February 4, 2013

Review: A 'House of Cards' Divided – Netflix Season 1

"The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us."

Much has been said of Netflix's latest foray into original programming before its highly anticipated release. A release that includes all thirteen first season episodes available all at once. From producer/director David Fincher and star Kevin Spacey, House of Cards is a stylishly devilish drama about Washington politics and human manipulation at the highest level.

Based on the novels and British mini-series of the same name, it is a bold, highly entertaining, tightly executed drama of political gamesmanship. It's hard to believe how current and referential the series plotline is with Senate confirmation hearings and grand bargains in Congress.

Just like Netflix wanted, I binge watched all thirteen episodes over two days. I fell asleep after marathoning twelve episodes in the first day. The first two episodes directed by Fincher are highly addictive and leave you wanting more. Spacey and company suck you into this heightened, stylized version of Washington and its cut throat dramatization of federal politics. There are more than a few ridiculous turns to make political junkies scoff yet it still delivers big thrills and maintains a strong narrative momentum.

Spacey stars as a very powerful congressman who trades in favours from big oil, drunk politicians, ethically lost journalists, and general corruption all around. He is surrounded by a charming yet deplorable supporting cast full of ambition and little else in the way or morals. This Washington doesn't hide it's dirty dealings. Corey Stoll in particular delivers a particularly engaging and destructive performance as a very trouble Pennsylvanian congressman.

Fincher brings his visually lush style with dark undertones and a thrilling sense of danger. The setting feels very contemporary with social media, texting, and the changing nature of news addressed in a fitting manner. The series shares echoes with the British mini-series State of Play (also adapted for American audiences and starring Robin Wright) with a scandal filled, murderous plot unfolding. "Call me whatever you want, but you should remember. These days, when you're talking to one person, you're talking to a thousand."

Episodes are structured in a way that lends to viewing all at once in a very serial nature. There are a few overarching plots folded into a larger conspiracy. Fincher brings his usual dark, eerie style with politics in the place of murder. The show received an immediate two season order from the start so the season finale leaves you a bit unsatisfied as it will almost assuredly lead right into the second season.

House of Cards is a thrilling, utterly watchable political drama with incredible production value. Netflix and company have succeeded in replicating HBO's successful strategy for producing gripping, original content. We'll see if it drastically changes how we consume television.

More | YVArcade / Source | GQ Magazine / Vulture

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