Thoughts on House of Cards season 1 and 2

Hello everyone! Yes, I’m late, sorry. But you can’t write a review without having watched the last episode of the season, can you? Oh, yeah, it’s another TV review post, but I figured that it’s been a while since my laste one, so it’s okay. MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT! Have fun!

Thoughts on House of Cards season 1 and 2

I always thought fictional accounts about politics were boring. After watchting HoC, I think the reason is that German TV just doesn’t know how to make good movies/series about politics (there was one about a fictional chancelor and it was an utter disaster, ratings-wise). Coincidentally, HoC was a failure when it was broadcast on German TV – I suspect the dubbing was what finally killed it.

What I’m trying to say (and failing to): this is one of the best series I’ve ever seen – and as you are well aware, I watch a lot of TV. It starts of slowly and often enough in season 1 I found myself wondering how exactly a respective scene was relevant (the ribs, the Adam affair…). As I learned, however, HoC is all about consequences: what you do today might not really matter today, but it will definitely matter in the future.

Kevin Spacey is utterly perfect as Frank Underwood. He plays confidence, warmth and utter coldness so convincingly. And if I wouldn’t know all of his dark secrets, I’m pretty sure I’d vote for him, because the man obvisouly gets stuff done.

Robin Wright is a wonderful counterpart to this man of power: she looks confident and sexy at the same time, and especially in season 2 she is great at showing the inert weakness AND strength of Claire. Big kudos to the writers for creating such a great female lead.

What I probably love most about the show is how it portrays politics. I’m not sure how accurate it is, but I suspect it’s pretty close to the truth: it’s not about whether you have a good idea, it’s about whether you can convince the right people – not with your idea, but with something they need (or think they need). I promise you a shipyard and you vote for my education bill. Despite the differences in our political systems, I suspect it doesn’t work all that differently in Germany.

It is here that I see an important parallel with Mad Men: Success does not necessarily depend on whether you’re good at what you’re doing (although it does help), but on who you know and on whether you can give that person something he/she needs. It’s all about managing human relations and that’s what makes both of these such fascinating series.

Speculating about President Underwood’s future

Netflix recently released a teaser for the upcoming season 3 (which will be delayed in Germany – why did you have to sell the rights to Sky???), so I think it’s appropriate to speculate about what will happen now that Frank has obtained what he always wanted (has he?). Or rather, since a house of cards collapses once you take one card out, I want to consider who his biggest enemies/problems are now:

  • Rachel. At least she knows that there was a plot to get Peter Russo drunk at that fundraiser, and she was also with him during the DUI incident. Though I’m still not sure how much she knows about Frank’s involvement in all of this. Danger to Frank: high, if she can overcome her fear now that she’s killed Doug (in apparent self-defense).
  • Claire. She lied about her abortion (or at least the time frame) and even though there seems to be no proof of that, I still suspect that this will remain a threat. Then we have her work for the Clean Water Initiative – which was laudable, but if any journalist ever starts digging deeper, they will come up with some uncomfortable questions. Danger to Frank: medium, although he might have to distance himself from her which could make the whole thing risky.
  • The hacker (whose name I forget). He knows bits and pieces, depending on how much Lucas actually told him, and he probably could hack himself into the most secure databases on the planet. Danger to Frank: medium, given what he wanted from Doug – although he might go directly to Frank, now that Doug is out of the game.
  • Doug. Yes, he’s dead, but I’m pretty sure that when they find the body there will be a larger investigation. The guy had one of the highest security clearances and now he’s lying dead in the woods? Plus, despite his utter loyalty to Frank, I’m sure he had some kind of back-up plan in case things turned badly (as they do so often in DC). Danger to Frank: medium.
  • Meechum. It might be odd to list him here, but I’m pretty sure there’s more to come. He is completely loyal to the Underwoods – at least he seems to be – and he owes them everything he is and has. But still waters run deep and as bodyguard he knows quite a few things he probably shouldn’t know (including the Underwood’s bed). Danger to Frank: low. For now.
  • Former President Walker. Not an imminent threat, but if I were him I’d be pretty pissed at how things rolled out for him. Okay, he thinks Frank is his friend, but as we have seen it’s pretty easy to convince him of anything. So there might be some revenge looming under the rug. Danger to Frank: low. For now.

Not on this list are for example Seth and Jackie. With Seth, I really can’t tell whose side he’s on, which makes him a potential enormous threat. Jackie is a powerful enemy, but her affair with Remy put her in a position of powerlessness vis-a-vis Frank. There is also Connor who knows that Claire lied about the abortion, but has (for now) no interest in exposing her.

Will Frank go to jail? Probably not this season. Will he lose everything that is dear to him? Probably, at least to some degree. Will he kill again? I suspect that Rachel should better stay away from DC…

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