Why wait a week to watch another episode when an entire buffet is available? A lot has been written recently about “binge-watching” the practice of sitting on the couch or in bed to gorge on an entire season or a majority of episodes of a television series in one batch. The bulimic viewer was not possible before Tivo, DVRs and Netflix video streaming (aka Instant Queue). Netflix has given us 13 episodes of “House of Cards”, a reinterpretation of the 1990 BBC miniseries which starred Sir Ian Richardson as a conniving Parliamentarian who rose to the level of prime minister before meeting his fate.
This 2013 “House of Cards” is the first foray into developing original television content exclusively for Netflix members. What has been the unintended outcome of the release of all thirteen episodes of “House of Cards” on February 1 is that the critical reviews of “House of Cards” have been more about “binge-watching” and less about the plot of this powerful political minidrama.
With the genius of Beau Willimon, (the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of “The Ides of March”) and David Fincher (Oscar-nominated for directing “The Social Network”) we have a set of twisted plots worthy of Machiavelli or the Borgias. “House of Cards” has been transformed into a contemporary American narrative about a vengeful Beltway insider, US Congressman and House majority whip Frank Underwood. Hailing from a nowhere town in South Carolina, Underwood masterminds the destruction of all those who blocked his appointment to Secretary of State.
Set in present-day Washington, D.C., Underwood (Kevin Spacey) decides to inflict his volcanic temper and impalpable revenge upon those who betrayed him. With lethal self-centeredness he is successful in every detail. Underwood and his wife Claire (exceptionally played by Robin Wright), epitomize an über power-hungry couple who stops at nothing to conquer everything. Each needs the other in order to be lethal. Ruthless and cunning, Frank and Claire bask in the shadowy world of greed, sex, and corruption, severing all ties with anyone who stands in their way. Nothing and no one are beyond their grasp, no matter whom they hurt. Both exploit even the good qualities in others to set them up for manipulation and debasement.
While I personally like watching more than one episode at a time, if the story is tightly woven and meticulously written, I want to savor every tasty morsel. “House of Cards” has such biting dialog, stunning character work and a provocative exploration of contemporary politics that an “all-you-can-watch” buffet of episodes may result in indigestion. Use portion control in feasting on this series.