recently launched an original series entitled HOUSE OF CARDS. Based on the book and British series, HOUSE OF CARDS dives into the world of intrigue and betrayal in politics. The first thirteen episodes all went live on February 1st, and another thirteen have been ordered.
HOUSE OF CARDS centers around a man named Francis Underwood, who is known by all as Frank. Frank, representing South Carolina, is a powerful force in Congress, serving as the Majority Whip in the House of Representatives, and is expecting to be named Secretary of State by the president that he helped elect, Garrett Walker (Michael Gill, Guiding Light). But Walker sends his Chief of Staff, Linda Vazquez (Sakina Jaffrey, Definitely, Maybe), to dash Frank’s dreams. Frank pretends to play nice, but secretly vows revenge.
The first thing HOUSE OF CARDS did right was cast Kevin Spacey (American Beauty, Horrible Bosses) as Frank. Spacey brings a level of gravitas to the screen that immediately raises the bar. He plays the part with nuance, and despite being a relatively despicable guy, there is also something intriguing about Frank that makes you want to keep watching.
Frank’s anger is justifiable, so it’s easy to root for him to come out on top, even when his actions cross a line. He may not be a hero, as he is as deep in the muck and the crooked games as his foes, but he doesn’t deserve to be treated this way, and he won’t stand for it.
It’s the duality of someone who is both righteous and a pig that makes Frank such a challenging role. It’s hard to imagine few besides Spacey that would do the part justice.
Frank is aided in his mission by this loyal, and just as ruthless, wife, Claire (Robin Wright, Moneyball). Again, this is another character who has layers, and who must be someone the audience can get behind, even when she’s doing wrong. Once more, casting should be lauded, as Wright handles the part deftly.
Frank and Claire have an interesting marriage, and right away, I find myself wondering if they have ever gone up against each other. If they have, or if something might cause them to be at odds in the future, I have no idea who would win. They are definitely cut from the same cloth, which makes their marriage seem a little cold. But it’s clearly working for them, and they seem to care about one another, so who I am to judge?
Claire is also someone that Frank seems to use as a partner, rather than a pawn. That looks to a rare position in Frank’s life, as the others around him are milked for how they will best serve Frank. This is made extremely clear early on when Frank manipulates the man behind the education bill Frank is supposed to be guiding, offers a couple of positions to possible allies, including his choice for Secretary of State since it can’t be him, Senator Catherine Durant (24’s Jayne Atkinson), and toys with Vazquez.
The other side of HOUSE OF CARDS is about the reporters who cover the political beat in our nation’s capital. There is a smart young woman named Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara, American Horror Story, 127 Hours), who yearns to see her name in print, or at least in a featured blog on the paper’s website. Her bosses shoot her down, until she manages to wrangle a deal with Frank, setting up a mutually beneficial arrangement.
I really dig the paper angle. Obviously, Zoe is the true do-gooder in HOUSE OF CARDS, the one still mostly unspoiled by the election game, and who clings to morals and ideals. She may dance on the line when trying to land Frank, but her work is put forth with a noble purpose. At least in the first episode. It’s likely, as time goes on, this will shift. If you splash in the mud, you do get dirty, and her ambition is definitely pushing her in that direction.
A senior report, Janine Skorsky (Constance Zimmer, Entourage, Grey’s Anatomy), is saddled with assisting Zoe. Zoe asks for help nicely at first, and Janine turns her down. Now, Janine is stuck with the upstart, owing to the rich vein of scoop that Zoe has tapped into. I am anxious to see how their relationship will play out, if Janine can play nice and benefit from being a mentor, or if she will be the bitter, shoved aside veteran.
Between Frank and Zoe, we have two colliding plots that are excellent. They are surrounded by a sweeping cast and a beautiful, engaging setting. Considering the next twelve episodes are already posted, I think I’ll stop here so that I can get back to watching. I can think of no higher recommendation of the series than by saying how much I am itching to see more.
CHIEF TELEVISION CRITIC | Creator of and writer for It's All Been Done Radio Hour live show and podcast. A voracious reader wanting to tell stories of his own, Jerome began writing around the age of 8 and hasn’t stopped, both original works and television reviews. Lives in central Ohio. Favorite current shows include The Walking Dead, Jessica Jones, Flaked, Outlander, and Archer.