House of Cards (U.S. TV series)

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For the 1990 UK series of the same name, see House of Cards (UK TV series).
House of Cards
House of Cards title card.png
Genre Political drama
Created by Beau Willimon
Based on
Starring
Composer(s) Jeff Beal
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 52 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)
Location(s) Baltimore, Maryland
Joppa, Maryland
(sound stage)
Cinematography Eigil Bryld
Tim Ives
Igor Martinovic
Running time 43–59 minutes
Production company(s) Media Rights Capital
Trigger Street Productions
Wade/Thomas Productions
Knight Takes King Productions[1]
Distributor Netflix
Sony Pictures Television
Release
Original network Netflix
Picture format 1080p (2:1 HDTV) (2013)
4K (2:1 UHDTV) (2014–present)
Audio format Dolby Digital 5.1
Original release February 1, 2013 (2013-02-01) – present
Chronology
Related shows House of Cards
External links
Website

House of Cards is an American political drama web television series created by Beau Willimon. It is an adaptation of the BBC's mini-series of the same name and is based on the novel by Michael Dobbs. The entire first season, comprising thirteen episodes, premiered on February 1, 2013, on the streaming service Netflix. A second season of thirteen episodes premiered on February 14, 2014, while a third season premiered on February 27, 2015. House of Cards was renewed for a fourth season, which premiered on March 4, 2016. In January 2016, Netflix announced that the show had been renewed for a fifth season, due for release in 2017, along with announcing that Willimon would step down as showrunner after the fourth season. Willimon has stated that plans for the show's future are decided after each season.[2]

Set in present-day Washington, D.C., House of Cards is the story of Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), a Democrat from South Carolina's 5th congressional district and House Majority Whip who, after being passed over for appointment as Secretary of State, initiates an elaborate plan to get himself into a position of greater power, aided by his wife, Claire Underwood (Robin Wright). The series deals primarily with themes of ruthless pragmatism,[3] manipulation, and power.[4]

House of Cards has received positive reviews and several award nominations. To date, it has received 33 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actor for Spacey, and Outstanding Lead Actress for Wright, for each of its first four seasons.[5] It is the first original online-only web television series to receive major Emmy nominations.[6] The show also earned eight Golden Globe Award nominations, with Wright winning for Best Actress – Television Series Drama in 2014 and Spacey winning for Best Actor – Television Series Drama in 2015.[7]

Plot[edit]

Season Episodes Originally released
1 13 February 1, 2013 (2013-02-01)
2 13 February 14, 2014 (2014-02-14)
3 13 February 27, 2015 (2015-02-27)
4 13 March 4, 2016 (2016-03-04)

Season 1 (2013)[edit]

The series opens with congressman Francis "Frank" Underwood displaying his ruthless pragmatism by killing a suffering pet dog with his bare hands while explaining to the audience how there are times when we require someone to do the unpleasant yet necessary thing. Along this theme we follow Underwood, a power-hungry Democratic congressman from South Carolina and House majority whip. After securing the election of President Garrett Walker to get himself appointed Secretary of State, Underwood is devastated to learn that he is being passed over. Chief of Staff Linda Vasquez tells Underwood that the president wants him to promote his agenda in Congress and will not honor their agreement. Inwardly seething, Underwood quickly gains control of his anger and hides his disappointment to present himself as a helpful lieutenant to the president and his agenda. In reality, Underwood begins an elaborate plan behind the president's back, with the ultimate goal of gaining power for himself.

Frank's wife Claire runs an NGO, the Clean Water Initiative ("CWI"), but her intentions are not made explicit. She seems to use her charity to cultivate her own power and influence, yet its ultimate purpose remains unknown. In the opening episode, she deems the otherwise-successful charity to have too limited a footprint. Keen to be on the international stage, she decides to change her organization to one that supports international well-digging to provide clean water. This is met with great misgivings by her office manager. Claire directs her to fire CWI employees, cutting the staff by half. At the end of the week, she checks in to ask how the process went and then informs the manager she is being let go as well. It is clear from the outset that Claire shares both her husband's cold-hearted, ruthless pragmatism and his lust for power.

Underwood begins a highly intricate plan to obtain a cabinet position, acquiring pawns he can manipulate in his power play. He begins a symbiotic, and ultimately sexual, relationship with Zoe Barnes, an ambitious young political reporter, and then makes a deal with her that she will publish damaging stories he leaks about his political rivals. Meanwhile, he manipulates Peter Russo, a troubled alcoholic and congressman from Pennsylvania, into helping him undermine Walker's pick for Secretary of State, Senator Michael Kern. Underwood eventually has Kern replaced with his own choice, Senator Catherine Durant. Underwood also uses Russo in a plot to end a teachers' strike and pass an education bill, which improves Underwood's standing with President Walker.

