Final Review of House of Cards + Binging

House of Cards was a very well done political drama. Granted, I usually stay away from that particular genre, so maybe I am not an expert. However, I found that if any show could get you into watching political dramas, it would be this one. It’s fast paced, so it never bores the audience, but it still gives time for it’s characters to breathe and be fleshed out. I found myself liking this show quite a lot. In a lot of ways, I think this is due to the variety in the cast.

Not everyone is an old white male politician (though of course a good chunk of the politicians depicted are just that.) Frank Underwood, while fitting this criteria, is cunning, manipulative and sarcastic enough to keep the audience entertained. Claire isn’t just a “supportive wife”- she is his partner in most everything they do. Not only that, but the cast has about an equal amount of strong female characters to the male characters. Like I said, I am not well versed in the “political drama” genre, but I have to say I was not expecting to see that. Zoe is in no means as strong as Claire is, yet she also makes a well rounded character, and the other women on the show range from prostitute to distinguished politician. The whole setup of the show allows for a number of characters to interact with one another and to develop through the idea of “show don’t tell”. I think this is what attracted me to the characters in the first place. No one is shoving their backstories at the audience’s face, things are revealed gradually adding a hint of mystery.

House of Cards itself isn’t as boring as I though it would be. I wouldn’t say I was confused, but I did find myself pausing at some moments to register what was going on.The terminology took some getting used to (I am ashamed to say that I had no idea what a “whip” was until I started watching) but overall the plot wasn’t so hard to understand that I ever felt completely lost as an audience member. Not to say that the plot wasn’t intricate. There were a number of subplots, ranging from career choices to romantic relations. Yet it all felt very real. Claire loves Adam but has made the decision to stay with Frank years ago. She isn’t necessarily unhappy with Frank, nor does she not love him, but she is an adult who is allowed to feel conflicted sometimes. The only thing that I felt was weak about the show was Claire’s desire to have children . I just don’t see Claire as the kind of person who would want children, and for her to want to have a baby at the end of the season felt a little wrong. They did hint at it of course, but it still felt out of character. It also felt like the show was pushing the agenda of “all women want babies whether they say so or not”. I’m unhappy with it, but I’m looking forward to seeing Frank’s reaction in the second season about it.

The soundtrack was flawless. It was dark and melodic and fitted the show well. It created a great atmosphere for the majority of the events, and I found myself recognizing some of the more dramatic ones and realizing that something was about to happen. That is one of the highlights of binging, you start to notice little details. This was mentioned in Aaron Riccio’s article on binging, where he writes that his binging friends “picked up on subtle cues I hadn’t noticed late in that fourth season, were better able to get inside Walter White’s head, and became more a part of the series than I ever had”. Binging House of Cards allowed me to pick up on some music cues and subtle things that I would not have noticed if I had watched this week to week.

I feel that binge watching may work for some shows, but not for others. House of Cards can certainly be binged on, because it was made with that set up in mind. However, there are shows where I think the audience needs time to adjust their feelings about an episode, or a character’s death, or something major that happened. There’s also another problem with binging; not everyone will see it at the same time. While that may not sound like a problem, This article brings up a good point, “Dave Winer, a well-known web developer, wrote on his blog that he had reactivated his Netflix subscription to watch House of Cards but he was missed “the ability to discuss it with people online”. That is, if a show is released all at once, a person could either watch it right when it comes out or take the risk of it being spoiled for them. Not only that, but discussing it with friends becomes almost impossible when someone has to wait for the other to catch up.

Of course, there are shows where binge watching wouldn’t improve anything. Binge watching is a preference of the audience. While binge watching House of Cards will add the benefit of being able to watch characters develop very rapidly, binge watching something like Gossip Girl won’t improve the experience. It is just the preference of the audience to find out what happens as quickly as possible, and to catch up to the rest of the world. Syndicated shows still have a place on television. I doubt that that will ever change. Shows that are made for binging may be the future, but appointment television won’t vanish completely. However, there may be a shift in genre for syndicated shows. Binge watching allows for the watcher to pick up on subtle cues, so I feel that more complex shows will start being made specifically for binging, and the shows that do not require attention to detail will be aired on television at appointments.


House of Cards Season Finale (WHOAH)

I absolutely love this episode. By far, it was the most confusing, and heartbreaking episode yet. I never expected to like this show this much, considering I’m not one to watch a political drama. However, I’m completely amazed at how much I ended up caring about these characters.

