House of Cards

Season 1 Episode 1

Chapter 1

Aired Unknown Feb 01, 2013 on Netflix
out of 10
User Rating
129 votes

By Users

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  • Episode Summary


    When, following his election, the President fails to deliver on his promise to Francis, he and his wife decide to break all ties and re-write the political rule book.

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    • Great as an introduction, but it gets a lot better

      As all episodes of the first season of House of Cards were made available for viewing at once, the pilot of David Fincher's Netflix project underwent considerably less public scrutiny as the introductions of other series. But as it's always interesting to see in which way the director and screenwriter pull off the establishing of plot and characters, I'm now going to do exactly that.

      Kevin Spacey plays the series's protagonist, the cunning and unscrupulous congressman Frank Underwood, and he excels himself in doing so. I wouldn't go as far as naming it the best performance of his career, but it never fails to amaze me how he can act so well with so few facial expressions. Since 50 minutes aren't enough running time to make the audience understand all supporting characters as well, House of Cards primarily lays its focus on Robin Wright's and Kate Mara's characters in its first chapter. Their characters are about as similar as the keyboard I'm currently writing on and the pear I'm simultaneously eating, but they both make you want to see more of them (A/N: this is not a sexual innuendo). I especially enjoyed how Mara's aspiring journalist Zoe gradually turns out to be more than the bitchy little girl she seems like in her first scene and the chemistry between Spacey and Wright as an on-screen couple.

      But while the acting is clearly very good, the quality of a series on politics is inevitably decided through its script thankfully, House of Cards doesn't fall off on that and has The Ides of March's scribe Beau Willimon establish his reputation. Sophisticated and witty conversations, small details that get important later on (even more so in the subsequent chapters), and an astonishingly accurate portrayal of today's politics are what makes this series worth watching, and, just so we're clear, you don't have to give a fig for politics to get a kick out of it. And with David Fincher responsible for the realisation, there's a wonderful visual style to the whole thing, making it an even greater delight to watch.

      For chapter one, which very well represents my general view on the series, my only points of criticism are a tendency for clichs (coughing after taking a sip of spirits as an attribute for a fledgling character, for one), which is a misdemeanour, and the protagonist's breaking of the fourth wall, which is a felony. It went on to become typical for House of Cards, but on most occasions, I'm rolling my eyes once Kevin Spacey starts to address me. Nevertheless, I'd be surprised about anyone deciding to stop watching the series after this pilot, which does an outstanding job at making you want to see more.


      - Give it up for editor Kirk Baxter and his beautiful segue from opera to ego shooter.

      - Same goes for cinematographer Eigil Bryld who captures a phenomenal shot of waste paper flying around in the wind of Washington .

      - The short picture-only exposition moments for the end of this pilot work extraordinarily well, it's a shame they aren't really used in further episodes.

      - "I love that woman" I've mentioned my dissatisfaction with Kevin Spacey talking to the audience in the middle of scenes already and this is likely the most unnecessary thing he says while doing so in the complete series.

      - The position of Peter's face when talking to Frank had me expecting an entirely different storyline when I first watched this episode, silly me.

      - House of Cards mostly uses bleak colours and the bright apple Frank slices up in his kitchen was a charming contrast to that.

      - Best quote: "You might very well think that, I couldn't possibly I am so going to use this phrase in conversations.moreless
    • Excellent!

      This show has all of the atmosphere of it's director David Fincher's films and follows it through with a superb award-winning cast. Kevin Spacey plays the protaganist, a congressman with plans to be Secretary of State, but when that plan goes wrong we watch as he plans his vengeance. Political intrigue abounds here as many levels of the Washington world are exposed and I've been enjoying every minute of it so far.moreless
    • 21st Century US Political Machiavellianism

