Netflix’s groundbreaking series, House of Cards created a wave of reactions on the Internet. When Netflix released the entire season at once, we thought we were getting everything we always wanted in a TV show, and—for the most part—we were right. House of Cards definitely got more things right than wrong. Here are five reasons you should watch it (and five ways to improve Season Two).
1. Robin Wright
Before the first episode comes to a close, it becomes obvious that Wright, who plays the wife of Kevin Spacey’s Francis Underwood, is a force of nature. Claire Underwood is almost as ruthless as her husband, but Wright manages to bring a sense of vulnerability to the dynamic character. Claire is an extremely dedicated wife sometimes torn between her life and charity and helping Francis reach his ambitious political dreams. The chance to see Wright execute this conflicting, stoic character so flawlessly is reason enough to watch the series.
2. David Fincher (Producer/Director)
Executive producer and director of the first two episodes, David Fincher’s heavy influence on the series is part of what makes it so interesting to watch. Fincher loves to explore the darker sides of his movie subjects, and he’s got more time to let those unravel on TV. A director and producer who’s always more concerned with a character’s words than his movement, Fincher is a perfect for House of Cards’ political intrigue.
3. Beau Willimon (Screenwriter)
Beau Willimon wrote the script for the entire first season of House of Cards. No stranger to political dramas, Willimon wrote the play Farragut North, which he later adapted into Ides of March, a movie starring George Clooney and Ryan Gosling. Willimon’ screenplay for House of Cards is unique in that it’s a political drama about power more than it is about ideology or party definitions. He shows how a political system, which is built with so many checks and balances, can still be completely manipulated by one man. Willimon writes dynamic characters that lead to enthralling story lines leaving you clicking “next episode” every time the credits roll.
4. Corey Stoll
I’ve never found myself rooting for a drunk, cocaine-snorting politician more than Peter Russo in House of Cards. Corey Stoll’s third-time congressman transforms from a from a selfish womanizer to someone the audience wants to see succeed.
5. Breakage of the Fourth Wall
In the very first scene, Francis looks dead into the camera and (while killing a dog!) speaks directly to the audience saying, “I have no patience for useless things.” It’s an unsettling beginning—I was initially afraid it’d be a distraction. We’ve seen the fourth wall come down in comedies like The Office, Modern Family, but it’s been a while since it’s been done in a drama and even longer since it’s been done well. When Francis speaks to the audience, he’s in his truest form—at his most despicable or most vulnerable. There is a rule in screenwriting about showing, not telling but House of Cards tears down the fourth wall to grant insight the audience couldn’t get any other way.
Now for five things that still bug us about the show:
1. Breakage of the Fourth Wall
Frank speaking to the audience gives us insight into his character, but it can sill feel very disruptive. The occasional ridiculous one-liners we could kind of do without. When Frank stops to tell the audience “I love that woman. I love her more than sharks love blood.” it’s sweet, and gives the audience the confirmation that this marriage is real and these two are a team, but it’s also something that we didn’t need to have explicitly stated.
2. Kevin Spacey’s Accent
This may only bother me because I am from the South but every time Frank opens his mouth, I roll my eyes. It’s so exaggerated; it’s distracting from the actual dialogue. Add that to the fact that everyone else talks fairly normal and it’s enough to drive you crazy. It’s not reason enough to avoid the entire series but it’s kind of equivalent to Christian Bale’s Batman voice. You’re not going to miss out on the sequels but you’d be more than happy if that voice didn’t return.
3. The Bulk Release
While House of Cards is meant to allow viewers the opportunity to watch it at the pace of their choosing, it doesn’t really work that way. I saw a spoiler tweet just four days after the season was released. Additionally, recaps, reviews and blogs have become an integral part of TV watching. With House of Cards , this isn’t really possible. There’s very little dialogue on the Internet or with colleagues and friends because god forbid you speak about episode nine when someone else is only on episode three. Speaking about the show at all becomes almost taboo until you’re absolutely sure everyone is caught up—and by caught up, I mean finished with the entire first season. Watching and pondering alone which can take away from the whole experience.
4. Kate Mara as the Stereotypical Slutty Journalist
Kate Mara plays the role of Zoe Barnes very well—the ambitious, young journalist willing to do anything to get a story, including sleeping with a congressman twice her age. Must we still propogate this stereotype? There’s even the older, more experienced journalist who’s ‘been there done that’ warning Zoe “it’s not worth fucking your way to the middle.” We’re hoping to see Zoe branch away from the cliche in the second season.
5. An Unnecessarily Long First Season
The first season, at 13 episodes total, feels a little longer than it needs to be. By the time we get to the last few episodes of the season, things are barely happening. It’s an anticlimactic finish to what was gripping drama. Combining plot points from the last three episodes would make the season feel less dragged on towards the end.