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Netflix’s new series ‘House of Cards’ captivates

File photo.
File photo.

Since its inception, Netflix has been a service for DVD rentals, streaming television shows and movies online. In recent years, Netflix has attempted to branch out as a distributor of original programming. Netflix’s first series, “Lilyhammer,” debuted to little fanfare in 2012.

Netflix’s newest series, the political drama “House of Cards,” became available to its subscribers on Feb. 1. Developed by Academy Award-nominated filmmakers Beau Willimon and David Fincher, “House of Cards” reaches the heights of what the service hopes to be, thanks to its excellent writing and acting.

“House of Cards” stars Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey as Congressman Francis Underwood, the House Majority Whip. Despite a promise from the newly sworn-in President Gill, Underwood is passed over for the position of Secretary of State.

Bent on revenge, Underwood, with the aide of his icy wife Claire (Robin Wright), an embattled congressman (Corey Stoll) and an idealistic young Washington Herald reporter (Kate Mara), sets out to undermine the political landscape of Washington, D.C.

“House of Cards” succeeds as gripping political drama for a number of reasons. In his first foray into television, director David Fincher (“The Social Network”) masterfully brings his trademark style to the small screen, giving the series a distinctly cinematic feel. Fincher perfectly captures the gritty mood of politics, evidenced by the use of atmospheric lighting that seems straight out of “The Social Network.”

Fincher’s influence is also evidenced in the series’ editing, with the editing team lead by Oscar winner Kirk Baxter fluidly moving through multiple storylines with ease. Along with Fincher’s direction, the series boasts magnificent production values, specifically Tiffany Zappulla’s richly designed sets.

In addition to its great production values, “House of Cards” is highlighted by its wonderful writing. Adapting from both Michael Dobbs’s novel and the BBC’s 1990 miniseries, series creator and “The Ides of March” scribe Beau Willimon does an excellent job of crafting a compelling look at the vicious world of politics. Willimon also does a strong job of developing rich characters, namely Underwood and Stoll’s Peter Russo.

In addition, “House of Cards” succeeds at making Underwood’s asides to the camera effective instead of cartoonish. Full of biting commentary about Underwood’s views on life, the asides are magnificently written and perfectly in tune with Underwood’s character.

Along with its writing, “House of Cards” features an outstanding ensemble cast. Kevin Spacey gives his best performance in years as Congressman Underwood, perfectly capturing Frank’s shark-like intensity and slyness, as well as his southern drawl. A remarkable return to form, Spacey also does a wonderful job with the asides, delivering them with relish and wit.

“Forrest Gump” star Robin Wright gives an excellent performance as Underwood’s wife, wonderfully capturing Claire’s calculated and cold demeanor. Wright also shares great chemistry with Spacey, giving their characters’ marriage an added sense of authenticity. Kate Mara, sister of “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” star Rooney Mara, is also excellent as the young and success-driven reporter who helps Underwood enact his revenge.

Character actor Corey Stoll is great as the troubled Congressman Peter Russo, while Kristen Connolly (“The Cabin in the Woods”) and Michael Kelly are effective as Russo’s mistress and staffer and Underwood’s loyal chief-of-staff, respectively.

Gripping, compelling and entertaining, Netflix’s “House of Cards” is a strongly written and acted look at politics. Now available to stream in its entirety on Netflix, “House of Cards” is a unique example of must-see television.

About the Author

Nick Keeley

Nick Keeley is a Chimes staff writer for the 2012-13 school year.

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