Review: More Power, More Problems in House of Cards


The greatest trick Frank Underwood ever pulled was convincing the world that he was Tony Soprano. House of Cards arrived on Netflix two years ago with the fanfare of being TV’s next Big Ambitious Drama, with a big star, a big budget, a big director (David Fincher) and big themes.

What it was missing was the small stuff–the nuances, shadings and complications that distinguish the HBO series that it challenged. As Underwood, Kevin Spacey was lustily mendacious, but his villainy had no layers; it was demons all the way down. He was surrounded by self-serving political operators, distinguished only by their levels of competence or weakness. Its worldview was cynical and popular in a nonpartisan way–they’re all bastards in Washington!–but what it wasn’t was surprising. Its sensibility was summed up by the title sequence, whose scenes of the capital were glossy, thrumming with activity, but devoid of actual people. The…

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