Netflix's 'House of Cards' a compelling political drama you can watch all at once

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comApril 18, 2013 

It was the website that allowed you to watch an entire season of "24" in a single weekend, got you caught up on "Lost" before the season premiere and helped you understand why, for nearly 10 years, people wouldn't shut up about "The Sopranos."

So, it only made sense that when Netflix decided to get into original programming with the Kevin Spacey-powered political drama, "House of Cards," it would release all 13 episodes at once, giving subscribers a chance to watch the entire first season in one sitting if they so chose.

I wouldn't be surprised if many did just that. This is a very good show.

The show revolves around the political machinations of the fictional -- and at times, borderline serpentine -- U.S. Rep. and House Majority Whip Frank Underwood, played by Spacey, and his wife, Claire, portrayed by Robin Wright.

The season opens with the inauguration of a new president, under whom Underwood expects to serve as Secretary of State, only to be spurned because he is simply too valuable in his current position to assume the cabinet post.

Needless to say, Underwood isn't pleased by this and sets in motion a plan to get what he wants. At any cost.

Shakespearean in its themes, "House of Cards" offers viewers an inside -- and from what political experts have said, a fairly accurate -- look at the almost constant struggle for power in our nation's capital.

While the show is endlessly watchable, it is far from perfect.

Viewers from South Carolina, the state from which Underwood hails, will cringe upon hearing a region of our state referred to as the "Upcountry" and will smirk as Underwood attends a library dedication at his alma mater, The Sentinel, a prestigious military academy in Charleston that clearly stands in for The Citadel.

And don't get me started on Spacey's attempt at a South Carolina accent.

Another of the show's glaring weaknesses is the way journalism is woven into the plot.

Sadly, as is the case with so many shows that attempt this -- yes, even "The Wire" -- scenes that involve reporters often fall flat; the actors aping how they believe political reporters behave, often to an unintentionally comedic effect.

Those flaws notwithstanding, I suspect that fans of shows like "Damages," "The Good Wife," and other such dramas will find much to enjoy here.

"House of Cards" is incredibly well made, beautifully shot and, as usual, Spacey is electric.

The only question is, when will we get season two?

Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at


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