Because the new Vice President is the former governor of Pennsylvania, a special election is to be held for governor. Underwood helps Russo get clean and props up his candidacy but later uses call girl Rachel Posner to break his sobriety and trigger his downfall shortly before the election, by Russo's being drunk while appearing on a radio interview. Distraught, Russo decides to make amends for his failure by coming clean to the press about his role in Underwood's schemes. In response, Frank kills Russo by leaving him passed out in a closed garage with Russo's car running, causing him to die of carbon monoxide poisoning. With the Pennsylvania special election in chaos, Underwood convinces the vice president to step down and run for his old position of governor – leaving the vice presidency open to Underwood, as was his plan all along.

President Walker appears to have other plans, however. Underwood ends up vetting a surprising choice for vice president: Missouri billionaire Raymond Tusk. Tusk later reveals that he is actually appraising Underwood for vice president and has been a close advisor and friend of Walker for many years. Tusk reveals he suggested that Walker break his agreement to make Underwood Secretary of State. Tusk explains he will influence Walker to nominate Underwood if Underwood agrees to perform one unnamed favor for him that will benefit Tusk's financial interests. Underwood, after some thought, counterproposes to Tusk that they work together to fulfill both their interests, and Tusk accepts. Meanwhile, after Underwood ends their affair, Zoe begins piecing together clues about Underwood's scheming. The season ends when Underwood is offered the nomination for vice president, which he accepts.

Season 2 (2014)[edit]

With Frank on the verge of being sworn in as vice president, Zoe and her colleagues, Lucas Goodwin and Janine Skorsky, continue to dig for information and ultimately locate Rachel Posner. Frank's aide, Doug Stamper, brings Rachel to a safe house while Frank lures Zoe to a D.C. Metro station and, unseen by witnesses or security cameras, pushes her in front of a train. As a result, Janine abandons the digging and accepts a teaching position in her hometown of Ithaca, New York, to stay away from the potential danger that could get her killed, too.

Zoe's death galvanizes Lucas to continue the search alone, and he solicits the help of a hacker to retrieve Frank's text history from AT&T. However, the hacker, Gavin Orsay, is actually working for Doug Stamper to entrap Lucas, and he leads the reporter to be ultimately caught in an FBI sting and plead guilty to cyber-terrorism. Later, the hacker uses the existence of Rachel Posner to extort Doug. Fearing another relocation, potential harm, and Doug's increasing obsession with her, Rachel hits Doug with a rock, leaves him for dead, and flees the scene in his car.

After Frank begins his vice presidential duties, Claire becomes close with the First Lady, and they support a bill to reform the military's prosecution of sexual assault, after Claire reveals in an interview that she had an abortion after being raped in college by a man who has just been commissioned as a general. (Claire lied by conflating two events; a sexual assault by the college classmate, and an abortion she had several years later). She learns the president's marriage is strained and offers the First Lady the aid of a spiritual advisor and marriage counselor.

Though Raymond Tusk wields major influence over the president, Frank aims to drive a wedge between them. He meets Xander Feng, a Chinese businessman and ally of Tusk's, to engage in backchannel diplomatic negotiations which Frank intentionally scuttles, though he uses the chaos of the situation to make it appear as if Tusk is equally responsible for the failed talks. This sours Sino-U.S. relations and leads to a trade war over rare earth minerals and a spike in U.S. energy prices. Tusk openly opposes the president's efforts to deal with the crisis and begins having a tribal casino funnel money into Republican PACs in retaliation. When Frank discovers that the source of the funneled money is in fact Xander Feng, he gets Feng to end his partnership with Tusk in exchange for a lucrative bridge contract.

The Department of Justice discovers that Doug Stamper was videotaped at the casino and begins to investigate the relationships among Feng, Tusk, and the White House. Seeking to establish trust with the special prosecutor, Frank manipulates the president into volunteering his travel records, which reveal his visits to the marriage counselor and raise questions about whether the illicit campaign donations were ever discussed. Wishing to avoid public disclosure of his personal issues, the president has the White House Counsel coach the counselor, which the special prosecutor interprets as witness tampering. As the House Judiciary Committee begins drafting articles of impeachment, both the President and Frank offer Tusk a presidential pardon in exchange for implicating each other. Tusk sides with the president at first, leaving Frank no other option than to regain the president's trust as a friend. The president calls off Tusk's pardon deal as a sign of friendship to Frank. Tusk appears before the Judiciary Committee where he mostly pleads the fifth. He ultimately confesses that the president knew about the deal with China. This leaves the president with no choice but to resign. Frank is sworn in as the new president of the United States.

