Liz Tells Frank What Happened In Netflix’s “House of Cards”

Dear Frank,

house-of-cards-posterI think a lot about Hunter S. Thompson — admiring, as you do, his insane approach to the art of writing, and also the conceit of “gonzo journalism,” of throwing yourself into a situation with no idea what might result, except (hopefully) an article recounting what happened. Or, at the very least, the author’s memory of what happened.  

It’s this fondness for Thompson that makes me do silly things like volunteer to watch Netflix’s House of Cards in one giant binge on opening day.  I might not have taken on the assignment for GigaOM if I had steady work at the moment, but in this time of employment-seeking, it’s nice to prove that one of my job skills is being able to watch an entire season of television in one day.  

I wrote about the feel of the binge-viewing experience already, but what actually happens in the David Fincher produced/occasionally-directed political thriller that might just change television as we know it forever?  Frank, I’m glad you asked.  

House of Cards stars Kevin Spacey as a Congressperson from the south who, in the first episode, is pissed because he was supposed to be offered the position of Secretary of State by the incoming President-elect, but has been passed over for some other guy. He is not pleased by this, a fact he communicates by monologuing to the camera on a regular basis, as well as his desire for POWER and REVENGE.  

Spacey is married to Robin Wright (AKA the Princess Bride), who is STONE-COLD and thus kind of awesome, in a “this bitch is stone cold” sort of way, but Spacey quickly (well, comparatively — it happens over the course of a season) falls into an affair with a plucky young digital reporter played by Kate Mara.  He’s pretty up front with Kate about how their affair is a means to an end for both of them, because Spacey? He’s got a motherfucking PLAN.  He’s like a Cylon that way

Except his plan? Actually makes sense. Well, eventually it makes sense. The kind of sense where you’re not totally sure it made sense initially, but the writers were able to pull out some sense at the last minute?  Yeah. That kind of sense.  

Far as I can tell, Spacey’s plan boils down to this:

  1. Create political ally in fellow Hot Bald Congressman With Serious Substance Abuse Problem.
  2.  Make Hot Bald Congressman aid and abet in political scheming.
  3. In exchange, help Hot Bald Congressman run for governor of Pennsylvania.
  4. Just as the race heats up, sabotage Hot Bald Congressman by making him fall off the wagon right before a big interview.
  5. Convince President and Vice President that it’s important for the party that they not lose control over Pennsylvania, so the Vice President (who used to be governor of Pennsylvania) should run for governor again instead of being Vice President.
  6. Fake Hot Bald Congressman’s suicide so that there’s really no choice for the Vice President to run. (This step feels unnecessary to me and also pushes the show’s quasi-protagonist into directly-murdering-a-dude territory, but hey, this ain’t my plan.)
  7. But oh no! Now we need a new Vice President! Who might that be?

Obviously, Spacey is hoping the answer to that last question is, of course, Spacey, who would then be able to run for President in 2020 and RUN THE WORLD. 

Spacey is perhaps unaware that that that job is already taken by girls, specifically Beyonce. More fool him. But in House of Cards, It’s not Mrs. Carter who’s standing in Spacey’s way — it’s Gerald McRaney! Who was a totally unexpected but welcome surprise.  

MAJOR DAD? More like MAJOR BABE AM I RIGHT LADIES HEY LADIES WHY AREN'T ANY OF YOU RAISING YOUR HANDS? 

MAJOR DAD? More like MAJOR BABE AM I RIGHT LADIES HEY LADIES WHY AREN’T ANY OF YOU RAISING YOUR HANDS? 

The last two episodes of the first season are basically a McRaney vs. Spacey duplicity-thon, with Spacey eventually coming out ahead but you know how this show is called HOUSE OF CARDS? That’s because using cards  — or, in Spacey’s case, lies and murders —  to make a house is not necessarily a great idea, especially with Ace Reporter Kate Mara and her plucky team of journo-bloggers on the case.  

