House of Cards is a political thriller series created by Beau Willimon and released by Netflix. First released on February 1, 2013 House of Cards instantly became a “binge watching” hit, defining a new cinematic genre & home delivery method. It’s influence has been incalculable. It is impossible to understand House of Cards, without discussing Netflix. Founded in 1997, Netflix’s initial business model was DVD sales and rentals by mail. Netflix entered the content-production industry in 2012, and House of Cards soon became its flagship “Netflix Original” series. Today, Netflix is a multi-billion dollar conglomerate (Forbes: $141.9B), in part because of House of Cards.
Keep in mind that House of Cards is an adaptation of the 1990 BBC miniseries of the same name, and both are based the Michael Dobbs novel. The UK version of post-Thatcher England is very British, if you know what I mean. The stars are ugly & grotesque by design. It doesn’t have the delicious eye candy & sizzle of the US version. It’s still worthwhile viewing, as the power politics translate clearly, in the tradition of “civilized” England.
What makes the US version of House of Cards everyone’s favorite, is that it has something for everybody. This series has sex of all varieties, it has power politics & cat-fights, it has all sorts of behind-the-scenes maneuvering with insights that no other film or television series has ever delivered. House of Cards has a cast to dream about. Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood is instantly innovative in talking directly to the audience concerning his personal feelings of contempt & disdain for us, and it becomes part of the rapture. We, the Audience are finally being let in on secrets that Washington insiders have kept hidden from the start.
We get more truth and political insight from a season of House of Cards, than years of interviews & political “analysis” from the likes of Larry King, Rachel Maddow, Anderson Cooper, Sean Hannity, etc. It’s part of this series’ subtle irony that these real life talking heads are often dismissively parodied as cameos. This show knows how to deliver a punch, which is another exciting element for viewers.
House of Cards wasn’t afraid to kill off important characters to teach its audience valuable political lessons. I’ll abbreviate by pointing out the talent that has been deceased in this series, and none by natural causes: Kate Mara as Zoe Barnes, Corey Stoll as Peter Russo, Sebastian Arcelus as Lucas Goodwin, Nathan Darrow as Edward Meechum, Rachel Brosnahan as Rachel Posner (favorite character), Paul Sparks as Thomas Yates, Neve Campbell as LeAnn Harvey (2nd favorite), Damian Young as Aidan Macallan, and now [!] Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood. Those are all brilliant & unforgettable portraits of human striving and ambition gone wrong. Most series never come close to casting that level of talent, and that’s only what’s dead at the beginning of Season 6.
Most of the characters in this groundbreaking series should be considered as personifications of social types. One of the most remarkable features of House of Cards is its sweep in characters among the variegated social classes that inhabit Washington, DC. Most cinematic features which promise to reveal the mechanizations of power politics don’t have the time (or inclination) to highlight its impact on the broader population. Conversely, House of Cards illustrates the lives of political & business royalty, while also narrating the common people who serve & oppose them.
The young reporters trying to uncover & publish the truth are captured in great detail, as their influence is powerful. Sebastian Arcelus as Lucas Goodwin is a beautifully drawn-out example of the consequences of attempting to “out” those in power. Mozhan Marnò as Wall Street Telegraph reporter Ayla Sayyad is another example. Keep in mind, this is what is going on in real life with the persecutions of Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Bradley/Chelsea Manning, and many, many others who are interested in revealing the truth in news.
Korey Jackson as Sean Jefferies (pic below) is an obscure example, as a young black reporter who isn’t brilliant, but is good at schmoozing elites & manipulative games. That gets him ahead in his work, but alienates him from his woman and respected colleagues. Real decisions & consequences; that’s what this series illustrates so well, on so many levels.
The creative bankruptcy of today’s “artist” is also personified brilliantly in this series, as Adam Galloway & Tom Yates are posers who get in WAY over their heads. When tragedy is revealed, we hardly feel badly for them, as they exist in a cynical world of hype & pretentiousness. For example in Season 1, a homeless man on the street teaches Claire more about art (origami) in an instant, than her clueless-but-sensitive photographer lover does in their entire relationship. A lot of viewers seem to have missed many of these subtleties.
Later in the series, Tom Yates is the dashing drinking companion who stole a dying friend’s written work to make himself a legend he can’t live up to. When Claire strikes in the end, we feel glad it’s over for him. We understand the killer and the victim. That’s a rare feat in cinematography, which takes extraordinary dedication & sensitive talent to pull off. I keep using that term cinematography because this series isn’t television, but it isn’t film either. It’s somewhere in-between. House of Cards is a phenomenon that created a whole new genre, and profoundly influenced the politics of its day which runs up to the present.
