Monday, September 16, 2013

House of Cards, Season 1: Since Pride Must Have a Fall...

*With the Emmys airing next Sunday night (9/22), we're going to take a look at a handful of the nominees this week.*

"Absolute power corrupts absolutely," the old saying goes. It's a principle that's formed the foundation of many great television shows from this latest "Golden Age," as a number of anti-heroes have gone forward in their thirst for power and left a wake of destruction behind them. House of Cards, Netflix's original series which is nominated for nine Emmys, including Best Drama Series, takes a Shakespearean approach to the idea with a Washington D.C. setting.

Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) is a senator from South Carolina and is well-connected in Washington. When he's passed over for Secretary of State under the new president, Frank goes straight to work at setting up a chain of ruses and deceptions involving his wife, Claire (Robin Wright), a cub reporter, Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara), a new congressman, Peter Russo (Corey Stoll), and many others.

Developed by Beau Willimon (The Ides of March), and with the first two episodes directed by David Fincher, the show functions as a modern Shakespearean tragedy. Written in a mannered, dramatically-heightened, overly-formal style, the show features Frank routinely breaking the fourth wall, directly addressing the audience to either explain his motivations or the events that just occurred and why they do or do not matter to him (on any other show, this would be detrimental; however, this expository narration is so completely tethered to Frank's point-of-view that it works). He is a Richard III in modern Washington, his unquenchable thirst for power consuming all those around him.

In keeping with the Shakespeare analogy, the first season - which is streaming in its entirety on Netflix - feels like the first half of the play. Frank is carefully building his house of cards (hey, that's the name of the show!), each piece falling into place. But this is all set-up. Next season, I suspect, it'll all fall down. Shakespeare's kings have a short reign. Frank would be wise to take note.

Emmy chances?
- Best Actor in a Drama Series (Kevin Spacey) and Best Directing of a Drama Series (David Fincher, for "Chapter One") are its best bets for a major win. It does have a good shot at playing spoiler in Best Drama Series or Best Actress in a Drama Series, too. Either way, Netflix should be proud of breaking into the Emmy game.

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