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TV Review: House of Cards (Season 1)

“The road to power is paved with hypocrisy, and casualties.”

I love me a good drama. I love that nail biting feeling you get after a cliffhanger. But politics? Not so much.

I think it’s safe to say that AMC’s Breaking Bad changed the realm of serial entertainment for the better, and I’ve noticed a large amount of shows focusing on stories similar to it, with the spotlight being given to people with dreams of climbing up the ladder of power and becoming the “kingpin” of sorts. The difference between Breaking Bad and House of Cards, however, (besides the fact that one takes place in a meth lab and the other takes place in the White House) is that while Walter White took his time becoming the revered Heisenburg, right from the beginning of House of Cards, we know exactly who Frank Underwood is; scheming, hungry for power, ruthless, ambitious in all the wrong ways, a villain, essentially. And just like Walter, you just can’t help but love Frank, with his 4th-wall-breaking quips to the audience and all.

Frank Underwood isn’t satisfied with his role as a congressman, and he’s set on getting to the top, whatever that may lead to. His wife, Claire, is ambitious too; perhaps not as mercilessly, but she believes in power. When House of Cards focuses on its characters, I feel it shines brightest. When the political complexities and democracy take the front stage is when I feel my attention wavering, and this seemed to happen more frequently in the first few episodes than anywhere else. But later when things inevitably heat up, I found myself thoroughly enjoying myself.

There’s one thing I noticed that I’d like to mention:

Let me bring up Breaking Bad again. Walter White was oddly successful most of the time, and it was always deeply satisfying watching him succeed. Of course, there would be instances where everything blowed over and he had to take drastic measures, but overall, he was very good at achieving what he wanted. The funny thing about Frank Underwood is that even though he seems all-powerful, his plans almost never go smoothly. He’ll ask the President for his trust, his plain will fail completely, and he’ll go back and ask for his trust again. Frank is not invincible. He’s extremely persuasive, but he can’t always rely on this to get out of trouble. He really is balancing a house of cards. When I think of Breaking Bad, I think of a Jenga tower that keeps getting taller and taller until the very end where it all just topples over. A house of cards much better fits Underwood’s situation, as everything definitely seems likely to collapse, and the wind is always blowing. This makes for good drama.

The performances are great all across the board, I absolutely love the soundtrack, the picture is fantastic, and I found myself watching episodes fly by because I enjoyed watching so much. That really is a testament to how good this show is. However, I found myself losing interest when the politics would take over and it took me a while to even realize what was going on a lot, mostly because I instinctively turned my brain off when people started talking about passing bills and acts and “Wait, what is this about?” was a question I asked an embarrassing amount throughout the thirteen episodes. All that aside though, I’m excited to dig my teeth into season 2 and the soon-to-be-released season 3.

So, what do you think of House of Cards? Perhaps you have yet to see it, and if so, are you interested?

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