A revolutionary facet of this series is how fast it comes at you. If you’ve only watched this series once, then you don’t get it, because you are only understanding things on a superficial level. Such a viewer is merely following storylines for personal drama, and doesn’t absorb the meaning of this series. House of Cards is about personifying characters into political & social types that viewers can relate to, in order to reveal modern American politics. It’s the political lessons learned that count. If you’ve missed that, then you weren’t really watching or understanding what you saw. I estimate I’ve watched the 1st Season 7-8 times, the 2nd Season 4-5 times, and Seasons 3-5 three times each. I think I understand most of it by now, but there are still subliminal bits & pieces that elude me. That’s how artistically complex this series is.
If you watch closely, you will see elements of yourself in many different characters in this series. You will also see your enemies. Your enemies don’t like the fact that they’ve been exposed by this series. That’s why Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) testified last fall before the Intelligence Committee. Warner claimed (CNN image above) that Netflix’s House of Cards was a threat to “national security,” just a few days before the sexual assault allegations by burnout actor Anthony Rapp were leveled against Kevin Spacey through the media. Spacey has been a pariah ever since, and the series went on hiatus until a new season’s script was worked out.
That’s why #MeToo took down Kevin Spacey last October. It was to strangle this series into submission for its past sins against the establishment. For five seasons this series kept its audience up-to-date, revealing what goes on behind the curtain, in a riveting fictionalized narrative than mirrored current events. The writers for this series always paid attention to the news, and their storylines reflected this. That’s how this show managed to stay ahead of its audience and the censors– for five seasons at least.
House of Cards was always scheduled to go six seasons, and the belated final one arrives November 2, 2018– the Friday before the mid-term elections. House of Cards was always a political series that defined the times. This release date timing is proof positive of that– to be sure. As to the quality of the final eight episodes, we’ll see. The first five seasons ran 13 episodes, each 50+ minute length. The five deleted episodes this season represent the void left with Kevin Spacey’s dismissal.
Before this series is finally finished on November 2, it would serve us well to consider the balance sheet for #MeToo feminism in it’s first year on the job. It’s hard to believe it still hasn’t even been a year with this media-driven hysteria on sexual politics known as #MeToo. It feels like much longer. In this period, the most reactionary & vile elements of the political establishment have launched a false-flag hate campaign in the name of women against men. This is the sum of their political vision, the entire Democratic party’s populist “program” for November 6th, and beyond. Consider that as political food-for-thought while binge watching this series to the end.
House of Cards has been talked about extensively, yet it’s clear that many in the media don’t understand this series, or are hostile to its content. This fictionalized examination of the media, and how it is manipulated by power brokers has had an enormous impact on American political consciousness. House of Cards is the most artistic and lastingly relevant cinematography achievement that Hollywood/NYC has produced in this decade. That is why this show has been attacked by the reactionary #MeToo campaign and it’s hidden supporters.
House of Cards is entertaining because the people are so beautiful, the plots move in brilliant directions, and the dialogue is razor sharp. The drop-off begins at Season 3, as this series was expensive to produce and was repeatedly forced to yield to economic stresses & political mandates. Removing Kevin Spacey was one of them. Before that it was product placement, and even an outright ad for a new fertility drug by Robin Wright worked into a contrived scene where she’s consulting her physician on having a baby. As blatant and crass as that was, in many ways it rightfully belongs in the entirety, as it proves what paid for this series, and it wasn’t a $10/month subscription.
This series was always smart enough to predict the times and give itself room to maneuver into the next season. This final season of House of Cards will be a test of that resolve & ingenuity. If they’ve maintained their focus & hard-hitting style, then the show can rest in (relative) peace. But if Season 6 lags and turns into soapy dialogue for identity politics, then the #MeToo feminists can rightfully claim to have killed this series.
That is my greatest fear for House of Cards as the final season approaches. This series shouldn’t be turned into a political tool for the CIA Democrats, who are the political force behind the witch-hunt #MeToo campaign that removed Kevin Spacey from this series. This series is an artistic achievement with lasting cultural value. All the writers, directors, cast and crew from House of Cards represent a creative & intellectual triumph that should be celebrated & defended for its collective genius.