Season 3 (2015)[edit]

The season starts six months after Frank Underwood's ascension to the Presidency. Frank begins by pushing for a new jobs program called "America Works" or "AmWorks" for short. He immediately faces immense pressure as betrayal and opposition grow inside his party. This is mostly because "America Works" features cutting many social programs to fund the work stations and pay workers. Determined to leave a legacy and not be a "placeholder" president after assuming the office, Underwood makes ambitious moves to run in the 2016 presidential elections, starting with the Democratic primaries, where he faces off against Heather Dunbar. This decision to run is announced several months after he states he will not run for the presidency during a nationwide press conference.

Meanwhile, Doug Stamper recovers from the injuries caused by Rachel Posner. During his recovery, Frank Underwood will not allow Doug to help or return to his former position as Frank's chief of staff. Doug appears to switch sides and begins to work for Heather Dunbar, helping with her 2016 presidential campaign. Gavin Orsay helps Doug find Rachel in exchange for lifting the ban on his passport; the findings he delivers are of a body reported as a Jane Doe but with fingerprints matching Rachel's. Distraught and once again struggling with alcoholism, Doug entreats his brother Gary to stay with him for two months. Doug tells Frank of what has been going on while he worked for Heather Dunbar and Frank blames Doug's relapse on the extra stress. After fleeing to Venezuela, Gavin reveals he gave Doug false information and that Rachel is alive. He says he will reveal her location if Doug helps a friend get out of jail. Doug tracks down Gavin and brutalizes him for the information, then sets out to find Rachel, who is working odd jobs in New Mexico to pay for a false identity. Doug captures Rachel and drives into the desert with her, intending to kill her. He reconsiders when she tries to assure Doug she won't reveal any information about Frank Underwood's crimes and shows proof of her new identity to him. He releases her along a desolate road, but vacillates and is last seen burying her body. He returns to work as Frank Underwood's Chief of Staff after Remy Danton resigns, presumably jaded by the treatment Frank showed Jackie Sharp during the presidential debate.

Meanwhile, First Lady Claire Underwood is named the United States Ambassador to the United Nations after being rejected once by the Senate and given a recess appointment by Frank. She then faces a crisis in the Jordan Valley, where Frank and the United States are pitted against the cunning President Petrov of Russia. During this crisis President Petrov has an American gay rights activist arrested in Russia and held under violation of his law on sexuality in public. Frank and Claire both try to persuade Petrov to release the man and they eventually agree on terms for release. However, one of Petrov's demands is that the activist must apologize on national television to the country for the trouble he has caused. The activist decides he would rather hang himself than apologize and does so when Claire comes to visit him. Later, after Russian troops are killed in the Jordan Valley, Petrov convinces Frank to remove Claire as ambassador to the UN in exchange for the removal of Russian troops from the Valley. Claire resigns, giving the reason that she wants to be more active in Frank's presidential campaign and would not be able to perform her duties as ambassador.

During most of the season a writer, Thomas Yates, follows the Underwoods. Yates is hired by Frank to write a biography that Frank plans to use as publicity towards his "AmWorks" bill. Yates, a fiction writer with a dark past of his own, decides to put a different spin on the book and writes less about just Frank and more about the relationship between Frank and Claire. Yates reads Frank his prologue which Frank does not understand at first, but agrees is a decent beginning. By the end of the season, Yates has the first chapter written and Frank, not liking the direction the book has taken, fires Yates.

In the season finale, tensions rise between Frank and Claire and culminate in Claire's declaration that she intends to leave Frank.

Season 4 (2016)[edit]

Immediately after the events of Season 3, Claire leaves D.C. for Dallas, intending to run for Congress in her home district. The incumbent, Doris Jones, is planning to retire and endorse her daughter Celia to replace her. Claire offers them federal funding for a key Planned Parenthood clinic in exchange for stepping down in the upcoming election, but they refuse the offer. Frank desperately seeks to get Claire back by his side as he loses ground in key primary states. He convinces her to return to his side after promising not to sabotage her campaign in Texas, but he later blocks Claire's congressional bid by publicly endorsing Celia Jones at the State of the Union address weeks later. Frank and Claire travel to South Carolina for the primary, but a series of scandals casts Frank in a bad light and causes him to narrowly lose the state to Heather Dunbar. Frank discovers that Claire had been leaking information to Dunbar's campaign to fuel the negative press, and she threatens to continue sabotaging his presidential bid unless he puts her on the ticket for vice presidency, which he refuses to do.

