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February 22, 2014 - 1:54pm

My First Time: "House of Cards"



I like to think of myself as the princess of the pop culture party. Although I’m unfortunately not a TV-bot capable of watching every show worth a glance, I like to think I’m in the know about the status of most everything airing on TV today. And I’m choosy in the best way — I decide if a show is worth my time with perfectly calibrated algorithm based on my interests (and which friends are begging me to watch it).

But we all have blind spot, and mine just happens to be the Netflix original series “House of Cards”. For whatever reason, I have picked up exactly zero spoilers from Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr, and have only a passing idea of what the show is about. I know Kevin Spacey is in Congress, and he’s a pretty corrupt dude. He addresses the camera and gives his speeches directly into the lens. And his wife is a certified badass.

But that’s it. I’ve avoided many a conversation since the new batch of episodes appeared on Netflix this Valentine’s Day. Nobody can know about my embarrassing misstep in overlooking “House of Cards,” and of course I’m too stubborn to go back and actually watch the show from Chapter One. So here I am, jumping into the show halfway through to try and pick up some good conversation topics and stay relevant to all the cool kids. *looks into the camera* Welcome to Chapter One of my story.

We begin with Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey and his TV wife (I assume, anyway) running in stylish black tracksuits. Helicopters blare overhead. I am guessing the helicopters aren’t actually chasing Kevin and his wife, because their jog seems to be pretty leisurely.

Then, the longest opening credit sequence I have ever seen. And yes, I have seen “Game of Thrones.” The “House of Cards” credits seem to include every minor crew member, each with his own title card. I watch the minute hand of my watch tick past one minute, one hour, one year. I watch my hair turn grey. Washington, D.C. flashes across the screen in time lapse. Night scenes. So dramatic.

Finally the credits are over and we open on our peppy runners. Kevin Spacey’s character is apparently named Francis Underwood, and his birthday is coming up. But he’s grumpy and doesn’t want any presents. I can’t tell if he’s serious or just saying that to test if his wifey will get him a great gift anyway.

Frank and Golden Globe Award-winning actress Robin Wright (I finally recognize her as the wife) enter their dark and impeccably dressed home. Frank stretches, treating the viewers to a quality butt shot. I am suddenly 100% more interested in this show. Robin Wright’s character is apparently named Claire Underwood. She sassily remarks that she will not allow her husband to smoke, now that he’s going to be the Vice President soon. So I guess he’s not just a member of Congress?

At work, Frank talks to his deputy, Jackie Sharp. He suggests to her that she try for the job of Majority Whip (his former post). She’s skeptical, since the praise seems to be coming from nowhere. I get the impression that Frank doesn’t speak this kindly to most of his coworkers. But he impresses her by giving her the files on her competitors, which he conveniently stores on his computer. Believe it. This guy has files on EVERYONE.

But in his meeting with fellow political bigwigs, Frank doesn’t even mention Jackie’s name as a possible candidate for Whip. I’m not sure I trust this guy. He seems to be making promises he can’t keep … not the makings of a very good politician in my book.

At this point, I take a break to go grab a handful of cereal from a box under my bed. The one handful quickly turns into what would probably fill a bowl, should I actually bother to use one. I glance over at the screen. Somebody is throwing a deck of cards into a trashcan. A reference to the show’s title?

Now, an angry Mrs. Applebaum confronts a poor pregnant mistress at her home. I’m not sure who these people are or how they are relevant, but I’ll just assume that one of the Underwoods is manipulating them or that Mr. Applebaum is a politician.

By halfway through the episode, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with the plot. Apparently Rachel Posner (the waitress) is the last loose end in some scheme that Frank had concocted in Season One, and everybody wants to take her out. Journalist Zoe (Kate Mara, “Deadfall”) receives some strange texts and replies to them with nifty on-screen popups. She has a boyfriend (?) named Lucas, but she doesn’t seem too interested in spending any time with him or clueing him in on her own schemes. Nobody is helping me out with names, either. I still don’t know what to call Frank’s Chief of Staff.

Rachel Posner is pretty scared when Chief of Staff comes into her home. She holds a knife to him as he claims that she’s in danger. But I’m not convinced he’s here to protect her.

Also, nobody has addressed the camera yet or given any sassy speeches. I’m disappointed in you, show.

Okay, so now I know why Zoe is relevant. She’s texting Frank, apparently talking about some guy named Russo. He was found dead in the passenger seat. Which begs a few questions — who is Russo? How did he die? Who was driving the car that killed him? I think Zoe knows the answers to these questions (and probably the answers to a few too many questions). Frank wants her to delete her phone history and erase all evidence of context and a relationship between them.

Frank and Claire do some political work in bed (no, actual political work). She talks about trying for a baby, but it’s all diagnostics and results. Something tells me she isn’t really interested in having a baby, either (#PowerCouple #NoTimeForRomance).

Frank Underwood is literally eating ribs in the morning. And having a totally chill conversation with a guy about slow bleeding meat and killing without mercy. What a guy!

Frank and Zoe are at the train station now, and that whooshing sound definitely doesn’t sound good. Those tense drums aren’t helping, either. Add Frank’s Heisenberg hat and mysterious shades, and …

Was Russo in the passenger seat? Frank says he might have been halfway there. He was an alcoholic I guess, and either killed himself or was murdered by someone else. Again, Zoe brings up all the secrets she is definitely not supposed to know. Girl is really setting herself up for an Angry Frank Speech now.

Wow. Okay. Bye, Zoe. Frank pushed her in front of a freaking train, because I guess that’s a logical thing to do when someone totally agrees to delete her phone history. I can’t believe that nobody saw and no cameras or security guards or Secret Service people were around to stop it. Apparently the future Vice President can just go wherever he wants and do anything without supervision. Whoever let him go alone definitely hasn’t seen “Homeland.”

Frank is totally casual about Zoe’s murder on the news. Nobody suspects anything, except maybe Lucas. He paces around the room angstily.

Oh. Frank got a cake for his birthday. And Chief of Staff got him some sweet cufflinks for his gift, even though he specifically asked for no celebration. Oh, Chief of Staff, taking care of his man and threatening poor waitress/call girl Rachel Posner. All in the name of love.

FINALLY Frank is addressing the camera. Justifying his murder of Zoe, claiming that in D.C., it’s either hunt or be hunted. Close up on Frank’s cufflinks, aptly featuring a sassy “F U” design. It’s funny because it’s his initials!

And thus, the end of my first experience with “House of Cards.” It was pretty entertaining, and I’m probably going catch up over Spring Break. I’ll just have to pretend like I didn’t just spoil everything for myself.