Tuesday, 18 March 2014

House of Cards

I recently finished watching Season Two of this wonderful show. What I did was go back and watch Season One in its entirety before plunging into Season Two. I think a lot of people approached it that way. A refresher course, so to speak. Like studying for a test.

Some people reading this may not want too many of the show’s details revealed; there’s a chance they haven’t taken the plunge yet, so I won’t spoil it for anybody. Just a few observations and minor spoilers.

Season One ended with Francis and Claire Underwood (Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright) going jogging together for the first time. Season Two starts with the jog ending as they return home. Not a beat skipped. This is not important because of the jogging, but rather because you realise you’re going to be starting right where you left off. It’s not a necessary part of episodic TV, but it does give the viewer a sense of continuity. We walk through a familiar door.

A bit of background: House of Cards, so far, is two seasons of thirteen episodes each. I remember when a TV season was approximately 26 episodes, but this is nice, too. I watched the very first episode because I love political drama, and I was starved for it. Too much Reality TV on the regular networks. (notice I don’t call them MAJOR networks anymore - these days, there’s just too much competition) Well, it took me all of two minutes to fall in love with the show. That broken “fourth wall” really did it for me. Francis turning to the camera and telling the viewer his thoughts. He was his own little Greek Chorus, and little wonder why. Like this kind of character would ever allow someone else to speak from within his mind. Ha! Nobody else had such a feature built into their character, so you were left with some secrets, but with Frank talking to the audience, he would often reveal not only his own thoughts, but those of the other characters, so you always had at least some private access into everybody.

Hmm, I wonder what sort of direction Frank would have taken if he had received the position of Secretary of State. I mean, you can see the character is ruthless right from the start, (ahem - the incident with the dog) but when Vasquez gives him the bad news about the nomination, you wonder if that’s when the wheels started turning… or had they been turning all along?

Heh, heh, you can tell by my words that the show intrigued me from the git go. It was very refreshing in its brutality and harsh realism. Now, let me clarify: I know little about U.S. politics, and the nastiness that government gets up to in order to further its goals, but I will say that I think government, by its very nature, is corrupt. Now that doesn’t mean every man or woman who works within the system is evil; I mean the collective “government” as a whole. Whether House of Cards depicts a realistic overtone of government, or simply blows the roof off the concept, (as good fiction will) the implications are scary.

Soooo, after Season One, I was ready to dive into Season Two. Where were we? Ah, yes. The Underwoods return from jogging. That first episode really shocked me. I mean, REALLY shocked me. I’m sorry, did I say SHOCKED ME?! Ahem, I was a little floored. But it was a bit of a slowdown after that, when they started getting into cyber-terrorism, hacking, and all that. I’m not such a big fan of that topic. I wanted Political Drama. I realise the two may go hand in hand at times, but they weren’t focusing on the NSA or things like that, so I wasn’t as interested beyond a basic level. But the thread wound itself slowly through the story and eventually came out as a full-fledged conclusion. It furthered Frank’s goal, and carried him to the place he needed to be.

All in all, Season Two wasn’t quite as diabolic as Season One, but I think it was a necessary transition, presuming there is to be a third season. We can only hope! The faults with S2 were the personal stories that started taking over the government drama. Too many side trails that strayed from the main path. I think it comes under the heading of “the wanting is always better than the having.” Reaching goals is a reward, but the real joy is in the struggle. Anyway…

Netflix really did well on this one. They busted through all the boundaries of regular TV, and I see this as a coming trend that could overtake a lot of programming on network TV. Think about it. What does regular network programming offer these days? Way too many Reality Shows. Very little with content and direction. I confess I do have a few RTV shows that I enjoy. I’ve always liked COPS (the original reality show), and now I enjoy Border Security and To Catch a Smuggler. There’s a theme here, yes? Is CNN a reality show, too? It’s where my dial is tuned 95% of the time.

Another Netflix original series is Lilyhammer. Tried the first episode. Haven’t gone back, but I may. It’s a mobster-themed series, but it's weird.  Um, something of a mix between Twin Peaks and Fargo.  Netflix isn’t the only company doing these shows. STARZ has released the short-lived series BOSS, with Kelsey Grammer. It’s being piped through Netflix and I’ve watched the first few episodes. It has kind of a House of Cards feel, in that it’s a political drama about corruption, but it also has a serious human angle.

If you haven’t already sampled House of Cards, give it a go. It’s a ride you would really enjoy! Oh, and by the way, the original British version of HOC is also available on Netflix. I might give that one a go. I hear it’s even more corrupt and vicious. Excellent!

Oh, and one more thing: Netflix needs to bring aboard The Newsroom with Jeff Daniels.





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