Majority House Whip Francis Underwood takes you on a long journey as he exacts his vengeance on those he feels wronged him - that is, his own cabinet members including the President of the United States himself. Dashing, cunning, methodical and vicious, Frank Underwood along with his equally manipulative yet ambiguous wife, Claire take Washington by storm through climbing the hierarchical ladder to power in this Americanized recreation of the BBC series of the same name. Written by
Netflix won the bidding war between the rest of the networks to produce the show because they committed to do two seasons directly. See more »
There are two kinds of pain. The sort of pain that makes you strong, or useless pain. The sort of pain that's only suffering. I have no patience for useless things.
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I was so looking forward to this, having been a big fan of the original BBC series, with its masterful central performance by Ian Richardson. In fact when I logged in to Netflix (like a lot of people, this show is my sign-up moment), I realised that my expectation level was really high.
Within the first 30 seconds, Kevin Spacey's character Frank Underwood has killed something- in this case dispatching an unfortunate dog which has been hit by a hit and run driver. And as the political intrigue starts to develop around him, Spacey just fills the screen. By the end of the first episode, it isn't so much that you have forgotten Ian Richardson as Urqhuart, Underwood's British cousin, but realised that Spacey is taking us somewhere different.
With Francis Urqhuart you got the impression he was always a psychopath, waiting for the trigger to start his Macchiavellian and murderous rise. Underwood seems to be just a more clever, more ruthless and less hypocritical politician than those around him. The fundamentals of the show - the scorned and bitter political back room fixer, the Lady Macbeth figure of Francis' wife, the ambitious young woman journalist, but all updated.
Mrs Underwood is no Tory wife, waiting "in the country" while her husband charts his rise to power. She is the one giving him the backbone to do it. And as we see her brutally wielding the axe at the charity in which she works, it becomes clear she is no slouch in the ruthlessness stakes herself.
The character of Zoe Barnes, the young reporter, is in a lot of ways more rounded than Matty Storin in the British version. Here she is ballsy, ambitious and a bit ruthless herself. While she retains the innocence of the character, she gives the impression she thinks she knows what she is doing. Which will make later episodes much more juicy as she realises she is way over her head.
The show is shot beautifully, as you'd expect from the calibre of the team behind it, and the production values are excellent. Supporting roles are great. It looks like a movie or The West Wing before they ran out of money.
But the undisputed joy of this series is Spacey, who is a more world-weary, more cynical Francis, and who is setting about his task of revenge and ambition much like he destroyed the unlucky dog at the start of episode 1: its an unpleasant task but someone has to do it.
Spacey is every bit as good as Ian Richardson in this show and Netflix's big gamble deserves to pay off.
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