Well I’ve finally jumped on the Netflix bandwagon and have been catching up on all I’ve been missing. Or not missing. After watching a number of old favourites like Midsomer Murder and Inspector Morse, and new episodes of new favourites such as Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, as well as a couple of movies, favourites or missed at the theatre, I settled in to watch House of Cards. Well, The West Wing it ain’t! My hunch is that is totally deliberate. While The West Wing tried to show U.S. democracy at it’s best with mostly honourable people trying to produce the best legislation for the most people, this made-for-Netflix production (which I’m assuming gets around theatre code laws because it’s only on the Internet) is showing U.S. politics at its seamiest. It’s kind of a self-serving, grown-up “I don’t get mad, I get even” taken to the extreme.
I think the only person in the whole show I actually like is Secretary of State Catherine Durant, played by Jayne Atkinson. She seems to be the only one in the whole show who doesn’t have a personal agenda and is truly trying to serve the best interests of the United States of America. Even people who start out with good intentions, like Heather Dunbar (played by Elizabeth Marvel), end up prepared to do whatever it takes, no matter how sleazy or disgusting. Even Raymond Tusk’s wife (Peggy J. Scott) turns out to be loathsome. Those who are trying to uncover the “dirt” on President Underwood (Kevin Spacey), are not particularly endearing either.
There were a couple of characters you couldn’t help but empathize with. Russo (Corey Stoll) is one. He actually pulled himself together and could have done a good job but. . . he just shouldn’t have threatened Frank Underwood. Then there’s the ribs guy, Freddy (Reg E. Cathey), who almost got his own franchise and then lost everything . . . although he was probably happiest with his little hole-in-the-wall rib joint. Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly), Frank’s right-hand man, sometimes shows some human kindness but . . . most of the time he’s prepared to do whatever it takes — just like Frank, only soft-spoken. And one almost feels sorry for the poor security guy Meechum (Nathan Darrow) who gets so totally manipulated by the Underwoods it’s hard to understand how he can get so taken in time and again. How often can you hear the line, “I won’t take ‘no’ for an answer” and not recognize the warning signs? I almost forgot to mention Lucas Goodwin (Sebastian Arcelus) who got incarcerated (so long ago) for getting close to the truth after Frank killed Zoe.
I was a bit surprised that they used the name Mendoza for one of their characters as he was the judge appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bartlett in The West Wing. And, while I guess lots of sex is a draw for some, I thought the very best episodes were the ones with no sex or hardly any sex at all — episodes with real political drama and tension that left you wondering what would happen next. I read the text of an interview done with Kate Mara (who played Zoe Barnes), where she is quoted as saying: “Even though I knew [my death scene] was coming, it was still very shocking to watch it.” I knew it was coming, too. I expect everyone else did as well. I couldn’t believe she’d be so stupid as to follow Underwood around the corner.
I know I’m going to keep watching after that last episode of season three with it’s cliffhanger but, honestly, how much sleazier can it get? Season 4 has been filming over the summer and is projected to be released in January, 2016.