicians. And for some the depths Underwood will go to in order to achieve his ends may not be entertaining to all and that would be perfectly understandable, I’m still debating with my self if a TV show making me as angry as I was at the moment described above is a good thing. But if you like tense, dark and thrilling drama with characters who are every shade of grey imaginable then I highly recommend you give the first two episodes a go. Then come back here and tell me what you think, cos thats the really fun part.

In the meantime I just need to decide if I re-watch it straight away or take another look at the original first. Me, addicted to TV drama? You might think that,…

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