I saw the original House of Cards in the UK when it first came out. Over there it has a justifiably legendary reputation. I fully expect the American version on NetFlix to do the same. I’ve watched the first five episodes and I’m impressed. While Ian Richardson’s Francis Urqhart was ruthless and cold, Kevin Spacey’s Francis Underwood is ruthless but vulnerable and human. Richardson’s anger is very British and Spacey wears his heart on his sleeve. Why so vulnerable? Because of the casting. Robin Wright turns Clare Underwood into Lady Macbeth. There is no mistaking that the real power and ruthlessness is in her hands. Francis is sleeping with a reporter? So what. While Francis wheels and deals, Clare brings him down to Earth when necessary. They have a plan, and they would do whatever it takes to achieve it.
The acting is superb, the photography is brilliant, but for me the real winner is Jeff Beal’s music. Each episode has a symphonic arc, partly defined by the story, but when you hear the closing credits, you realize that the music is what carried it home. Don’t just flip it off, listen to the music at the end of each episode all the way to the end. The closing music is different every time (thus far) and encapsulates the atmosphere at the end of the episode. Let the story sink in. Think of all the ramifications of what has taken place. Then I dare you not to watch the next episode right away. I’ve succumbed to the temptation once (episode 2 to 3), but I’ve been sorely tested every time.
After 5 episodes, I’d give it a solid 5 stars.