Let me begin this review with a couple of bold predictions. The new Netflix television series, House of Cards, is the beginning of something entirely new in the world of entertainment; and likely, the beginning of an all new business model for Netflix. More importantly, it could very well spark a change in the way we watch TV. Could this show mark the future of television?
Netflix was not so long ago a pariah in the eyes of its subscribers. When the company was at the top of its game it offered an extremely vast collection of DVDs and Blu-rays and a very decent collection of movies and television series to stream instantly while you wait for your next disc to come in the mail all at one low price. Then they split the disc and streaming movies, in what seemed like another incredibly greedy move from an American company, forcing customers to either choose one of the two services or pay twice as much for something they had been enjoying for quite some time. There was, of course, another choice. Like me, many customers were angry enough with the change to simply unsubscribe from Netflix altogether. However, Netflix had something in mind that would spell redemption for the company and stand firmly as a never-been-done-before, brilliant idea. They produced a completely original show (which has the quality of an HBO series), and set it free, every episode in the series, for customers to watch instantly.
Netflix gets it. They understand their customers. In its inception, Netflix’s “Watch Instantly” service introduced its customers to great shows that, due to the inherent problem television had before DVR and streaming services, they had never seen before. Shows like Arrested Development and Firefly, that could never find an audience on initial airing, were suddenly hugely popular. Suddenly, people could start a show from the beginning and watch it for hours, one episode after another. Gorging on great television series became all the rage, and now, a brand new show can be “binge-watched” if you so choose. In theory, this new way of watching is somewhat like watching an incredibly long film, chapter by chapter, because you have the whole season right there in front of you from beginning to end. House of Cards, which will be followed by a reunion of sorts with all-new episodes of Arrested Development in the near future, is truly the start of a television revolution.
And what a start it is. House of Cards, an American take on a British series, is a smart, well-produced, riveting show with some incredible performances from Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. Francis Underwood (Spacey) is the Majority Whip in the House of Representatives who, with the support of his ruthless wife, Claire (Wright), claws his way up the ladder of American politics, with no remorse for anyone he must step on to get there. Every single act he makes, whether it be helping a colleague in a time of need or throwing one under the bus, is predetermined with a single goal in mind: to gain more power and influence. He takes credit for things he never did, and unloads his failures onto the backs of others. He is ruthless. Anyone who has seen Casino Jack, a decidedly marginal film with a great performance from Spacey, knows that the he is perfect as a smooth-talking sleaze ball. House of Cards is a great move for Spacey, who thrilled audiences in The Usual Suspects and American Beauty, but lately has had trouble finding great leading roles. He certainly found one in Frank Underwood.
Robin Wright, fondly remembered as Jenny in Forrest Gump, is equally as stunning (and oh-so-ruthless) as Claire Underwood. Claire and Frank have a very strange love for one another. I can’t remember a portrayal of a marriage that is at its core based on “getting ahead” as individuals. Their marriage is based on a mutual respect for one another and they will always stand by each other’s side. However, their love is based entirely on using one another for personal gain, and monogamy is certainly not a necessity. Somehow, their marriage works though. You can see that they truly love each other, even if their love is far from conventional. Together, they can and will take this world by storm.
Personally, I watched the entire season in two sittings, I was glued to the TV, and as I said before, because of the strategy of releasing every episode at once and the show’s high quality production, it was like watching one incredibly long, entirely enthralling movie. So maybe I’m not breaking the rules by rating House of Cards in the KC Movies section, because Netflix has managed to blur the line between film and television. And, for me, that is a genuinely enticing proposition.