I love spectacular TV-shows with amazing production values like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, but I have to say: although House of Cards has little interest in jaw-dropping images or gruesome make-up effects, it delivers just as many dark thrills to keep you glued to your seat as the action-heavy flagships of HBO and AMC. It's a testament to the writers', directors' and actors' talents that a show which mostly consists of people talking is as much a prime candidate for binge- watching as the shows I've mentioned before, so for those of you who haven't started watching it yet, be warned: House of Cards is highly addictive.
The show is based on the acclaimed BBC mini-series of the same name from 1990, but while the original show focused on the inner workings of British politics, the remake is entirely US based and concentrates on the rise of power-hungry congressman Francis Underwood who is played by Kevin Spacey. On the surface, the show might appear to be a political drama - which it certainly is - but it's also so much more than that. House of Cards combines a vast number of genres; it's a thriller, a love story, a black comedy and a satire - and a very interesting lesson in US politics, which, given creator Beau Willimon's profound knowledge on the subject (he used to work as a campaign aid for Hillary Clinton, Bill Bradley and Howard Dean), is probably a lot more accurate than what we would like to believe.
It's also worth mentioning that House of Cards was heavily inspired by certain works of William Shakespeare. The character of Francis Underwood is a combination of Richard III and Macbeth, and in true Shakespeare manner, he often addresses the audience directly to inform us of his evil schemes. As in the bard's two famous plays, the villain is also the protagonist and - to a certain degree - the person you root for. And what makes him so much fun and so compelling to watch here, is - of course - Kevin Spacey's performance. Spacey's portrayal of a charming but deadly predator is simply perfect; despite the character's obvious willingness to go to extreme lengths to get what he wants, Spacey always keeps him believable and avoids the temptation of making him appear like a caricature or as over-the-top as Richard III in the play. But many of his co-stars are just as impressive; some of them actually downright outshine the famous oscar-winner, and especially Robin Wright gives an amazing performance as Underwood's equally ambitious wife and partner in crime.
To sum up my overall impressions: Under the guidance of David Fincher (who serves as an executive producer on the show and also directed the first couple of episodes), Beau Willimon has developed one of the smartest and most entertaining TV-shows - with one of the most impressive casts - contemporary television has to offer. Highly recommended. 9 stars out of 10.
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