Lucas Goodwin is released from prison and seeks revenge against Frank. He approaches Dunbar at a campaign event and explains his story, but she turns him away. Desperate, he attempts to assassinate Frank following a public speech; he shoots the president in the abdomen and also mortally wounds Edward Meechum, but Meechum shoots Goodwin dead before dying. Frank remains comatose for weeks pending a liver transplant, and Donald Blythe is sworn in as acting president. Blythe is indecisive during a critical military situation involving Russia, and turns to Claire for guidance on foreign policy. Claire goes against Frank’s wishes by convincing Blythe to involve China in the ensuing dispute and maneuvering into a meeting with Russian President Petrov, where she brokers an ambitious peace deal single-handedly. While Frank remains incapacitated, Doug Stamper decides to go after Dunbar by leaking information about her secret meeting with Lucas prior to the assassination attempt. Dunbar is questioned about the meeting, and she publicly denounces the proceedings as a smear campaign by the Underwoods, a move that is widely panned and leads to her suspending her presidential bid. Frank undergoes transplant surgery and recovers fully, resuming his position as president, and agrees to put Claire on the ticket for the upcoming election.

Tom Hammerschmidt, Goodwin's former editor at The Washington Herald, digs deeper into Lucas's claims of Frank's misdeeds. He approaches Remy Danton looking for information, and with his help, starts to piece together Frank's corruption. Tom meets with former President Walker to expose the Underwoods, convincing him to help by appealing to his anger for being forced to resign thanks to Frank's meddling. Danton and Jackie Sharp also decide to go on the record against Frank to lend credibility to the story.

An American family is kidnapped in Tennessee by two supporters of a radical Islamist group called the Islamic Caliphate Organization (ICO), and the situation makes national headlines after the kidnappers agree to negotiate only with Governor Will Conway, the social-media-savvy Republican nominee. Frank invites Conway and his family to the White House to assist in the negotiations as a publicity stunt, and Conway helps buy critical time in locating the suspects, earning him public praise. However, tensions between the Conways and Underwoods lead to the governor ending his role in the crisis and leaving D.C. with his family. Frank and Claire allow the kidnappers to speak to the deposed leader of ICO, Yusuf al Ahmadi, after successfully obtaining the release of two of the hostages. Instead of defusing the situation as he agreed, al Ahmadi urges the kidnappers to kill the remaining hostage and broadcast the killing to the public. Meanwhile, Hammerschmidt publishes his story through the Herald and threatens to end Frank's campaign weeks before the election. Claire urges Frank to use a heavier hand in the situation, and they decide to fight back by creating chaos. Frank addresses the public declaring that the nation is at war, ordering the full force of the military be used to incite fear around the world. The season ends with Frank and Claire watching the live execution of the hostage together, and Claire breaking the fourth wall for the first time by looking into the camera along with Frank.

Season 5 (2017)[edit]

On January 28, 2016, Netflix renewed House of Cards for a fifth season, to premiere in 2017. It was also announced that Willimon would step down as showrunner following the fourth season.[8] It was announced in February 2016 that Melissa James Gibson and Frank Pugliese, who both joined the show in the third season, would serve as co-showrunners for the fifth season.[9]

Cast and characters[edit]

Production[edit]

Conception[edit]

The world of 7:30 on Tuesday nights, that's dead. A stake has been driven through its heart, its head has been cut off, and its mouth has been stuffed with garlic. The captive audience is gone. If you give people this opportunity to mainline all in one day, there's reason to believe they will do it.

 — David Fincher[11]

Independent studio Media Rights Capital, founded by Mordecai Wiczyk and Asif Satchu, producer of films such as Babel, purchased the rights to House of Cards with the intention to create a series.[12] While finishing production on his 2008 film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, David Fincher's agent showed him House of Cards, a BBC miniseries starring Ian Richardson.[12] Fincher was interested in producing a potential series with Eric Roth.[12] Fincher said that he was interested in doing television because of its long-form nature,[13] adding that working in film does not allow for complex characterizations the way that television allows.[13] "I felt for the past ten years that the best writing that was happening for actors was happening in television. And so I had been looking to do something that was longer form," Fincher stated.[13]

