House of Cards (TV Show)

Politics is an interesting topic, oft shunned but still fascinating. We tear apart the lives of those who put themselves up to bat and in turn they cater to the wealthy elite who can afford to purchase their loyalties. We are skeptical of their honesty, motivations, personal lives, commitment… everything. House of Cards is a show that does no favors to the political atmosphere. It follows the machinations of Congressman Francis Underwood as he gets revenge and jockeys for influence with other politicians and businessmen. His quest for power leaves dozens in his wake, anyone who chooses to oppose him ends up manipulated into a corner where they are either forced into the fold or picked off and destroyed.

The show is all about relationships. It has been said that only by giving power can you get it and that is perfectly clear in this drama. The primary relationship in the story is between Congressman Underwood and his wife. The two make the ultimate power couple: ruthless, goal oriented, and fully in sync with each other. They call in favors on each others’ behalf and are complicit in each others’  schemes. Their relationship is both loving and working. We see moments of love and devotion to each other and we also see flares of anger and moments or infidelity. Everything is for the good of the couple as a pair, not for one above the other. Friction arises not when they have affairs or when they expect favors from eacho ther but when one acts for the good of one over the other. I find that fascinating. They are the perfect couple, outwardly. Faithful, loving, supportive, and sweet southern hosts, she plays the trophy wife to a T while being just as manipulative in running her charity as he is in Washington fighting for more and more power. He calls in favors on behalf of her charity and plays the doting husband and southern gentleman as he is expected. Both keep up pretenses so thoroughly that they rarely break down, even at home. Mutual understanding of the working nature of their relationship allows for moments of genuine love and appreciation. It’s difficult for me to fathom, much less analyze their relationship as I’m incapable of that kind of duplicitousness, manipulation, and drive. Something motivates these two, some sort of thirst for power and influence, that is beyond the thoughts of someone such as I who is content to build a little nest and spend time sharing it with no strings or second thoughts.

There are few other consistent relationships in the narrative, a testament to the shifting alliances between politicians. Each relationship is worth only what it can contribute to the Congressman’s power base and as each person’s offering change, the relationships become worth more or less all the time. It’s difficult to figure out exactly what the plans are and what the Congressman’s intentions are because one moment he’s pressuring someone to lose a battle and the next moment he’s fighting for the same person to win a different fight. He builds and destroys people based on whether they are helping him or getting in his way. It’s like watching a boxing match or a controlled burn. Everything is orchestrated for maximum destruction, but only where necessary. Other things are protected as long as they are useful. It’s horrifying and fascinating at the same time.

Congressman Underwood is scripted to break the fourth wall judiciously and to great effect. His asides let us in on some of his motivations, strategies, and Machiavellian words of wisdom. It’s a fun way for the audience to join him in his plans and uncertainties, as well as his many moments of gloating. I have to admire him for his ambition, but his methods are far beyond questionable. I will watch this show to the end, just to find out what happens and how they get there. Intrigue? Excitement? Murder? A web of lies and machinations? count me in!

Warning as to nudity and swearing and some crude attitudes, especially towards sex workers, but it is plot critical. I like it. If you have time it’s worth checking out.