Binge Guide

Why You Should Binge the First Two Seasons of House of Cards Right Now

There's still time to catch up before season three drops on Feb. 27.

by | February 18, 2015 | Comments

With the third season of Netflix’s Emmy and Golden Globe-winning drama scheduled for release on February 27, it’s a great time to get caught up on the career of predatory politician Francis Underwood. We won’t spoil any details for those who have yet to stream the series, but since the season will — in the tradition of Netflix programming — be released in its entirety, it’s probably a good idea to catch up quickly.

 

House of Cards

House of Cards

What’s the premise? A wily and ambitious congressman utilizes his considerable influence to climb his way up the political ladder, manipulating colleagues along the way and leaving unsuspecting victims in his wake.

What’s it like? Frank Underwood is not a nice man, but he is, for better or worse, the show’s central figure. He manipulates, wheedles, gladhands, seethes, rants, negotiates, and plots behind closed doors, all to fulfill his personal vendettas. In that sense, the series is something like a fusion of The West Wing‘s political gamesmanship and Boardwalk Empire‘s ruthless misanthropy. If Nucky Thompson ran for Congress and decided he wanted some payback for being overlooked for a cabinet position, it might look something like House of Cards. With more tommy guns.

Where can I see it? Both season one and two of House of Cards are available on Netflix, of course, but they’re also available on Amazon and Vudu. The only place to see season three when it premieres, however, will be on Netflix.

How long will it take? Both seasons clock in at 13 hourlong episodes (plus or minus a few minutes), so you can easily run through the whole lot of them before season three debuts. If you’re highly caffeinated, you might even be able to get through all 26 episodes in a single, dedicated weekend.

What do the critics think? Both seasons one and two of House of Cards are Certified Fresh at 84 percent and 85 percent, respectively. While Kevin Spacey’s icy demeanor and brutal tactics as Frank Underwood initially left some critics feeling a bit icky, most echoed the sentiments of IGN’s Roth Cornet, who wrote, “The production is as sleek and well executed as any you would expect from this caliber of talent, and a match for most high-end cable programs.” The series’ first season also made history when it became the first online-only program to take home a Golden Globe (Outstanding Lead Actress for Robin Wright), and Spacey himself just picked one up back in January for his performance in season two.

Why should I watch this? The first and foremost reason to queue up House of Cards is two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey, who plays Frank Underwood with a quiet, diabolical menace that simmers just beneath the surface of his smarmy demeanor. He’s not the only one who shines, though; Kate Mara is deceptively cunning as ambitious journalist Zoe Barnes, and Robin Wright’s work as Underwood’s equally clever wife Claire is outstanding. Beyond the acting, there are also some fine folks in the director’s chair, including David Fincher (who previously worked with Spacey on Seven and won an Emmy for the pilot episode), James Foley (Glengarry Glen Ross), and Allen Coulter (The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire), just to name a few. Thankfully, House of Cards puts its wealth of talent to good use, as series creator/writer Beau Willimon deftly weaves together Underwood’s political machinations, his marital struggles, and various subplots in service of a densely plotted revenge narrative. The series’ cynicism and slow-burn pacing may not appeal to everyone, but we dare you not to be hooked after the first episode.

What’s my next step? House of Cards is actually an American adaptation of a 1990 British miniseries of the same name, which was itself an adaptation of a 1989 novel by Michael Dobbs called — you guessed it — House of Cards, so those would be logical places to start. Dobbs also penned two sequels, To Play the King and The Final Cut, which were again adapted into UK miniseries, and since it appears Netflix isn’t necessarily drawing from those works for subsequent seasons of its own series, you should feel safe checking them out without worrying about spoilers. If you blow through the show and you’re looking for some similar fare on television, you might enjoy The Good Wife, The West Wing, the UK series State of Play, or even Scandal. Political thrillers are popular on the big screen, so you’ve got a rich variety of films to choose from, including The Ides of March (also written by Beau Willimon), All the President’s Men, State of Play (based on the series mentioned above), Advise and Consent, and, if you need something a little lighter, try In the Loop or Bob Roberts.

What do you like about House of Cards? How would you explain it to a newbie? Get in on the conversation here.

  • gun will travel

    The first season – definitely. And the first episode of Season Two. But I think the series takes a step down from there. It’s still way, way better than broadcast TV, but I’d definitely watch Sense8 twice before I finished watching Seasons 2 and 3 of House of Cards.

  • Mrs.K

    Never watched it but I am intrigued by the high ratings…maybe I will stream season 1. I watched the trailer before and it looked interesting but not interesting enough for me to tune in….

Tag Cloud

Red Carpet Holidays MTV RT History spy thriller Musicals IFC Films Set visit 2015 sports CBS 21st Century Fox vampires based on movie Watching Series MSNBC Kids & Family Countdown Christmas Crackle cinemax Spike DC Comics Writers Guild of America HBO Grammys GLAAD Superheroes TCA 2017 Spring TV cops crime drama historical drama YouTube Red Warner Bros. Emmys Pop National Geographic Star Trek APB biography Action singing competition TCA BBC DC Universe Syfy Masterpiece Paramount American Society of Cinematographers Photos The Arrangement hist thriller The CW Lionsgate Nat Geo El Rey psycho TV TBS Nominations CMT Teen Valentine's Day Britbox Rocky sitcom Lifetime period drama Food Network Mary Tyler Moore technology crossover festivals Reality Competition Opinion Premiere Dates Summer Netflix See It Skip It aliens GoT Starz diversity E! 007 Oscars DirecTV travel BET Showtime FX History Acorn TV AMC Fall TV First Look zombie Schedule cooking ratings Logo Marathons dc medical drama FXX CNN ABC Family Animation GIFs Disney Channel Year in Review Sneak Peek Extras Election Reality TruTV Box Office Pirates Polls and Games Interview Rom-Com politics PBS Rock 20th Century Fox Martial Arts Musical discovery Best and Worst NBC Comedy Central Character Guide boxoffice Trivia USA Network 45 Superheroe Calendar crime thriller Sundance Now social media docudrama Cartoon Network Pixar robots Nickelodeon Mindy Kaling talk show ABC IFC Horror PaleyFest Fox News E3 transformers Sony Pictures VH1 TLC Drama Amazon Comedy USA Awards DC streaming service Fantasy Hulu Western Super Bowl war FOX Video Games CW Seed finale Cosplay 24 frames YA romance justice league harry potter Dark Horse Comics what to watch Podcast composers Toys Sci-Fi Tumblr Infographic Music Creative Arts Emmys police drama Comic Book A&E Star Wars LGBTQ Universal OWN Mystery Marvel comiccon science fiction Lucasfilm NYCC 2017 X-Men Ellie Kemper Certified Fresh Bravo SundanceTV BBC America political drama SXSW adventure TNT Winners Thanksgiving cats unscripted Esquire WGN dramedy zombies Freeform TV Land President Disney ESPN 2016 SDCC Trailer ITV streaming supernatural golden globes CBS All Access dceu binge serial killer VICE Tomatazos Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Paramount Network Ghostbusters Shondaland Biopics Winter TV Country Sundance TCM Adult Swim cults crime TIFF