February 5, 2013

Netflix’s House of Cards, episode one – review

Netflix’s remake of House of Cards is stylistically and amorally faithful to the original BBC political thriller, with Kevin Spacey giving a strong central performance

Read my full review: House of Cards Review: Frank Underwood’s Insatiable Hunger For Power

Welcome to the new age of television as House of Cards, the Kevin Spacey driven, $100 million dollar gamble, debuted on Netflix on February 1st. The show is a remake of an early 90s British mini-series of the same name starring Ian Richardson as Francis Urquhart. In the remake, Spacey plays South Carolina congressman Francis (Frank) Underwood.

Kevin Spacey - House of Cards - Netflix

In the first episode, House of Cards sets up some of the same politician-reporter dynamics of the short-lived Political Animals on USA. But where Political Animals was entertaining but artificial, House of Cards is thoroughly enjoyable while retaining a level of realism unmatched by any other political drama on American television. You sense this is how Washington D.C. works in 2013, even if the drama is turned up a notch or two.

House of Cards - NetflixThis hardwired venality is what makes this show so watchable. Here are the realities of political life as most of us suspect them to be. Ramped up, maybe, but still close enough to the truth. Men and women who may once have started out in politics with the intention of doing some good but have long since lost that idealism.

An effective storytelling device is maintained from the original British series when Spacey’s Underwood breaks the fourth wall, looks straight into the camera, and explains to the audience exactly what’s on his mind. And Spacey does this with great physical skill.

Netflix released the entire first season, 13 episodes, all at once. They also made the first episode available for free to non-subscribers. And all that is required to watch the remaining 12 episodes is to subscribe to Netflix for one month of streaming service. Not a bad deal given you can watch the entire first season of House of Cards along with anything else Netflix has to offer. Netflix’s goal is to be the online equal to HBO, offering quality original programming that drives subscriptions. But they paid a big price for their first high-profile scripted series. The quality is there. But is the audience?

 


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