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Netflix's exclusive House of Cards is a winner

U.S. Representative Frank Underwood (second from left), his wife, Claire (third from left), and his paramour Zoe Barnes (left) navigate the trials of life in Washington politics in the Netflix original series House of Cards.  (credit: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons) U.S. Representative Frank Underwood (second from left), his wife, Claire (third from left), and his paramour Zoe Barnes (left) navigate the trials of life in Washington politics in the Netflix original series House of Cards. (credit: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

At that magical, entrancing place where the political intrigue of The West Wing and the filming style of Sherlock intersect lies House of Cards. The thrilling political drama is a not only an extremely well-crafted show, but also an innovation in the world of television.

Instead of first airing on a major network, the show’s first season was released in its entirety on Netflix on Feb. 1. Based loosely on a 1990 BBC production with the same title, the show follows U.S. Representative and majority whip Francis “Frank” Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey with a smooth, charming Southern drawl. Domineering and powerful, Underwood wreaks carefully orchestrated havoc on Capitol Hill after President Garret Walker (Michael Gill) passes him up for the position of Secretary of State. He and his wife Claire, played by the ever-graceful and poised Robin Wright, decide to fight back against the political machine by ditching moral standards in order to look out for themselves.

The couple’s relationship is one of the best parts of the show. While clearly not in love or completely committed to each other, Frank and Claire have a mutual understanding that they will each do whatever it takes to advance the other’s career. They also participate in and openly admit to extramarital affairs throughout the season: Claire with former flame photographer Adam Galloway (Ben Daniels) and Frank with upstart reporter Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara). The dynamic between the couple adds an interesting emotional angle to the show, most of which is driven by the political scheming of Frank and his associates.

The list of standout characters includes Peter Russo, a U.S. congressman who runs for governor of Pennsylvania with Frank’s help. Corey Stoll, who plays Russo, is one of the strongest and most compelling actors featured on the show. His character, while plagued by demons that include heavy drinking, drug abuse, and a penchant for prostitutes, is a force to be reckoned with — an admirable feat for an actor.

The entire cast presents believable and engaging characters. All of the characters are flawed, making it impossible to see anything in black and white; instead, viewers are forced to concentrate on the many interesting shades of gray. The writing is genius; the plot moves and twists steadily while remaining believable; and the cinematography is interesting and easy to watch. The best parts of the show are undoubtedly the moments in which Frank breaks the fourth wall, turning and staring directly into the camera and addressing viewers to explain his true sentiments with snarky commentary or a disparaging glance in reaction to an idiotic political maneuver.

Even though its availability is restricted to Netflix users, the series has experienced huge success, marking what will take off as a trend in television if marketers have any shred of sense. Currently ranking the number-one most watched show on Netflix, House of Cards has been renewed for a second season of 13 episodes.