      Wow, I was drawn to this show by the sheer pedigree of it. I mean Kevin Spacey is the patron saint of conniving and screen presence and Usual Suspects and American Beauty are two of my all time favorite films, but tagging in David Fincher as producer and director of the first two episodes and bringing his gorgeous and perfectionist touch make this almost impossible to resist, along with Beau Williamson for those unfamiliar with the play Farragut North it was the plot basis that George Clooney adapted for the film the Ides of March so he knows the in and outs of the Capitol Hill game. This show, much like Homeland and other series nowadays is a remake of a previous series or old material but House of Cards (originally a series of books and set in Britain) gives us a modern political climate that is masterfully maneuvered by Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey). The first episode is rather complicated but basically with the newly elected President about to take office Francis, the Majority Whip (the third highest ranking member of his unstated political party in the House) is passed over for Secretary of State and he looks to drive the President elects plans into the ground to exact vengeance. To do this he leaks an education Bill, written by an extreme leftist that he tries to tailor to passable in the House, to a young reporter Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara). What's so compelling about the show is that Francis and his equally icy wife Claire are surrounded by different sorts of political animals than themselves which features not just characters that are all the same type. Francis seems to be a very effectual embodiment of a Machiavellian Prince-figure in his approach to blackmail and twist arms to make his will come to pass. Solid production design and smooth writing make this show go down like the smooth glass of whiskey Francis offers to visitors of his office. But it goes without saying that this isn't a show for everyone, in the first scene he euthanizes a dog that got hit by a car making it very clear who and what we're in for in a series like this. If you enjoy shows such as the West Wing, Starz's Boss, or Political Animals, a political show with teeth that you can binge watch in a marathon with raw acting ability House of Cards is up your alley. Even if you decide you don't like it and want to stay clear of all the filth of Washington the first episode and second as far as I've watched so far are some of the most beautiful and intellectually constructed TV I've seen in recent memory. What Francis's ultimate crusade hopes to gain is nothing short of revenge from the looks of it. Hopefully the series can adapt but Netflix has seemingly put all the right pieces together but hopefully it doesn't fall apart after such a great opening. Hopefully this will put the internet streaming site on the map in terms of original programming and by putting up all the episodes at once for consumption those who become hooked can't have a "wait till next week" to watch. By the end of the first episode you'll know if House of Cards is for you, with Francis's talking directly to the camera working much better than the inferior efforts of similarly named show House of Lies on Showtime (not knocking the incredible Don Cheadle it just seems less gimmicky in this case). Frank's last line of "I'm feeling hungry today" sets the tone for what viewers are ultimately in for and if you're not into stacks of ribs and dog eat dog politics then House of Cards isn't for you but at least give it a chance, that is if you have Netflix.moreless
    • not the type of shows I watch, but I loved it!

      I'm more of a sci-fi/fantasy nut, and usually stay away from standard dramas. But I turned on my Netflix to watch something else and got this on the first screen. I went ahead just to see how it was, and I liked it a lot. Very well made, interesting Washington plots, keeps you wanting for more. Good show!
    • Solid start. Gorgeously Shot.

      First and foremost - David Fincher and TV were made for each other. Perhaps the best shot TV show yet.

      Beyond the aesthetics, the hour long pilot set up a sufficiently wide net of interesting and backstabbing characters. While I was leery of the Spacey monologues being such a central part of the narrative, he does certainly deliver them skillfully. Few actors are capable adopting a southern drawl while saying that many words in a single hour's worth of TV and not coming across as a Colonel Sanders parody.

      Kate Mara stands out early in her attempt to draw even with her sister Rooney's recent work and while scrappy blogger trying to save the mass media is possibly the most overdone role on TV these last few years, it probably works best in a Washington . setting.

      Excited to marathon more. Now.moreless
    Dan Ziskie

    Dan Ziskie

    V.P. Matthews

    Guest Star

    Kevin Kilner

    Kevin Kilner

    Michael Kern

    Guest Star

    Francie Swift

    Francie Swift

    Felicity Holburn

    Guest Star

    Sebastian Arcelus

    Sebastian Arcelus

    Lucas Goodwin

    Recurring Role

    Boris McGiver

    Boris McGiver

    Tom Hammerschmidt

    Recurring Role

    Constance Zimmer

    Constance Zimmer

    Janine Skorsky

    Recurring Role

    Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


    • TRIVIA (0)

    • QUOTES (4)

      • Zeo Bar: Wait. We're in a very gray area. Ethically. Legally. Which I'm okay with --
        Frank Underwood: I just love this painting, don't you? We're in the same boat now, Zoe. Take care not to tip it over. I can only save one of us from drowning.

      • Cathy: Kern is a boy scout.
        Frank Underwood: Nobody's a boy scout. Not even boy scouts.

      • Claire Underwood: Does that work on anybody?
        Frank Underwood: Does what?
        Claire Underwood: The pushup bra and the v-neck tee.
        Frank Underwood: Well, if it does, I don't know who they are.

      • Frank Underwood: "There are two kinds of pain. The sort of pain that makes you strong. Or useless pain. The sort of pain that's only suffering. I have no patience for useless things. Moments like this require someone who will act. To do the unpleasant thing. The necessary thing... There, no more pain."

    • NOTES (1)

      • The episode won 2 Emmy Awards for Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series and Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series.

    • ALLUSIONS (0)