MRC approached different networks about the series, including HBO, Showtime and AMC, but Netflix, hoping to launch its own original programming, outbid the other networks.[14] Ted Sarandos, Netflix's Chief Content Officer, looked at the data of Netflix users' streaming habits and concluded that there was an audience for Fincher and Spacey.[15] "It looked incredibly promising," he said, "kind of the perfect storm of material and talent."[12] In finding a writer to adapt the series, Fincher stated that they needed someone who could faithfully translate parliamentary politics to Washington."[12] Beau Willimon, who has served as an aide to Charles Schumer, Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton,[16] was hired and completed the pilot script in early 2011.[12] Willimon saw the opportunity to create an entirely new series from the original and deepen its overall story.[12]

This is the future, streaming is the future. TV will not be TV in five years from now...everyone will be streaming.

 — Beau Willimon[17]

The project was first announced in March 2011, with Kevin Spacey attached to star and serve as an executive producer.[18] Fincher was announced as director for the first two episodes, from scripts by Willimon. Netflix ordered 26 episodes to air over two seasons.[19]

Spacey called Netflix's model of publishing all episodes at once a "new perspective."[17] He added that Netflix's commitment to two full seasons gave the series greater continuity. "We know exactly where we are going," he said.[17] In a speech at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, he also noted that while other networks were interested in the show, they all wanted a pilot, whereas Netflix – relying solely on their statistics – ordered the series directly.[20] In January 2016, show creator, executive producer and showrunner Beau Willimon's departure following season 4 was announced.[21]

Casting[edit]

"I was lucky to get into film at a time that was very interesting for drama. But if you look now, the focus is not on the same kind of films that were made in the 90s. When I look now, the most interesting plots, the most interesting characters, they are on TV."

 — Kevin Spacey[17]

Fincher stated that every main cast member was their first choice.[13] In the first read through, he said "I want everybody here to know that you represent our first choice — each actor here represents our first choice for these characters. So do not fuck this up."[13] Spacey, whose last regular television role was in the series Wiseguy, which ran from 1987 until 1990, responded positively to the script. He then played Richard III at The Old Vic, which Fincher said was "great training."[13] Spacey supported the decision to release all of the episodes at once, believing that this type of release pattern will be increasingly common with television shows. He said, "When I ask my friends what they did with their weekend, they say, 'Oh, I stayed in and watched three seasons of Breaking Bad or it's two seasons of Game of Thrones."[22] He was officially cast on March 18, 2011.[18] Robin Wright was approached by Fincher to star in the series when they worked together in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.[13] She was cast as Claire Underwood in June 2011.[23] Kate Mara was cast as Zoe Barnes in early February 2012.[24] Mara's sister, Rooney, worked with Fincher in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and when Kate Mara read the part of Zoe, she "fell in love with the character" and asked her sister to "put in a word for me with Fincher." The next month, she got a call for an audition.[25]

Filming[edit]

Locations[edit]

Principal photography for the first season began in January 2012[26] in Harford County, Maryland, on the Eastern seaboard of the United States.[27] Filming of exterior scenes in 2013 centered primarily in and around the city of Baltimore, Maryland, which is about 40 miles northeast of Washington, D.C.

Among the numerous exteriors filmed in Baltimore, but set in Washington, D.C., are: Francis and Claire Underwood's residence, Zoe Barnes' apartment, Freddy’s BBQ Rib Joint, The Clean Water Initiative building where Claire works, The Washington Herald offices, the Washington Opera House, the Secretary of State's building, Hotel Cotesworth, The Georgetown Hotel, Werner's Bar, Tio Pepe's, the DuPont Circle Bar, as well as scenes set in other locations, including Peter Russo's campaign rally in Pennsylvania and The Sentinel (military academy)’s Francis J. Underwood Library and Waldron Hall in South Carolina.[28]

Most of the interior scenes in House of Cards are filmed in a large industrial warehouse,[29] which is located in Joppa, Maryland, also in Harford County, which is about 17 miles north east of Baltimore.[29][30] The warehouse is used for the filming of some of the most iconic scenes of the series, such as the full-scale reconstruction of most of the West Wing of the White House, including the Oval Office,[31] the Congressional offices and corridors, the large 'Slugline' open-plan office interior, and domestic interiors such as the large townhouse rooms of the Underwood residence and a large loft apartment.[29]