I think my favorite character in this episode is Claire. We finally get an understanding of her motives and what is important to her. At first, I was confused about her dream about “the children”. Frank and Claire never mention any children in their lives, yet she said “the children”, as if it was obvious who she was talking about. Then later on, finding out that she had had three abortions, it clicked. She dreamed about them, as sad as that was. She wants children because she wants a legacy. She doesn’t want her and Frank’s efforts to go to waste. But she can’t tell Frank because she doesn’t want him to disapprove. It’s sad that she has to hide these things from her husband. But throughout the episode they are much more affectionate to each other than ever. They even go running together at the end of the episode. They’re going to need that sort of companionship when Slugline releases the information they have on Frank.

Zoe was also impressive in this episode. We finally, finally get her to do some detective work! She’s even a little intimidating when she speaks with Rachel. To be fair, Rachel plays it very cool. I didn’t expect her to arrive with Stampers, or Logan to follow them! That was smart of them. Her, Logan and Janine make a good team. On the one hand, I’m still rooting for Frank. I want him to succeed, because he’s smart and he;s come so far. But on the other hand, it’s fun to watch Zoe, Logan and Janine put the puzzle together. When they figured out that Frank only pushed Russo to run so that the vice president position would be available I felt like an imbecile. It never crossed my mind that Frank never wanted Russo to succeed.

The only thing I miss is Frank’s manipulation in the early episodes. I understand that we’re supposed to relate to him, and seeing him in a vulnerable position can do this. However for him to be played by both Remy and Raymond, I was completely surprised! Like I’ve mentioned before, I really like Raymond’s character, and if Frank and Raymond are truly teaming up, then I feel like they’ll be unstoppable. However, I also assume that Raymond will eventually become Frank’s largest competitor. I don’t think a deal between these two powerhouses can last very long, but I’m excited to see how they interact in the next season.

Speaking of next season, how DARE they end on a cliffhanger such as that! I can’t believe I have to wait well over a month to find out how this reveal will affect Frank’s career. At the same time, there are definitely 13 episodes left, so I feel comfortable saying that this won’t have too great of an impact on his career, at least, not for a while. Then again, this has been hinted at for the majority of the season, so I guess we have to wait to find out.

5/5 I’m so mad that I have to wait. So mad.

House of Cards Episode 11

If Frank is shooting for the vice presidency I’d applaud him. I never saw that coming! The way he played both the president and vice president was hilarious. I haven’t mentioned this before, but the soundtrack for this show is spectacular. It’s a little jazzy and sometimes a little creepy. My favorite track is the one that’s a little off-putting, the one that lets you know to pay attention. This isn’t the first episode I’ve noticed it of course, but I forgot to mention it before.

Zoe seemed a little spiteful when she entered Frank’s house for the first time. She wanted to establish dominance over Claire for coming into her apartment, but I felt like that was a tad much. I mean sure, Claire also walked into Zoe’s apartment, but she didn’t really do anything. I think the reason Zoe got mad was because Claire’s presence finally opened her eyes to how degenerated her apartment is. It’s funny to me how Frank ends their intimate relationship this time, and it seems to work better. Maybe this is what he wanted in the first place, as long as it was on his terms.

I’m so sick of Adam. He knows that Claire’s married, not only to Frank but to her work. If he can’t understand that then he’s no good for Claire anyway. And his deep v-necks! Why does he always wear such deep v-necks!

The girl who plays Russo’s daughter’s voice is so flat when she speaks to him that I had to laugh. It was a really emotional scene but she had absolutely no infliction in her voice, so the part when she said “It makes me sad,” sounded hilarious. Which is also really upsetting considering that was the last thing she said to him.

Which brings me to possibly the one thing I never thought i would see in this show. Frank just up and murders Russo. The crazy thing is that I think Frank only planned it when he saw the whiskey bottle in the car. I never thought that he’d bring up the “pain” speech from the first episode. I guess it’s Frank’s idea of mercy, killing Russo. Nevertheless, I never would have guessed that Frank would do something like this by himself. Usually he’s get Stamper to do his dirty work. It doesn’t look like this was planned, because otherwise he would have gotten Stamper to do it.

5/5 Holy moly I can’t believe Frank murdered Russo.

