Wednesday, March 12, 2014

House of Cards Seasons 1 & 2: A twisted tale of politics as usual




Poster for Season 2 House of Cards. Source


Kevin Spacey portrays Congressman Francis J. Underhill,  Robin Wright portrays his wife, Claire, and Kate Mara portrays reporter, Zoe Barnes. House of Cards (HoC) is the BBC version of the same name from 1990. The new series pays homage to the old by mirroring some scenes. One scene from the original is used in the current series and the movie, Horrible Bosses. It is the scene when Kevin Spacey manipulates Jason Bateman into drinking 18 year old Scotch at 8:15 am.

HoC is not a network television show. It was created by Media Rights Capital. They pitched the series to several cable networks and then Netflix, the Internet streaming media provider, ended up securing the show.

HoC represents the future of television shows. Since it is not shown on a network it does not face the same type of scrutiny from Standards & Practices, which results in more artistic freedom to create, there are no commercials, and all the episodes are released as the same time. Since all the episodes of a show are available all at once,  a new phenomena has emerged, binge-watching. This is when someone watches several episodes in one sitting. This is how I raced through season 2. I went through all 13 episodes in less than a week. Had this been a show on a network, it would have taken more than 3 months to watch all the shows.

HoC is an insiders look into how politicians work in D.C. Determination, a fine quality in anyone, is the goal to the end, with no consideration with the consequences of the means. Whomever is in their path will get steamrolled. Coercion and manipulation do not even require a second thought, as it is already a given. Murder, corruption, deception, false imprisonment, and extortion are as benign as a cup of tea in this world. It is fair to say Francis might have consulted, The Prince, from time to time.

There are a few similarities between HoC and Shakespeare's Richard III. Both use soliloquies by the main character to speaker directly to the viewer/audience and both feature the main character's Machiavellian ascent into power.          

An interesting part of HoC, as in the original, is Francis' breaking the fourth wall by speaking directly to the viewer. This serves insight to what Francis is thinking at certain moments. Below is a video of this. 




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