The series uses green screen to augment the live action, inserting views of outdoor scenes in windows and broadcast images on TV monitors, often in post-production. The Production Designer, Steve Arnold, also describes in detail the use of a three-sided green screen to insert street scenes outside car windows, with synchronized LED screens above the car (and out of camera shot), that emit the appropriate light onto the actors and parts of the car, such as window frames: "All the driving in the show, anything inside the vehicle is done on stage, in a room that is a big three-sided green screen space. The car does not move, the actors are in the car, and the cameras are set up around them. We have very long strips of LED monitors hung above the car. We had a camera crew go to Washington, D.C. to drive around and shoot plates for what you see outside when you’re driving. And that is fed into the LED screens above the car. So as the scene is progressing, the LED screens are synched up to emit interactive light to match the light conditions you see in the scenery you’re driving past (that will be added in post). All the reflections on the car windows, the window frames and door jambs is being shot while we’re shooting the actors in the car. Then in post the green screens are replaced with the synced up driving plates, and it works really well. It gives you the sense of light passing over the actors’ faces, matching the lighting that is in the image of the plate".[29]

In June 2014, filming of three episodes in the UN Security Council chamber was vetoed by Russia at the last minute.[32] However the show was able to film in other parts of the UN Building.[33] In August 2014, the show filmed a "mock-motorcade scene" in Washington, D.C.[33] In December 2014, the show filmed in Espanola, Santa Fe, and Las Vegas, New Mexico.[34][35]

Tax credits[edit]

According to the Maryland Film Office, the state spent millions in tax credits to subsidize the production costs.

  • For season 1, the company received a final tax credit of $11.6 million. Production costs were $63 million, more than 1,800 Maryland businesses were involved, and nearly 2,200 Marylanders were hired with a $138 million economic impact.[36]
  • For season 2, the company might get a tax credit of about $15 million because filming costs were more than $55 million, nearly 2,000 Maryland businesses benefited, and more than 3,700 Marylanders were hired with a $120 million estimated economic impact.[36]
  • For season 3, the company has filed a letter of intent to film, and estimated costs and economic impact similar to season 2.[36] Under the 2014 formula, "the show would qualify for up to $15 million in tax credits."[36]

Release[edit]

Broadcast[edit]

In Australia, where Netflix was not available prior to 2015, the series was broadcast on Showcase, premiering May 7, 2013. Australian subscription TV provider Foxtel, and owner of Showcase, offered the entire first season to Showcase subscribers via their On Demand feature on Foxtel set top boxes connected to the internet, as well as through their Xbox 360, Internet TV, and mobile (Foxtel Go) services. Although the entire season was made available, it maintained its weekly timeslot on Showcase.[37] Season two returned to Showcase on February 15, 2014. As with season one, the entire season was made available on demand to Showcase subscribers while also retaining a weekly timeslot.[38] The series has also been made available to non Foxtel subscribers through Apple's Apple TV service. Prior to Netflix's Australian launch on March 28, 2015,[39] Netflix renounced Showcase's rights to House of Cards,[40] with season 3 premiering on Netfix at launch.[41]

In New Zealand, where Netflix was unavailable prior to 2015, season 1 premiered on TV3 in early 2014 followed immediately by season 2.[42] Netflix launched in New Zealand on March 24, 2015, and unlike Australia (which had Netflix launch on the same day) where House of Cards season 3 was available at launch,[39] the series was unavailable and the premiere date and network of season 3 is unknown.[43]

In India, where Netflix was unavailable prior to January 2016, House of Cards premiered on February 20, 2014 on Zee Café.[44] Seasons 1 and 2 were aired back–to–back.[45] The channel aired all 13 episodes of season 3 on March 28 and 29, 2015. This marked the first time that an English-language general entertainment channel in India aired all episodes of the latest season of a series together. The move was intended to satisfy viewers' urge to binge watch the season.[46] Although Netflix launched in India in January 2016, House of Cards was not available on the service until March 4, 2016.[47] All episodes of season 4 had their television premiere on Zee Café on March 12 and 13, 2016.[48]

Home media[edit]

Season 1 was released on DVD and Blu-ray by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in region 1 on June 11, 2013,[49] season 2 was released on June 17, 2014,[50] season 3 was released on July 7, 2015,[51] and season 4 was released on July 5, 2016.[52]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Metacritic ratings per season
Season 1 Season 2 Season 3 Season 4
Rating 76[53] 80[54] 76[55] 76[56]

Season 1[edit]

The first season received positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the first season holds a rating of 85%, based on 34 reviews, with an average rating of 8.3/10. The site's consensus reads, "Bolstered by strong performances — especially from Kevin Spacey — and surehanded direction, House of Cards is a slick, engrossing drama that may redefine how television is produced."[57] On Metacritic, the first season has a score of 76 out of 100, based on 25 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[53][58]