House of Cards Episode 9

We learn something knew in this episode. Frank Underwood does not like children. I don’t know why I find that surprising, considering him and Claire never had children and never adopted, but I do. He just seems like the type of guy to have a soft spot for them. Another interesting thing about this episode is how they portrayed the far right media. Even though it was a fake news source, a lot of what the commenter mentioned about Democrats being brainwashed by eco-friendly idealists mirrored the kind of far right news media we see today, which I found pretty funny.The show in general does a good job of portraying people and events realistically. Sure, there’s drama, but so far nothing has been so theatrical that I can’t fathom it being within the realm of possibility. (Other than the giant peach episode.) On another note, I am so happy Zoe finally at least tried ended their sexual relationship. It was about time she realized that no one would take her seriously if it was revealed that she slept with her informant. So yes, that was a big step in the right direction for Zoe! Except she only lasted a few days. Hopefully this will come up again and Zoe will realize that you can’t just sleep around to get information. She should use her friend’s story as a cautionary tale. However, this is the first time they acknowledged the age difference between them. Frank did seem a bit bitter about them ending it though. He sounded like a sulky child. The vice president was also acting like a complete child. But the way Russo subtly buttered him up was fantastic. (His speech at the rally was abut hokey for my taste though.) Claire also surprised me in this episode. I think this is the first instance in which her and Frank don’t work together on something. In fact, she works against Frank. To see that the Watergate Bill failed was disappointing. Now that Russo is one of my favorite characters, I want him to succeed! And knowing that that bill was vital to his campaign- well needless to say, I was a little upset. However, like I mentioned, I completely understand Claire’s motives for undermining Frank. She doesn’t exist just to help him in his endeavors, and yet when she wants a favor he declared it impossible. I’m excited to see if Frank ever finds out that it was Claire who lied to him.

3/5 I want Zoe and Frank to stay the heck away from each other.

House of Cards Eps 7-8

Episode 7:

Zoe Barnes needs to start going after news by herself instead of waiting for it to be spoonfed to her by Frank. She calls herself a journalist, but all she does is sleep with the congressman and then ask him to give her news! I’m so irritated by that. Russo’s whole campaign seems like a big risk as well. I get that Frank wants someone that he can control, but Russo’s chances of winning seem pretty slim, especially when he starts talking about his past. I was surprised to see the prostitute from the earlier episode make an appearance. It seems this show really doesn’t forget anything! Stamper also played a bigger role in this episode, which was nice but I felt a little uninterested in him. Sure, he used to be an alcoholic, but now he’s not, which is boring. He helps the prostitute to make sure she doesn’t blab about anything, but he also looks somewhat concerned for her well being. I think that she reminds me of himself when he used to be a drinker, or at least, that’s how I interpreted it. I’d rather see Zoe Barnes get some real development rather than prance around Slugline and throw her stories at other journalists. Also, it’s finally become clear to me that Frank is trying to get the president to trust him more than anyone else in the White House. I’m a little embarrassed that it took this long for me to realize that, but it was made evident in the scene where Frank basically brushes Linda’s concerns aside. Another person who gets some screen time is the vice-president, who I was wondering about as well. We usually only saw Linda and the president before, and the vice president’s absence was a little conspicuous. Turns out, he was never really consulted with anyway, which is why he never showed up.

2/5 I wasn’t really invested in Stampers or whatever was happening with the vice-president and I also hated that scene when Zoe was on the phone with her father and Frank called her his child or something to that effect. It was really unpleasant.


Episode 8:

Watching Frank goof off with his former classmates was nice to see. I forget sometimes that he’s more than a calculating government worker sometimes. But still, to see him laugh was entirely new. And to hear him sing in a quartet was even more surprising! Although, my first thought when they entered the old, spooky library was that they were going to die one by one, horror movie style. I also can’t tell whether it was just heavily implied or outright stated, but hearing Frank say that he was attracted to another man was jarring. I mean, someone can be gay or bisexual or bicurious or anything on the Kinsey Scale without having a sign on their head about it, but it was never implied before so it really shocked me! Watching Russo get brutalized by the crowd was hard to watch. There’s only so much he can do, and to see every one of the people in the room completely ignore his proposal was sad. Watching him wrestle his friend was pretty hilarious though. Maybe it was the way he goes from elected to official to twelve year old in three seconds flat but I laughed. His mother is a whole different story. I want to know why she’s so indifferent to her son, and yet reacts so positively when she finds out he won a fight. If tha twas the environment Russo was raised in, I can understand why he’d turn to drugs and alcohol later in life.

4/5 Bumped up to a 4 solely for the reveal that Frank was infatuated with his friend when they were cadets.

