Sunday, April 27, 2014

Notes from House of Cards 1st Season Eps. 1-6

-Neither the degree to which Frank Underwood is rotten nor the root causes of his evil ways are questions the show has that much of an interest in answering and rightfully so. It reflects a broader theme that people in Washington operate the way they do through long-standing habits. Frank has played the political game so long that playing it well has become a means to to its own end. As it stands, I'm more content to just sit back and watch Frank's mind tick.

-Things really started to become interesting when it seemed like Underwood found a respectable nemesis in lobbyist Marty Spinella in the 6th episode. Spinella was not a big-name power player but he managed to make Underwood look like an idiot on national television and had little interest in playing any political games. It was a big mistake on the show's part to have the showdown end in an implausible assault framing. Characters that always win aren't particularly interesting and it looks like Frank might be taken in this direction. If the show's smart, Spinella will be back and his vowel gaffe will have some residual damage

-As a journalist, I can't say I endorse the Zoe Barnes school of thought that your best route to becoming a prestigious reporter is to latch onto a powerful person and print whatever he says. Realism seems to take a vacation in general when it comes to the Zoe Barnes storyline which doesn't help the show's blatant attempts to satirize the broken state of today's media (the politician and media incarnate are literally in bed together, get the symbolism?). Still, I appreciate certain aspects of the storyline: This is one of the few shows I've seen that dramatizes the struggle of a reporter trying to get a scoop and that's worth something.

-Frank and Zoe ending up in bed together was a  bizarre turn of events but TV shows can thrive on moments like that if handled well. So far, it's not looking like a well-advised move but I'll wait for the long game.

-The other shows I've seen involving politicians in Washington -- Veep, West Wing, and Scandal-- have highly stylized dialogue that I find insufferable. Who knew we'd get to the point where a show with remotely natural dialogue would be in the minority. If you pay close attention, there's a lot to appreciate about the subtle ways in which the dialogue of the show's four main characters -- Frank, Peter, Claire, and Zoe-- are different from each other.

-Watching Frank's brain tick is one of the key reasons to watch the show. Even more exciting is watching Claire and Frank interact and seeing a husband and wife whose minds tick in sync. I've seen her referred to as a "Lady MacBeth" but at this point in the series, it's really hard to figure her out which is a good contrast to the other characters on the show. I've seen comments that there's an asymmetry between Frank and Claire signified by the fact that Claire pulled out of her extra-marital relationship in the same episode that Frank decided to pursue one. I don't agree: The two seem to be in mutual agreement that sex is a useful tool to add to their array of weapons. It's hard to tell whether there's an implication that extra-marital affairs are just a fact of life in Washington but I hope not as that would be kind of a been-there done-that theme to  explore.

-A character with my first name ("Orrin") makes an appearance on TV! Finally, I feel a little less alone in the world. So far, I like him more than the "Parks and Recreation" character who's popped up at house parties here and there.

-Our first glimpse of Christina is as she's being sexed up by Congressman Peter Russo. We half-expect her to be an accessory to the main story as many of the women involved in sex scandals are. The twist is that she's actually his monagomous (as far as she knows) girlfriend and a whip-smart political climber. In fact, she might be the sanest character on the show.

-I'm not convinced that the all-it-once-viewing method of Netflix has a single advantage to it. The episodic format still relies on cliffhangers and these cliffhangers need breathing room.

No comments: