Television is changing. Instead of watching content live and waiting for commercials, viewers rely on their DVR or the Internet to watch their favorites when it is convenient, and Netflix sees this as a lasting trend.
The first full season of the political thriller House of Cards was released exclusively on Netflix on Friday, Feb. 1. The web-based company that pioneered the next age of movie watching by mailing DVDs has not stopped innovating. The Netflix Instant library offers their subscribers access to movies and television shows at their fingertips, but with House of Cards the company has started another new venture.
Based off both the novel and the BBC miniseries of the same name, House of Cards stars Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood, the House Majority Whip and Congressman from South Carolina who plots to take over as Vice President after being snubbed during the selection of Secretary of State. His wife Claire (Robin Wright) runs a non-profit organization that entangles her in the unscrupulous dealings of Washington.
The scheming is followed by political journalist Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara), who television fanatics may recognize from the first season of American Horror Story. Barnes starts off by attempting to use a sexual relationship between her and Underwood to further her career by using him as a source, but ultimately chooses a more ethical path.
The character that steals the show is certainly Congressman Peter Russo (Corey Stroll), known for his portrayal of Ernest Hemingway in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. Russo is a tragic hero who is used as a chess piece by the big players in Washington. He is a pathetically flawed man who goes through an amazing transformation, making him one of the few honest characters encountered.
A technical aspect to the show that can be jarring to a first-time viewer is the breaking of the fourth wall. Underwood is constantly turning to the audience to tell us how he really feels following instances of deception among the characters. He smiles and says something sweet, then turns to the audience to say smart lines like, "What am I, a whore in post-war Berlin, salivating over free stockings and chocolate?"
In contrast to the typical voiceover, this technique, while uncomfortable at first, proves to be very affective. With all of the shady behavior occurring in each scene, Underwood informs audience members of his quick thinking so they aren't left in the dark.
Overall, the series is filled with intense drama that races on into the season finale, which is definitely satisfying and leaves the audience wanting more. However, the key problem with the show is not the writing or acting. After viewing the entire first season in the span of two days, I missed my usual TV ritual. With weekly shows I check reviews online, scan discussion boards and weigh in on predictions and even scour Tumblr for updates from the latest episodes. With House of Cards, however, this was not an option.
Due to the full release of the season, my friends were on completely different viewing schedules, there were reviews for only the pilot and no one was guessing what season two would bring. Previously I did not understand that this sense of community was vital to my viewing experience, but consuming the series as a whole really brought it to light.
For now this isn't a show you can discuss over the water cooler, but in the future this dynamic might change. The series is just one of many more original shows that the company will release on their site.