On February 1, Netflix launched its new, original television series, “House of Cards,” by releasing all 13 episodes at once — a first for both Netflix and television and an expensive nod to television’s binge viewers. “House of Cards” has been done before, but it’s new to me and I’m enjoying it immensely. So, it seems, are a lot of other people because by most accounts, the show is a hit.
Kevin Spacey stars as Francis Underwood, majority whip in the US House of Representatives, and is delightful as the ambitious, oily, manipulative politician we tend to think is typical in today’s Washington. In return for his help in electing the president, he was promised the position of Secretary of State, but after the election, the president reneged. There’s delicious, guilty pleasure in watching Underwood twist, control, plot, and prevaricate to get his revenge, and Spacey makes you a party to his plots with asides to the camera. There’s something oddly compelling in watching him wage his ruthless war so well. Yes, you think to yourself, this is exactly what goes on inside the Beltway, … and you keep watching, intrigued by his inventiveness, wondering where and when he’ll finally overreach.
There is, of course, the equally calculating wife, a beautiful young reporter, and a host of other reporters, aides, bodyguards, lobbyists, donors, and politicians, each with his or her own history and agenda. More than enough plots and subplots to satisfy any fan of political drama.
Beyond the story itself, I’ve been enjoying the music, the beautiful cinematography (particularly the shots of Washington behind the opening credits), and the interior sets. I don’t know why the sets got my attention, but I’m drawn to the furniture, the interior glass doors, the paintings and TVs on the walls, the attention to detail. It’s all well done and quite convincing, right down to the usually-omitted-because-they’re-messy cables on the computer monitors. Yet it was filmed almost entirely on Baltimore streets and soundstages.
I don’t subscribe to Netflix. But I have it now, inexplicably, since my son accessed his account from here last week so we could watch the first episode together. Had that fortuitous accident not happened, I’d have signed up for the free introductory month of Netflix — more than enough time to watch all 13 episodes.
“House of Cards” is everything you’ve imagined — or feared — Washington might really be, but with the reassurance that it’s all just fiction.
Or is it?