For TV buffs out there, last week’s Valentine’s Day was like Christmas when Netflix released all thirteen episodes of the new House of Cards, for our binge-watching pleasure. The hit political thriller, which stars Kevin Spacey as the machiavellian Frank Underwood, charts one man’s ruthless pursuit of power in the marble-floored and cut-throat world of Capitol Hill. Though last season saw him claw his way up the food chain to the Vice Presidency, there’s still some way to go if he ever wishes to claim the Oval Office.
Loosely based on the 90s British series of the same name, we know that Frank must someday get to sit in the big chair, but that doesn’t stop the series from finding other ways to surprise us. This opening episode packed an absolute sucker-punch of a twist and having Frank push the too-inquisitive reporter, Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara), under a train was a brilliant way for the writers to remind us that we may know where Frank is headed, but we’ve no idea how he’s going to get there. It was a bold move and a genuine surprise – have we learnt nothing from Game of Thrones?
Picking up shortly after the events of the first series, the opening episode really hit the ground running, not only with a major character death, but with Frank already manipulating events so as to steer his chosen candidate, Jackie Sharp (Molly Parker), into his previous job of House Whip. Parker is a new addition to the show and as Sharp, a former soldier who is quietly ambitious (for the moment), she makes a strong addition to the cast, especially as there are hints that she may not turn into the grateful successor that Frank originally hoped. Frank is strictly on the way up this series, but his downfall is surely inevitable and it will be interesting to see what role Sharp may play in that.
Parker joins a show that already has some great female characters, though none surpass the Lady Macbeth-like Claire Underwood (Robin Wright), who is proving to be just as ruthless as her husband. Wright is an absolute standout among a very talented cast, with a gem of a character to work with – she is calculating and razor-sharp, yet we still see glimpses of her humanity. Together, she and Frank make a formidable team and are an absolute delight to watch, never allowing jealousy or pettiness to get in the way of their shared goal.
Frank’s trademark, fourth wall breaking asides were oddly absent from this episode, until the very final scene, that is: “Did you think I’d forgotten you?” he asked, staring straight down the barrel of the camera. It was a powerful moment and one that ensured we ended the episode with a smile, already eager for the next instalment. And, thanks to Netflix’s unique outlook on distribution, we don’t have to wait.