House of Cards: Season 1, Chapter 1

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SPOILERS: Don’t read this review if you have not yet seen, or don’t want to know, details from this episode.

The opener, w/ the wounded dog, introducing House Majority Whip Frank Underwood  (Kevin Spacey) could’ve put many viewers off!  However, this show drew me in from the first ep (I began watching it last Summer); I later watched the ’80s UK series.  I was intrigued not only b/c of Spacey, but b/c of Robin Wright (who plays Frank’s wife, Claire), and producer David Fincher (who first worked w/ Spacey on Seven).  The creator of the show, Beau Willimon, is still in his mid-30s- wow!

Frank has been compared to Richard III- the role that Spacey played just before doing this series.  (There are Shakespearean asides to the audience from Spacey, making the viewer an unwilling confidant.)  And Wright is a far cry from Buttercup (The Princess Bride).  Claire has become a style icon, too.

We meet ambitious young reporter (The Washington Herald), Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara), who asks her editor, Lucas Goodwin (Sebastian Arcelus), to move her from Fairfax city council to real politics.  She looks scrappy and hungry, saying that she wants her own blog (what people read currently).  However, Lucas refuses her, saying that she can work on whatever in her free time.  When Zoe tries to connect with White House reporter, Janine Skorsky (Constance Zimmer; recently on The Newsroom), she’s quickly shot down again.

We also meet the young, charming Rep. Peter Russo (Corey Stoll from Law & Order), who’s assisted by the smart/beautiful Christina (Kristen Connelly).  They are also very much in love, though it began as “an office fling.” 

Frank is “livid” after Senator Michael Kern (comedian Kevin Kilner) is picked for Secretary of State.  This had been promised him by Present-elect Garrett Walker (Michel Gil), but Chief of Staff Linda Vasquez (Sakina Jaffrey- daughter of noted actress/chef Madhur Jaffrey), says that Frank is needed too much in the Congress.

Claire has her own career- she runs a charity, Clean Water Initiative, which she plans to expand internationally.  Since SanCorp has cut down their corporate donation, Claire will have to cut jobs, much to the shock/dismay of her long-time assistant, Evelyn (Maryann Plunkett).  

We see the enigmatic nature of the Underwood’s marraige after Frank comes home late that night, disappointed.  Claire says that he should’ve called, instead of avoiding her.  They are partners first and foremost.

My husband doesn’t apologize… even to me.  –Claire says to Frank

Frank wants revenge, but he’ll need others to take down Walker.  We meet Frank’s secretary, Nancy, and his right-hand man, Doug Stamper (Michael Kelley).  Another player: Catherine Durrant (Jayne Atkinson, wife of Gil), who’s Frank’s choice for Secretary of State.  (I esp. liked the little bit where they dance at the ball; Spacey is a good dancer/singer, as we know!)

You may very well think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment. -Frank says to Zoe

Before an opera at The Kennedy Center, Frank checks out Zoe, who’s wearing a tight white cocktail dress.  (FYI: This scene was inspired by a similar with President Obama.)  A photographer from her paper sends her the pic, which she uses to her advantage. Steve (the driver) warns Zoe to get off the doorstep, but Frank lets her into his brownstone.  Zoe explains to Frank that she “wants someone to talk to;” we can see that he’s intrigued.  She says that education is the issue Walker will tackle first upon entering office.

Don’t worry, there is also humor (albeit mostly dark) in this series: 

Frank & Claire say goodbye to Zoe

Does that work on anybody? -Claire asks Frank, as Zoe leaves

Does what? Frank replies

The push-up bra and the v-necked tee. -Claire explains

Well, if it does, I don’t know who they are. -Frank replies flatly 

Peter lands in jail after being pulled over for drunken driving; the young woman w/ him is a pro.  Frank has Stamper bribe the police commissioner to get him out.  Later that week, Frank explains how it’ll be, getting in Peter’s face (reminiscent of LBJ’s move).  Thus, Peter becomes a pawn in the game.

Zoe was right- Frank is asked to work on an education bill w/ idealistic Rep. Donald Blythe (Reed Birney), the most-respected man in that field.  Frank gives the draft to Zoe, knowing that it’s “far left of center,” so will not be passed.   When she shows the (nearly-shredded) copy to Lucas and Tom Hammerschmidt (Boris McGiver), The Herald‘s editor, both men are surprised.  Janine is pissed off when she has to help ready Zoe’s article.  Tom declares it’s “more important” than the inauguration.

Near the end of the ep, we learn that Frank hails from South Carolina, when he stops by Freddie’s BBQ Joint for some grub.  (Freddie is played by Reg E. Cathey; he’s know mainly for The Wire.)  In the morning paper, we see Zoe’s article (front page).

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