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House of Cards: Power Corrupts All

Anirudh Iyengar, News Editor

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Netflix’s first original series, “House of Cards”, debuted on Feb 13, introducing the whimsical yet realistic world of politics in America.

Subscribers grew nervous near the beginning. Netflix had never produced a show before, and this was the first of their many planned “Netflix originals.” But merely days after releasing, 83 percent of Netflix users were streaming “House of Cards” and the amount of subscribers rose by 15 percent. After the season 1 cliffhanger, Netflix announced that  “House of Cards” season two would premiere Feb 13. Questions began to rise as to how a show about old men debating reform bills and sleeping with young reporters could ever attract a human being. Who could ever watch such a doltish show?

And then, with the simple click of a remote or mouse, and the trumpets and keyboards humming in symphony to the breathtaking title sequence, the audience is already drawn to the show. There’s always that disappointment when the instrumental ends, but here’s where the real fun begins. Francis J. Underwood, our main character, rolls through the scene leaving a congressional party. As he heads to his house through an unusually mediocre neighborhood , an incident leads to viewers to see Francis as ruthless, showing no mercy in killing an incapacitated mutt wailing at the edge of the sidewalk.   

Francis J. Underwood (Kevin Spacey), the protagonist, is a congressman from the small southern town of Gaffney. He and his wife Claire (Robin Wright) play a power couple, as Frank depends on his wife while she depends on him. Francis’ bodyguard Edward Meechum (Nathan Darrow) and his chief of staff Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) aid his resolve to be the most powerful man in the nation. But Frank lies on the bottom end of the food chain, a Democratic house majority whip, and his challenge is dealing with the betrayal of his former ally, President Garrett Walker.

Season one came as a shock to viewers, fully earning its rating. The season built a realistic world in which politics and corruption intertwine . The audience is introduced to Underwood, who immediately breaks the fourth wall. He speaks of the two kinds of pain, strong pain and useless pain, proceeding to strangle a dying hound. “Useless pain”, Francis says, “is the kind of pain that is only suffering, and I have no patience for useless things.” Francis secure the election of President Garrett Walker in hopes of becoming his secretary of state, but after his meeting with the President’s Shief of Staff Linda Vasquez (Sakina Jaffrey), a woman he recommended for a position in the White House, Francis learns that he will be passed over and that the President will not honor their agreement. This disappoints Francis, but he remains salient, despite Walker’s betrayal.

Meanwhile, Claire’s storyline follows her as the CEO of the Clean Water Initiative(CWI). She like Francis, misleads her employees. Only the audience knows that her true intention is to snatch power for herself.  She even halves the workforce of her company, knowing the risks and even fires a single mother who has yet to give birth to her baby. Meanwhile, Francis promotes the sober congressman, Peter Russo (Corey Stoll), encouraging him to run as governor of Pennsylvania, as the former governor Jim Matthews was now Walker’s VP. With Russo under his control, Francis exploits Pennsylvania of its peace, bringing the state to ruin and eventually leading to the disposal of the VP Jim Matthews.

Season two develops Frank’s character. He disposes of many of his assets, as a few begin to doubt his plan, and their role in it. After the backstabbing ending of the premiere of season two, Francis addresses the shock on the audience’s faces, “Every kitten grows up to be a cat. They seem so harmless at first, small, quiet, lapping up their saucer of milk. But once their claws get long enough, they draw blood, sometimes from the hand that feeds them. For those of us climbing up to the top of the food chain, there can be no mercy. There is only one rule: hunt or be hunted.” He manipulates President Walker and finally disposes of him mercilessly, but to remain sincere to the people, Francis deports corrupt businessman Xander Feng back to China knowing that the Chinese would kill him.

And then things start to go wrong. Frank begins to taste the reality of the world, and sees how he has many more enemies to face. In the beginning, he is humiliated by several Republican anchors. He pushes forth a program called America Works, in which he seeks to cut all federal benefits to ensure more Americans get jobs. His only problem is that his allies don’t support this plan, and that they want him to leave office. Only a few southern states really support Frank and he is left to convince America that he is the man, and he must do so without the help of Doug Stamper, who is recovering from an assault. Soon Russia gets involved, and the audience is introduced to more interesting characters with ulterior motives. Frank struggles to come to terms with the Russian leader Viktor Petrov. Claire gets impatient, and wants a more active role instead of playing Francis’ lapdog. This leads to conflict within the two, as Francis is overcome with problems.

Leading into the end of Season three, it was expected that Season four would be Francis’ downfall. However, fans will have to wait until February 2016 to find out if the man from Gaffney has the strength to crush all opposition. So why watch this show? Because you will never in your life encounter one that drives you to binge watch a season in a single day. The performance of Kevin Spacey is enough to drive the audience mad, never satisfying their curiosity. “What will Frank do now?” To all readers, I strongly urge you to open your precious Netflix, and if you don’t have one, use your cousin’s or friend’s account and watch this show. It explores the political corruption within the capital, raising questions on absolute power and it’s ability to corrupt humanity. The show leaves you wondering if any of the scenarios that took place in “House of Cards” actually occur in reality. Who knows?

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House of Cards: Power Corrupts All