USA Today critic Robert Bianco praised the series, particularly Spacey's and Wright's lead performances, stating "If you think network executives are nervous, imagine the actors who have to go up against that pair in the Emmys."[59] Tom Gilatto of People Weekly lauded the first two episodes, calling them "cinematically rich, full of sleek, oily pools of darkness."[53] In her review for The Denver Post, Joanne Ostrow said the series is "Deeply cynical about human beings as well as politics and almost gleeful in its portrayal of limitless ambition." She added: "House of Cards is a wonderfully sour take on power and corruption."[60]

Writing in The New York Times, critic Alessandra Stanley noted that the writing in the series sometimes fails to match the high quality of its acting: "Unfortunately Mr. Spacey’s lines don’t always live up to the subtle power of his performance; the writing isn’t Shakespeare, or even Aaron Sorkin, and at times, it turns strangely trite." Nevertheless, she lauded House of Cards as an entertainment that "revels in the familiar but always entertaining underbelly of government."[61] Andrew Davies, the writer of the original UK TV series, stated that Spacey's character lacks the "charm" of Ian Richardson's,[62] while The Independent praised Spacey's portrayal as a more "menacing" character, "hiding his rage behind Southern charm and old-fashioned courtesy."[63] Randy Shaw, writing for The Huffington Post, criticized House of Cards for glorifying "union bashing and entitlement slashing within a political landscape whose absence of activist groups or anyone remotely progressive resembles a Republican fantasy world".[64] Critics such as Time television critic James Poniewozik and Hank Stuever of The Washington Post compare the series to Boss.[65][66] Like the UK show and novel of the same name many critics have noted that it is heavily influenced by both Macbeth and Richard III,[67][68][69] In addition, some critics find elements of Othello, such as Iago's bitter ire.[70]

Season 2[edit]

The second season received positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes the season has a rating of 88%, based on 40 reviews, with an average rating of 8.5/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "House of Cards proves just as bingeworthy in its second season, with more of the strong performances, writing, and visual design that made the first season so addictive".[71] On Metacritic the season has a score of 80 out of 100, based on 25 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[54]

But as the season progressed, reviews became more mixed.[72] Jen Chaney of Vulture wrote that the second season "felt kind of empty" and that "the closest it came to feeling emotionally rich was when it focused on Claire."[73] At the end of the second season, Alan Sepinwall of HitFix wrote that show is a "A ridiculous political potboiler that takes itself too seriously"; he gave the overall season a C-.[74]

Season 3[edit]

The third season received mostly positive reviews, although many critics noted it felt repetitive. On Rotten Tomatoes, the season has a rating of 77%, based on 48 reviews, with an average rating of 7/10. The site's consensus reads, "Season three introduces intriguing new political and personal elements to Frank Underwood's character, even if it feels like more of the same for some."[75] On Metacritic, the season has a score of 76 out of 100, based on 24 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[55]

Negative reviews came from Nick Gillespie of The Daily Beast who accused the writers of "descending into prosaic moralism" in season 3 and asserts that it deviates from the show's original intent,[76] and Michael Wolff of USA Today plainly asserts that "the third season of House of Cards is no good...not just no good, but incompetent, a shambles, lost."[77] IndieWire named the season one of the most disappointing shows of 2015.[78]

Season 4[edit]

The fourth season received positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the season has a rating of 86%, based on 27 reviews, with an average rating of 8.1/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "House of Cards retains its binge-worthiness by ratcheting up the drama, and deepening Robin Wright's role even further."[79] On Metacritic, the season has a score of 76 out of 100, based on 17 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[56]

Ben Travers of IndieWire had a positive response to season four, calling it an upgrade from what he perceived as a "messy and unsatisfying melodramatic" third season, writing that "House of Cards is aiming at authenticity, and–for what feels like the first time–consistently finding it."[80]

Todd Van DerWerff of Vox had a mixed review to season four, criticizing the repetitive and predictable nature of the series, writing: "There's no such mystery with House of Cards, where you know exactly what will happen as surely as you do on NCIS. Obstacles will present themselves, but Frank (the hammy Kevin Spacey) and Claire (the almost perfect Robin Wright) Underwood will overcome. What you see is what you get."[81]

