Deadline Extended

Know a young conservative who should be on Red Alert's 2015 '30 Under 30' List? Nominate them by May 29.

Review: House of Cards, Season One (no spoilers)

Welcome to the mind of a megalomaniac. Congressman Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) operates out of the dark corners of our political system in pursuit of power. He tugs on strings here, tightens cogs there, subtly manipulating those around him to his exact purpose. He is the type of man we fear never runs our country, but simultaneously hope for his success so there’s a second season.

House of Cards is a political revenge show. Underwood, betrayed by the president he helped elect, turns his considerable talents in the political dark arts against the administration. Though his end goals appear only hazily and are not fully revealed until the last few episodes of the season, there’s never a doubt that he is vigilantly and effectively pursuing them. Votes are bought and sold. Political power is leveraged. Underwood treats friends, family and colleagues as human playing cards.

From time to time, Underwood turns to the camera and addresses his audience in a syrupy, South Carolina drawl. Often it is to pull back the curtain shrouding the political process. Midway into a conversation with the president’s Chief of Staff he’ll raise an eyebrow at the camera while she’s talking and say, “Now for the real meeting.” Sometimes he simply admits his own deceits and weaknesses.

Underwood’s house of cards is populated by a slew of provocative characters.

Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara) – an exceptionally ambitious young journalist, renders her services to Underwood in turn for leaked information she uses propel her career.

Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) – Underwoods chief of staff, takes care of the Congressman’s extra dirty work. He is every bit as diabolical as his master.

Peter Russo (Corey Stoll) – a lesser Congressman whom Underwood owns through a combination of blackmail and psychological bullying.

The most compelling character other than Underwood himself is his wife Claire (Robin Wright). She is beautiful, cold and calculated. Yet, at certain moments Claire seems fragile, as if she is at the edge of unraveling. She is Lady Macbeth to Underwood’s Machiavelian puppet master.

The production quality of the show is not what you would expect from an online only series. The Netflix series is beautifully and artfully shot. Dark, shadowy scenes prevail. Selective use of light is striking. The shots constantly draw your eyes to the center of the screen. The music echo’s the shadowy tones caught on film.

If there is one noticeable weakness in the series, it’s that it keeps you in the mind of a dangerous and unsympathetic character. Frank Underwood is dauntingly manipulative. Just barely enough love, humility, and humanity make it into the show to keep viewers hooked. There’s just enough of the human experience present to resonate with. Another downside of the plot line for anyone who is intimately familiar with what happens behind the scenes on Capitol Hill is that the show is based on the assumption that Congress is inherently corrupt and anyone who is incorruptible gets screwed. Characters must manipulate or be manipulated in House of Cards’ on screen nightmare.

House of Cards is a story of revenge, but it’s undercurrent is cost – the heavy cost of love, family, ambition, and power. Every move Underwood makes has a cost, and each character pays a cost for having his or her desires fulfilled.

You only need to watch one episode of House of Cards to know if it is for you. If the first episode is too dark for your taste in entertainment, you’re despise of the show is only going to grow as you become a virtual accomplice to Frank Underwood’s dark deeds.

More likely, you’ll stand up with no feeling in your legs and no concept of what time it is having watched the entire 13 episode season. We suggest you go ahead and clear your schedule now.

Comments

Comments

  1. Lucy says:

    I too loved “House of Cards.” I liked the tone of your review. Two edits. You’re despise of grew should be your distast of grew or your discomfort with grew. You’re is an abbreviation of you are and despise is a verb.

Polititainment

Anti-Stephanopoulos artwork invades NYC

Posters depicting ABC News anchor George Stephanopolous and a smiling Hillary Clinton with the words "PayPal" and "Donate" written on them have been popping up close to the studio where ABC shoots Good Morning America.

Rubio gets first celeb endorsement

The Florida senator and official GOP candidate for president has just received a big celebrity endorsement from Rick Harrison of the popular show "Pawn Stars," according to a report in the Las Vegas Sun.

Snoop Dogg endorses Hillary Clinton

Snoop Dogg became the latest rapper to endorse the Democratic presidential candidate during his appearance on Bravo's "Watch What Happens Live" over the weekend.

John Oliver shocked by House NSA reform

John Oliver was shocked to hear that the House recently passed NSA reform.

Introducing the 2016 SNL primary

The weekend comedy show has been skewering candidates for president left and right -- some more than others -- so much so that we thought it a good idea to track the program's focus on specific candidates.

Video

t u

2016

Are LinkedIn users ready for Hillary?

The presidential hopeful announced her arrival to the professional social networking site on Thursday with a post listing “Four Ways to Jump-Start Small Business.”

Clinton Foundation got $26M in undisclosed payments

The Clinton Foundation on Thursday made public that it received up to $26.4 million in previously undisclosed payments from corporations, universities, and even foreign sources, according to the Washington Post.

Clinton got now-classified Benghazi info on email

WASHINGTON (AP) Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton received information on her private email server about the deadly attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi that has now been classified.

Clinton hires illegal immigrant to campaign staff

According to the New York Times, the Clinton campaign announced Wednesday that it has hired Lorella Praeli, an illegal immigrant and "Dreamer" activist, to spearhead Hispanic outreach for Hillary ahead of 2016.

AP reporter: Hillary only talking to supporters

According to Associated Press reporter Julie Pace, the small events that have made up the bulk of Hillary's presidential campaign thus far have involved the Democratic candidate only interacting with Americans who support her and not a more representative fraction of the actual U.S. population.

Policy

Lindsey Graham rolls eyes during Rand Paul speech

Lindsey Graham's eyeballs practically fell out of his sockets when Rand Paul rose to speak against the NSA Friday night.

Professor: Americans can't handle owning guns

In an op-ed for The Dallas Morning News, Prof. John Traphagan, who teaches religious studies and anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin, demands that Americans give up gun ownership after several tragic, high-profile shootings that have taken place recently.

Obama: Climate change is a security 'threat'

Obama spoke of global warming's looming threat during his commencement address to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, Wednesday.

Poll: Most Americans highly value privacy

For all the talk about “privacy,” the word “privacy” can sometimes be a nebulous concept, about which people hold contradictory views.

Poll: Dems support federal ban on hate speech
It seems that a lot of Americans don’t think that freedom of speech should be protected anymore. A poll released Wednesday by YouGov has found that a small majority of the American public support limiting the First Amendment if it means banning hate speech. The poll, conducted in early May, asked respondents whether they would support […]