House of Cards / by Krista Boivie

The new Netflix original series, House of Cards stars Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood, a Democratic representative from South Carolina who has been in the House of Representatives for more than twenty years and currently is the Majority Whip.  In the first episode,  he expects to be selected as the Secretary of State for the newly elected President only to discover that he was passed over for the position.  As a consummate politician, Frank, appears to shrug off this rejection, but he immediately starts to plot how he can maneuver a more significant position within the White House. The rest of the series documents the intricate web Frank creates in order to achieve more power.

This well-acted series also stars Robin Wright (Claire Underwood, wife of Frank) and Kate Mara (Zoe Barnes, reporter). The series has had consistently strong writing and directing. In addition, the high production values make this series feel like a more dangerous and sexier West Wing. The advantage of Netflix is that all the episodes were released at the same time, so you can watch the series as quickly or as slowly as you would like.

The show has already garnered lots of critical praise because each episode is compelling and does a great job of advancing the story, all the while creating enthralling and mysterious reasons to keep watching. Even with all this I feel as though House of Cards is lacking.  Virtually every single character is morally bankrupt.  Concepts of integrity and honesty mean nothing in the game of politics, and Frank manipulates both of these ideas to get his way.  The show fits solidly in a gray area for me.  Frank is not so evil that you hate him and delight in his misery, nor does he have any redeeming qualities that make you root for him.  In this middle area,  I feel the void of this show.  I want characters I can root for and anguish about, yet there is none in this series.

If you enjoy great writing and acting and don’t mind characters that are morally ambiguous this is a show I think you will thoroughly enjoy.  If you want characters to root for then you might want to skip House of Cards.