My younger daughter was a theater/drama major in college. She and I talk movies often and I heed her recommendations. Because she knows my interest in politics, she urged me to watch House of Cards. It took a while to convince me; I’m especially jaded about DC politics — do I really need more information about its seaminess?Eventually, there came a Saturday night when I had nothing to do, so I tuned into Netflix. One episode, then two and a third before I finally decided I needed to go to bed. I was hooked. I didn’t so much root for Frank (Kevin Spacey) and Claire (Robin Wright) as anticipate their ruthlessness and compare what I saw on the screen with what I’d been told about DC by others in political circles.
The first season sets up interesting but flawed characters. Perhaps the thing that bothered me most was a lack of characters willing to choose well: whatever the moral choice with which they’re confronted, each character opts for whatever will advance his or her power. Is it the DC water?
Beginning with the first couple episodes, because I found both Underwood characters to be compelling and generally believable (but hardly likable), I was persuaded there was a self-imposed (agreed-upon in advance) line that neither of the Underwoods would cross. They might be flawed and ambitious, but they were smart enough to stay within conventional bounds. (So I thought.)
As events began to unravel for them, I realized my optimism in humanity is naive. However, even as my respect for the majority of politicians in DC is (and has been for some time) at an all-time low, I’m skeptical that the deep-seated evil depicted in House of Cards is a wholly accurate portrayal. Please tell me it’s not!
For me, season two was disappointing. Again, I suppose I was still hoping for a character − anyone! − willing to stand against the tide of despicable, generally loathsome behavior. I relished the thought Jacqueline Sharp (Molly Parker), having been characterized by Frank Underwood as a woman of “ruthless pragmatism,” might be just the character to defy Underwood’s characterization. She had the perfect opportunity. Alas, it didn’t happen. She too folded … like a house of cards.
Having finished season two, I’m ambivalent about whether or not I’ll view season three when it’s released next year. Like most people, I have a morbid curiosity for watching things like a train wreck, but eventually, it becomes tiring. Notwithstanding talented actors in challenging roles, on the screen (as in life) there has to come a counterpoint to evil.
The series has yet to offer even one.