Thinking back to sophomore year of college, I’m reminded of how reassuring it felt to no longer be a lowly freshman. I had found a group of friends, a sunny spot for relaxing in the quad, and which fraternities to avoid. I had also figured out my way around Washington, D.C. and the course catalog. Which is how I came upon my first film class, “Hollywood in the 70s,” which forever shaped my taste in film, and decided to study abroad in London.
It was 2013, and it was also the year that House of Cards came out on Netflix. I remember reading an article in The Washington Post about the show, comparing it to Richard III, a play in which Kevin Spacey had once played the titular character. I was a big Spacey fan at the time, given his high caliber acting and devotion to British theater (my how things have changed since then), so I was excited for the show. Kevin Spacey in a Shakespearean-esque political thriller set in my city? Bring it on!
The finale season of House of Cards dropped earlier this month, and it unleashed the dormant binge-watcher inside of me, a monster that consumed six new episodes in two days.
It was also Netflix’s first step on its road to world domination. It was must watch TV—deliciously D.C.—not as far fetched as Scandal but still not completely based in reality.
Is House of Cards a good show? I think Seasons 1 through 3 were solid. But after that, I really couldn’t say. How can you tell if something is good when you’re slurping it down through a straw? But for better or worse, House of Cards is part of me now because I can’t seem to separate it from my warm college memories. It’s as much a part of them as the Lincoln Memorial and Cactus Cantina. Everytime I see the opening sequence—cut to Dupont Circle, Union Station, Capitol Hill—I feel a twinge in my heart. That’s my city! This is our show!
Beyond sentimental reasons, House of Cards was a game-changer in how it brought Netflix to the forefront of streaming original content. And for that, we should at least give it credit because here we are, uncountable binges and uncountable Netflix Originals later, and our consumption habits have been forever altered. Again, for better or worse.
(Warning: mild spoiler ahead)
In regard to House of Cards’s finale, the show would have been better served if it went nuclear (literally), but it opted instead for an eerily quiet showdown. And in that, I think they let down the viewers.
The Underwoods set out to conquer and plunder the world. While Frank Underwood may have been physically erased from the final season, he was still there thematically. So, as Claire laments her decision to marry Frank and serve as his partner-in-crime, why not literally blow up his legacy and memory? Who cares about a posthumous indictment when you have the nuclear codes at your fingertips and a “viable” threat to spin it?
Clear the playing field and rise from the ashes. Blow up the ending. Blow up the audience. It’s what we deserve for sticking with the show this long, and it’s arguably the best way to get rid of all of that Underwood-induced pain.
And as Frank Underwood once asserted, there are two types of pain: useful and useless. This idea is invoked several times throughout the final episodes, and it leaves me wondering, which kind of pain was all of this?
For me at least, despite the ups and downs and off-roads, it was useful because it kept me connected to my former life.