A remake of an original British series, the US political drama House of Cards revolves around Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) exacting his revenge against his political peers (including the President) for breaking a promise to make him Secretary of State. He subtly uses, abuses, lies and manipulates those around him in order to gain more power for himself. What makes the series so likeable is that the viewers do not need to be familiar with the American political system in order to understand what is happening unlike many political dramas. Additionally what makes the series unique is that Underwood constantly talks to the viewer directly. It is Spacey’s breaking of the fourth wall that truly makes House of Cards such a series worthy of winning 3 Primetime Emmy Awards for its 1st season.
House of Cards ultimately feels Shakespearean in nature, reminiscent of Macbeth and Hamlet. However, as Shakespearean tragedies always suggest, the more powerful they are, the harder they fall. It is this fact that intrigues the viewer to continue watching Underwood’s subtle machinations in the curiosity as to when or if indeed he will fall. Additionally, the viewer also feels like an accessory to Underwood’s plan to topple the political order as they are the only ones aware of his motives. That is not to say that the viewer knows everything though, being caught up in the web of lies and deceit formed by the Underwoods, blurs the boundaries between the truth and all the lies. The viewer must delve deeper into Frank’s malicious plan in order to find out more.
House of Cards not only focuses on Frank Underwood however. His wife Claire (Robin Wright) also plays a vital role in the series. Owning a charity named ‘The Clean Water Initiative’ she appears to be the opposite of Frank, yet, as the viewer learns quickly with Willimon’s drama, appearances can be deceiving. The series itself proves this; it is ultimately more than a political drama. It focuses on people and the lengths they are willing to go to in order to gain and retain power. Reporters, politicians, families and lovers are all doing anything they can to get what they want. The series cleverly portrays what the corporate world epitomises; a dog eat dog attitude and those who refuse to play the game are easy targets. Additionally, House of Cards also calls attention to how powerful the media is over politics as well as how fragile the political system can be; so brittle that one man can ultimately manipulate it to his will.
A political thriller for the masses, House of Cards keeps the viewer on the edge of their seats in trepidation. With Season 3 being released on Netflix on 27th February, 2015, there is no better time to watch the two previous seasons portray the dark side of American politics in all its glory.