House of Cards Eps 5-6

Episode 5: Can I just say that I’m so happy to see Russo finally get some character development here? For the first time since this show started I actually felt somewhat bad for the guy. Here he is, getting played like a fiddle by Frank, and he can’t even fight back. Not only that, but in this episode we finally get some real opposition against Frank in the form of Marty Spinella. I mentioned before that I was hoping there would be a main force that tries to go against Frank, and here he is. Marty is nowhere near prepared to win against Frank, at least not yet. His stunt at the gala was cleverly derailed, but I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ll see of him. I also enjoy how the show addresses the newspaper industry. It seems very realistic in it’s portrayal. Slugline on the other hand, reminds me of what new-age media tries to be. For some reason I’m reminded of the Gothamist, and I don’t think that that’s unintentional. A character I don’t quite understand the importance of is Freddy, the BBQ guy. I mean he’s nice and all, but I just don’t see what his role is in the show. I get the feeling that he’s supposed to show somehow that Frank isn’t as cold and evil as he seems to be, but that could be achieved through Claire as well. I secretly hope that he plays an important role somewhere in the season that comes straight out of left field. Another thing that I’d like to mention is how shocked I was at the end scene with Russo. I mean Frank literally plans his suicide as if it’s no big deal. I think that Frank knew Russo wouldn’t be able to do it, but still.

5/5 I really like that Marty is around to keep Frank on his toes.

Episode 6: The big thing that got me this episode was that Frank lost his nerve during the CNN interview. He completely blanked out and it cause me such acute secondhand embarrassment that I had to cover my face. We, the viewers, are just so used to watching him sweet talk his way out of things that to watch Frank get tongue tied was shocking. I’m also glad this wasn’t a Zoe centric episode because I really don’t like her all that much. Russo, on the other hand, has completely made a turnaround and become one of my favorite characters. I just like that we get to see him get his life back on track, and get a chance to redeem himself in the eyes of his district by putting together a project with Claire. I have a feeling that at some point he’s either going to A: become governor and get Frank back for closing down the shipyard or B: fail and go back to drinking. When Steve admits that he hated Frank and was in love with Claire I was also shocked. We don’t see much of Steve, but when we do he just seems like a diligent guy. Would not have expected that. I’m sad to see Marty go so quickly though. The matter might still be somewhat unresolved but I feel like Frank has the upper hand now.

5/5 It was nice to see Frank so vulnerable after the debate.

House of Cards Eps 3-4

Episode 3: I was disappointed with this episode. It was still interesting, but I think what disappointed me was the resolution with the girl’s parents. Frank gives one eulogy and suddenly the parents decide he’s not to blame? On the other hand, this episode introduces Gillian, who I think I’ll really like. She plays a good parallel to Claire’s character. While Claire is very demure and somewhat distant, Gillian is easily flustered and somewhat hesitant to work with Claire. Meanwhile, Russo is frolicking around with his assistant and it’s getting really annoying. I didn’t even mention him in my other post because he’s just distasteful. I’m sure everyone has their secrets but Russo is just completely unlikeable. I don’t think Russo is given one redeeming quality other than the fact that he seems to really care for his girlfriend. Zoe continues to be a neutral character. And to be honest, her flirting with Frank through texting made me really uncomfortable. It might be the age difference, or the fact that I was hoping for a mentor/student relationship and instead I got whatever they might do. Claire continues to be flawless, but I really wonder why she was running into the cemetery and if that holds any significance to her. Also, I read somewhere that white tulips signify forgiveness.[1] And that makes me wonder, what is Frank forgiving her for? Or maybe he’s asking for Claire’s forgiveness?

3/5 this time around I thought this whole episode was a little out of place.

Episode 4: Again, lots of things happen in this episode. Thankfully, there aren’t any more field trips, but a lot of mastermind plotting on Frank’s part, which I love to watch. We also get to see a bit more into Claire’s line of work, and her complicated relationship with the famous photographer. At the same time, Zoe is also conflicted about her line of work, and the comparison between the two is fun to watch. They both have qualms about their work and the next step it’s taking them to, and both of them decide not to make a change. In Zoe’s case, she gets fired. I wanted to scream when she didn’t take the job as White House correspondent! What is wrong with her?! I also wanted to scream when Claire didn’t take the money. She could have hired all of her old employees back, give a dozen people their livelihoods back. Russo continues to be not only an incompetent boyfriend, but an incompetent father as well. I’m so glad his girlfriend left him. Frank seems to know what he’s doing for now, but I’m wondering when something will go wrong for him. The series is great, but I keep waiting for some sort of contender against Frank. It looks like Russo has the motive to do that but he doesn’t seem smart enough. I’m still really upset with Zoe and Frank getting together in this episode, especially when Claire turned down the opportunity to have an affair in the same episode. It would have been fairer. Still sort of weird, but fair. Than again, I still think that Frank and Claire have one of the strongest marriages on television, even if they sleep around for their own agenda.