I don't normally like putting two photos so close together in a post, but Frank, you HAD to see what Slugline's free-wheelin' blog-office looks like. Also, Frank, the fast-paced more-Politico-than-Politico political blog is called SLUGLINE. SHOW YOU ARE DRUNK.  

I don’t normally like putting two photos so close together in a post, but Frank, you HAD to see what Slugline’s free-wheelin’ blog-office looks like. Also, Frank, the fast-paced more-Politico-than-Politico political blog is called SLUGLINE. SHOW YOU ARE DRUNK.  

The season ends with Spacey pretty much getting what he wants, Kate narrowing in on Spacey’s plan and Spacey going for a jog with Robin Wright. Which is a bit anti-climatic, but I’m not lying when I say I’m looking forward to Season 2, whenever that might happen.  

Though not because of the sex scenes. Frank, there are some weird-ass sex scenes in this show, perhaps in an effort to be COOLER THAN CABLE or perhaps because politics and power and Spacey lend themselves to racy adult content?  Who knows. But I shall now proceed to rank them, in ascending levels of creepiness:

Any sex scene with Hot Bald Congressman, mostly because this show has such a hard-on for talking about how hot Hot Bald Congressman is, and it’s like, yeah, the actor’s good looking, but is he literally the hottest guy in Congress? Does he deserve the most sexy screen time, by far? The show clearly thinks so. I am not convinced.

I mean, I guess he has a Walter Skinner-ish quality, but still.

I mean, I guess he has a Walter Skinner-ish quality, but still.

The scene where Robin Wright visits her old security guard, who’s dying of all the cancers and confesses to loving her, and proceeds to give him a mean sad handjob in his hospital bed, because SERIOUSLY.  

And finally, The Creepy Cunnilingus Scene! During the portion of the season when Spacey and Kate Mara have their super-sexy erotic mentorship going on, Spacey comes over to Kate Mara’s place, and tells her to call her dad because it’s Father’s Day. Then, while she’s on the phone with her father, he proceeds to take off her pants and (I struggled with this, Frank) “navigate the Panama canal.” 

She manages to wish her father a happy Father’s Day and hang up just before Spacey, ahem, finishes constructing a new flood control spillway for Gatum Lake. He then looks up from betwixt her thighs, grinning, and says “Aren’t you going to wish me a Happy Father’s Day?” 

“You don’t have any children,” she replies, because Spacey is in fact child-less.  

“Don’t I?” he replies, still grinning, still betwixt her thighs and goes back to Panama Canal-ing and end of Episode 7 and EWWWWWW.  

I apologize for leaving you with that image, Frank, because House of Cards sure won’t! Because it is edgy, daring TV that’s not even on TV, perhaps making Netflix the new HBO? Perhaps. Though I’m not sure House of Cards is Netflix’s Sopranos. It’s more like Netflix’s Oz

I really wanted that to be an Arli$$ joke, Frank.  But today I choose truth over comedy. Just this once. 

Love, 
Liz

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About Liz Shannon Miller

Liz Shannon Miller, based in Los Angeles, is a writer for the screen and the web, her work including G4's Attack of the Show and the tech blog GigaOM. She also co-hosts the podcast Timey Wimey TV, contributes to the video curation site Here's Some Awesome, and tells her friend Frank about stuff at Liz Tells Frank.

Posted on February 5, 2013, in All the Spoilers, TV and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. This is genius right here —> “Though I’m not sure House of Cards is Netflix’s Sopranos. It’s more like Netflix’s Oz.” Liz, I also highly enjoyed House of Cards. It was disturbing in all the right moments, dramatic in all the right moments, and batshit crazy in all the right moments. Robin Wright is a FOX. Is that weird to say? What a hottie. They should probably get her naked at some point. Was THAT weird to say? I apologize for that tangent. Anyways – Spacey is rad and I can’t wait for Season 2 – that Scooby Gang of journalists is on to something! Aww shizzz.

  2. I think Father’s Day scene is the best I’ve seen on tv… Maybe that’s more like a personal issue than an objective critic, if you know what I mean

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