House of Cards Falls Down

Ugh. I missed a Friday posting because I apparently have the plague. I’ll try and stay on top of things this week if I can stop hacking up a lung. Three seasons of House of Cards is currently available on instant Netflix

House of Cards

 

House of Cards (2013-5) – Rated TV-MA

This Emmy-winning original thriller series stars Golden Globe winner Kevin Spacey as ruthless, cunning Congressman Francis Underwood, who will stop at nothing to conquer the halls of power in Washington D.C. His secret weapon: his gorgeous, ambitious, and equally conniving wife Claire (Golden Globe winner Robin Wright).

I loved the original BBC miniseries House of Cards (1990) and its two followups, all currently available on instant Netflix. It was a brilliant updating of Shakespeare’s Richard III, complete with breaking the fourth wall. Star Ian Richardson was a marvel. It was so perfect that I approached Netflix’ Americanization of the series with some trepidation.

I need not have worried. Kevin Spacey is an absolute delight as Francis Underwood. Robin Wright makes for a marvelous Claire Underwood/Lady MacBeth. The changes in politics do not undermine the story at all. The first two seasons of House of Cards are marvelous exercises in the use of power.

This brings us to the recently released third season of House of Cards. Bless Netflix for releasing their series a season at a time. My wife and I far prefer to binge on series than to watch from week to week. The third season/series of the BBC House of Cards was not as good as the first two but was a fine and fitting end to the series.

The third season of Netflix’ House of Cards is just awful. Let me clarify. The show itself isn’t awful per se and Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, and the rest of the cast are still superb. It just appears that whoever wrote the first two seasons disappeared and was replaced by a hack or certainly someone who did not understand what made the first two seasons work.

Francis and Claire Underwood were able to manipulate their way to the top through various acts of subterfuge, backroom deals, blackmail, and the devotion/ambition of various underlings. Third season Francis is no longer bright, much less brilliant, and goes out of his way to alienate everyone who could possibly help him. Stamper, one of the more fascinating characters from previous seasons, is given enormous screentime while at the same time is essentially sidelined for the entire season. We get to watch him eat, go to AA meetings, sleep, and generally wait over and over again for someone to use him.

One of the writers comes up with the America Works program, clearly someone fresh off a course on Roosevelt’s New Deal. The Russian premier is a Putin-like thug. There are some callbacks to previous seasons but mostly ones that will have you scratching your head as you thought that topic had already been settled. There are so many moments where the screenwriters spent all their time figuring out if they could do something, without stopping to think if they should.

Third season Francis is basically a high-functioning idiot and Claire is little better. No spoilers but I will say that they have Claire do something (several somethings actually) that no First Lady has ever done. It doesn’t smack of bold writing so much as fantasy land. Do yourself a favor and stop at the end of season two.