copyright © Jedo Dre 2011

Based on a book by Michael Dobbs and a British show of the same name, House of Cards tells a story of an ambitious and maleficent US congressman Francis Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, who schemes his way to more and more power.


Having only seen bits of the British version, it appeared to be smarter but less exciting – an expected cliché difference between anything American and British. Ian Richardson who plays the main anti-hero of the British show is a known name and his character has a certain charm, but the American Kevin Spacey is……Well, Kevin Spacey is Kevin Spacey. He is not seen in the mainstream movies nearly enough, but anytime he shows up, he always takes over whatever scene he is in. Kevin's performance can be hypnotizingly delicious and several hours of it are more than welcome. He is best at playing villains and how fortunate is it that House of Cards puts a villain in the front seat. One of the main gimmicks of the show is that Francis talks directly to the viewer, commenting on various events, and these monologues are some of the best moments in the show. In short, this was a perfect casting.


There is one issue with his acting. Although Spacey is great in his role, there is a constant recurrence of a particular type of performance that is rather annoying. When Francis Underwood talks to someone whom he tries to manipulate he talks in a special voice, in a sarcastic tone. The makers of the show could not have been unaware of this so it is surely done on purpose, presumably to inform the viewer when manipulation is happening, but why? This type of performance can be seen in many other shows and movies and its use there either seems silly as well, but especially in a serious show about politics, considering the kind of viewers who would watch it, why does the show feel the need to dumb down the manipulation? After all, the show does not explain the workings of the various political systems so why use the funny voice when talking about them? The scheming of Francis Underwood is delightful to watch though, as he puts his arrogance, greed for power and hatred behind the steering wheel, especially because they are realistically implemented into his character. Frank is not a cartoonish villain but a person who sees as weakness the moral barriers that prevent most people from stooping down to using overly depraved methods in achieving their goals and so he thinks himself to be stronger and smarter. But he too is capable of exhibiting honorable emotions, even if they still ultimately stem from arrogance. Though the Underwoods are destroying most people around them in cold blood they still form emotional attachments to certain people, but only as long as those people are loyal and subordinate to them. It is nice to see a largely consistent and complex character on TV instead of the empty pages that you see in most other shows, that change from episode to episode depending on what is being written into them.


There is some inconsistency though. Francis is presented as a mastermind, but twice during the show he is personally involved in murder. This seems counter to the ruthless intelligence that is attributed to him and really interrupts the flow of the show. Murder is stupid. It is usually hard to execute well and is extremely risky, especially for a character in Frank's position for whom a mere implication in a murder case would mean the end of his political career. An impulsive murder committed out of absolute necessity may be understandable but that is not how House of Cards plays it out.


And the murders are not the only situations in which the show "jumps the shark". There are multiple moments where it goes too far for the sake of adding spice to politics, but no doubt these moments will not be a problem for many people who do not have interest in realism. I get irritated when I see something unrealistic or inconsistent happening while playing computer games, but I know that many other players only care about the entertainment value.


The story starts going down towards the middle part of the 2nd season as it becomes considerably more dry and contrived. Lots of talking makes it seem like something complicated and manipulative is going on when in fact it does not. Motivations are mysterious and many conversations start to carry the conspiracy tone of the X-files series. All the while most characters act as clueless pawns in Frank's game. If they were going to make serious national and international politics part of the show they should have done it well. People who say that real politics are boring are wrong. Look at CNN, look at BBC – there is so much stuff going on. Jon Stuart made a career covering the comedic side of politics alone.


However, even if the show occasionally feels forced or dry, Kevin pulls it through, and if I am honest, I do not care what that man talks about as long as he does it on my screen.


So in conclusion, Kevin Spacey.

House of Cards