1. Binge Watching on Netflix
It’d be unfair not to mention the fact that you can drop everything you’re doing for 13 hours and watch the whole season from start to finish, and even re-watch what you missed and take notes (if you are like me!). This is a way to experience a story that was only recently realized by society and finally mastered by Netflix with their first couple of original series, and with the extraordinary writing, casting and direction of House of Cards we finally have the first, brand spanking new form of television for the 21st century.
2. Tea Party Dismissal
It’s not fair to shit on a political party — in most cases. Unfortunately for the Tea Party, there hasn’t been one instance where they’ve deserved respect from the majority of voters in the U.S., and for good reason: they never seem to have a solution that satisfies the majority. If it’s freedom they are after, it’s the needy they neglect. If it’s security they’re after, it’s the constitution they neglect. If it’s more emphasis on Christianity they’re after, it’s pragmatism they neglect. This is what consistently make the party too extremist for a moderate political system. That’s why it’s important that this concept be integrated into such a political show where our main character is the Vice President.
We’re already seeing the inner workings of Congress on a daily basis, and to see how some people within Congress get blinded by their own extremism and miss the opportunity to prevail because they were too involved in themselves is a crucial point to make. What’s more is that this show is not about the political party you are associated with, but about power and control, the foundations of politics. After all, Frank Underwood is a Democrat, but you’d never guess it by the way he acts!
3. Cyber Warfare, Tor and the Deep Web
One of the most important aspects of the age we live in is the technology we use on a day-to-day basis and how inseparable humans and tech have become. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been one TV show or movie that actually addresses this concept in a way that resonates with anyone in an acceptable way for about 30 years. I mean, let’s be honest: War Games was cool because it showed exactly what it’s like to perform those types of tasks on a computer in the 1980s, and Tron was cool because it showed exactly what computer nerds were envisioning while using the computer. Somehow, Hollywood decided movie-goers had lower IQs than What’s worse is that most plots involving computers treat the viewer with such a disregard for our comprehension of the internet that it’s beyond laughable and down-right insulting. After all, we’re not oblivious to the fact that Microsoft Excel has literally zero application to split-second hacking, yet whole plot of the movie Unthinkable culminated in defusing a nuclear bomb by typing gobbldygook into a spreadsheet and subsequently became an internet meme as a testament to how low Hollywood had sunk to appeal to the younger generation; that real hacking is typically command-line-based and that there has never been, nor will there ever be, a pac-man representation of eating memory and data as shamefully displayed in the end of Hackers; and that literally no one will ever hack something in 30 seconds with a gun to their head while getting a blow-job from a stranger like Swordfish wanted us to believe. Instead, What House of Cards has done in Season 2 is bridge the gap between fantasy and reality by introducing the Tor and the Deep Web to the mainstream in a way that Law and Order and other shows had failed. In Episode 3, Washington Herald journalist Lucas Goodwin enters a dark world of trust and deception for the first time and we see how easily he is manipulated through social engineering in order to get to the truth.
4. No Rating Oversight Means Pushing The Envelope of Acceptable Viewing
One of the more interesting facets of a TV series being released by a video rental service like Netflix is the fact that this same service makes a plethora of unrated movies and videos available. While other services specifically set aside adult film categories, Netflix has kept the focus on theatrical releases while maintaining the Non-Rated (NR) movies of its collection in plain view and within their algorithms “suggested” and “based on your interest” categories. This has allowed quite a few independent, foreign and unrated releases exposure to an audience that otherwise would have never given a hoot about. Not only does this vastly change the premium TV landscape, it also negates the whole rating system in general.
For example, in our Season 2 Episode 3 example, the journalist gets attacked by a hacker after entering the world of the deep web, and his computer gets inundated with nudey images before the hacker interferes and offers a chance to chat. While the images go by in a flash, we do see some flat out hardcore porno ranging from fellatio (including numerous images of erect penises) to cunnilingus and gay anal sex. It happens fast, but the fact that it’s on an online rental service that allows you to pause, rewind and repeat is nothing different than accidentally clicking on a spam link with a porno pop-up. The easy argument Netflix can make (which is entirely justified) is that these images are within the confines of artistic merit. However, it most certainly crosses a line rarely crossed before (if ever) and brings us into a much more liberal arena of popular entertainment where the necessary scenes are not cut for the sake of keeping advertisers or politicians happy and are, instead, left in to keep the story whole.
5. Innovative Integration of Text Convos
When I text someone, I don’t sit there and stare at the phone and wait for a response. That’s the beauty of texting, you can text and move on with your life. Since the invention of text messaging there just hasn’t been an appropriate way to show this form of communication on the screen without it coming across as obtrusive, too difficult to read or just hokey — often characters are forced to stare at their phone screen for far too long, we’re forced to watch a screen of a screen, and ultimately the whole concept of texting loses its value entirely.
The way House of Cards manages to pull it off is beyond just getting the message across to the viewer, it’s actually a next-level experience where you actually feel like you are the character receiving a message. It’s a simple design concept that’s never really been tried before, or at least not in such a creative way.
As an example, a reporter is having an affair with a politician. When texting each other from their respective settings, the editing never shows the phone screens and instead overlays the camera shots with the text messages as they come through, so we get to experience our character getting on a train or leaving work while carrying on their conversation, rather than the conversation being a boring scene in itself. This is one of the major facets of the production of this show that stands out from other shows based on real-life.
6. The Ned Stark Play
After watching the first season of Game of Thrones, I decided that killing the main character is the best way you could start a story. Nothing says motivation like, “you just destroyed the best thing that ever happened to the world and now I must take you down.” Peter Russo is probably the Ned Stark of House of Cards, and if you don’t agree then I urge you to put aside the obvious differences, like Peter’s alcoholism and Ned Stark’s sword wielding brawn, and take a quick glance at the parallels between the honorable stance carried by the House of Stark and the rallying Russo did with the shipyard workers. Like Stark, Russo fought for the little guy, putting himself at risk on a number of occasions, and eventually died trying.
Just like Game of Thrones, House of Cards now yields to the weight of a murder by one of the most powerful people in the country and that weight burdens every decision he makes. It’s impossible to take murder back, and when Season 2 starts up there’s yet another callous strike against the underdog that now sets a dark precedent in any confrontation moving forward.
7. The Main Character’s Initials are F. U.
As Frank Underwood colors in the penis of a bull on a sketchpad, he breaks the fourth wall by uttering a bit of universal truth to camera: “There are two types of vice presidents: doormats and matadors.”
If it weren’t for Breaking Bad or The Sopranos, we might not be entirely ready for a show’s protagonist to also be who we root for their downfall. The great part about a series that hasn’t yet ended is not knowing if our protagonist/antagonist will fall, begging questions about the moral direction and theatrical direction of the show. Will Frank Underwood prevail, or will his moral turpitude be undermined by the honorable underdog forced to fight within the shadows?