This is a big show. I’ve heard about it from many sources before I started, and I must admit that the hype did not prepare me in the slightest. I believe this is one of the most amazing political shows since The West Wing, though I wouldn’t say it shares the tone or optimism of Aaron Sorkin’s classic. Quite the contrary, this is a bleak look at American politics that takes your idea of what politics and personal morality is an twists it into a system where only perception matters. However, no matter how absurd the plots and politics get I can’t deny the genuine portrayal of corruption in both what a character could be and what a person could be made to be comfortable with. This is a show which allows you the chance to truly relate with devils, and I can’t praise the acting and the writers enough.
The first thing I have to delve into is the thing that no advertising could truly prepare you for and most shows truly don’t touch, the main character breaks the fourth wall. For those of you unfamiliar with the phrase, Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, looks directly at the camera and conveys his true feelings as he is aware of the audience watching him. This technique has been popularized by Deadpool’s recent cinema excursion, and is truly is an effect to put you in the equivalent of a close third person with the main character. And what a character he is. Frank Underwood is a southern bell sociopath with a vendetta and an ambition for something far more than himself. He represents a version of the American dream that seems twisted but apt in this political environment. He truly believes in his plans to rise to power, and this show explores not only the harshness that comes with a harsh political rise, but the mentality and psychosis of someone who would seek power in a modern age. If I could say one thing about the show I’d say “The guy is nuts, but a nuts that I am forever intrigued by and disturbingly able to relate to.” Frank Underwood is one of the most vivid villains I can root for, and this perverse excursion is something you owe yourself to watch.
However, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out some failings of the progression from season one to two. I love the show, but I will say I didn’t binge it through all the way. It hits a slow section in the middle of season two when you aren’t sure where the plot is going and the machinations seem to jump the shark in terms of how the grandeur of politics is portrayed. When I initially watched the show through the first season, I was impressed by how a show based on this level of political conflict could go through and so mildly portray the political drama unfolding. I loved the fact that the show didn’t over-dramatize the political process. This makes it all the more meaningful when near the end of the first season Underwood takes his first huge dive into a truly incriminating scenario. The second season of the show quickly ups the ante on what is possible from these characters stopping just short of unbelievable. This effect pulled me back from the show as it struggle to redefine its purpose through some slower plots and emerge with a clear goal. I wouldn’t call my time in limbo in season two as enjoyable, but I will say the end effect is spectacular.
Something I love about this show is its ability to make you engrossed in being uncomfortable with the outcome. In many ways, I can see myself reading the news as it’s reported in the show as everyday media that I consume in my real life, but when I step back and comprehend the inner workings of what happened in the show to get those sound bites I am eerily disturbed. I would liken it to when The Ring came out and the scariest part was that you just watched this movie that doomed you to death, or so the movie implied, and your only way to get out of it was to replicate it. Its that same true-to-life introspective moment that I love about this show. The characters are amazing, the actors are amazing, the writers are amazing; but better than all of that, there is a realism to the events that make you truly believe the story while altogether questioning our own democratic system.
Ultimately, this show is an amazing roller coaster of close interpersonal character development that makes you believe in the worst of people while alternatively understanding it that much better. So many times my mouth dropped open, and I couldn’t believe how messed up everything had gotten because of incremental lies laid over lies. The drama is too real to not make me feel uncomfortable, especially given the current political climate, and I can’t wait to see more of these characters fighting their way into our too realistic imaginations. I would give this show a 9.7 out of 10, and I hope that if you had reservations over it that you at least try and experience it. It’s jarring at first, but some moments of character resonated with me so much that I was uncomfortable with my life choices. I only hope you can feel as uneasy as I.
Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Kate Mara, and Michael Kelly: Stars