House Of Cards – Season 1

It would appear that many of my reviews, those of TV shows at least, seem to be crawling desperately some distance behind the bandwagon, not unlike Leo in The Revenant. I don’t usually go to the cinema on my own, and my social calendar was rather full this week, so partly out of laziness and partly out of a blind refusal to show up stag, here’s a healthy dose of political intrigue so edgy you need gauntlets to handle it lest it draw blood.

For the uninitiated, House Of Cards follows the political machinations of congressman Frank Underwood, Democrat (yes, they can be evil as well) and House Majority Whip, whose passing over for the role of Secretary Of State sparks a slow but cunning ascent to power. With the help of his socialite wife Claire and submissive yet apparently principled journalist Zoe Barnes, Frank proceeds to coerce and intimidate those who stand in the way of his ambitions.

I read somewhere that the novel on which this show is based (Netflix Original my arse) drew much inspiration from Macbeth and Richard III. Quite appropriate given Kevin Spacey’s theatrical history, but such inspirations definitely shine through the themes of corruption and ambition, and when placed in the setting of The White House it gives a fresh spin on an established story which is topical enough for many viewers to get behind.

That being said, House Of Cards is not without its faults. The setting and intricacies of the plot demand that the viewer know a little more about the US political system than is perhaps necessary. The characters are compelling and well rounded, but I struggled to get on board with Peter Russo, who at times simply comes across as a bit too wet, and not exactly a convincing politician. The opening titles and music are quite boring too, with the former being landmark porn for all of Washington DC’s most popular tourist destinations.

If this review seems a little thin on the ground is that the show seems to be keeping its cards very close to its chest (no pun intended), and certainly takes a while to hit the road. Even its more dramatic moments are somewhat underplayed, which may well be the point, but it doesn’t do well to hold ones attention per 50 minute episode.

Don’t think that because of these critiques that House Of Cards isn’t worth your time, because it definitely is. But it is complex viewing, and not something one can have simply running in the background while you’re having your dinner. In order to enjoy it, you need time and concentration. If you have both of those things, then you will see what people are raving about, and the writing and drama will not disappoint you.

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