The choice to have Frank and Claire run as running mates was highly criticized by some reviewers. Jonathan Holmes of Radio Times wrote that "there are limits to the stupidity viewers are willing to accept, and with season four [House of Cards] may have stepped over the line. Claire demanding her selection as Frank’s running mate is stupid. Moronic. It turns a canny political operator into a ham-brained fish-eyed jar-opener."[82] Spencer Kornhaber of The Atlantic wrote that "in moments like this it’s good to remember that Cards really, fundamentally is a stupid TV show instead of a particularly cunning comment on political reality."[83]

Accolades[edit]

Beau Willimon with cast and crew at the 73rd Annual Peabody Awards

For its first season, House of Cards received nine nominations for the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards in 2013, to become the first original online-only web television series to receive major nominations.[84] Among House of Cards' nine nominations, "Chapter 1" received four nominations for the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards and 65th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards becoming the first webisode (online-only episode) of a television series to receive a major Primetime Emmy Award nomination: Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for David Fincher. This episode also received several Creative Arts Emmy Award nominations, including Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series, Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series, and Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic).[84][85] Although Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series is not a category that formally recognizes an episode, Spacey submitted "Chapter 1" for consideration to earn his nomination.[86] At the Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Award presentation, "Chapter 1" and Eigil Bryld earned the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series, making "Chapter 1" the first Emmy-awarded webisode.[87][88] At the Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony, Fincher won for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for directing the pilot episode "Chapter 1" in addition to the pair of Creative Arts Emmy Awards, making "Chapter 1" the first Primetime Emmy-awarded webisode.[89] None of the Emmy awards were considered to be in major categories.[90]

For the 71st Golden Globe Awards, House of Cards received four nominations.[91] Among those nominations was Wright for Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama for her portrayal of Claire Underwood, which she won. In so doing she became the first actress to win a Golden Globe Award for an online-only web television series.[92][93][94]

For its second season, House of Cards received 13 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series, Kevin Spacey for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, Robin Wright for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, Kate Mara for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series, and Reg E. Cathey for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series.[95] At the 72nd Golden Globe Awards, the series was nominated for Best Drama Series and Wright was nominated for Best Drama Actress, while Spacey won for Best Drama Actor.

Year Award Category Recipient(s) Result Ref
Season 1
2013
Webby Award
Special Achievement Award
Kevin Spacey and Dana Brunetti
Won
[96]
2013
Critics' Choice Television Award
Best Actor in a Drama Series
Kevin Spacey
Nominated
[97]
Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Corey Stoll
Nominated
2013
Television Critics Association Awards
Program of the Year
House of Cards
Nominated
[98][99]
Outstanding New Program
House of Cards
Nominated
2013
Primetime Emmy Award
Outstanding Drama Series
House of Cards
Nominated
[100][101]
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Kevin Spacey
Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Robin Wright
Nominated
Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series
David Fincher for "Chapter 1"
Won
Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series
Laray Mayfield and Julie Schubert
Won
Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series
Eigil Bryld for "Chapter 1"
Won
Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series
Kirk Baxter for "Chapter 1"
Nominated
Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic Score)
Jeff Beal for "Chapter 1"
Nominated
Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music
Jeff Beal
Nominated
2014
People's Choice Awards
Favorite Streaming Series
House of Cards
Nominated
[102]
2014
Producers Guild of America Award
Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama
Karyn McCarthy, Beau Willimon, John Melfi, Kevin Spacey, Joshua Donen, Eric Roth, David Fincher
Nominated
[103]
2014
Writers Guild of America Award
Television: Dramatic Series
Kate Barnow, Rick Cleveland, Sam R. Forman, Gina Gionfriddo, Keith Huff, Sarah Treem, Beau Willimon
Nominated
[104][105]
Television: New Series
Kate Barnow, Rick Cleveland, Sam R. Forman, Gina Gionfriddo, Keith Huff, Sarah Treem, Beau Willimon
Won
Television: Episodic Drama
Beau Willimon for "Chapter 1"
Nominated
2014
Golden Globe Awards
Best Television Series – Drama
House of Cards
Nominated
[106]
Best Actor – Television Series Drama
Kevin Spacey
Nominated
Best Actress – Television Series Drama
Robin Wright
Won
Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Corey Stoll
Nominated
2014
Screen Actors Guild Award
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
Kevin Spacey
Nominated
[107]
2014
Directors Guild of America Award
Drama Series
David Fincher for "Chapter 1"
Nominated
[108]
2014
Satellite Awards
Best Drama Series
House of Cards
Nominated
[109][110]
Best Actor in a Drama Series
Kevin Spacey
Nominated
Best Actress in a Drama Series
Robin Wright
Won
Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Corey Stoll
Nominated
2014
Peabody Award
Area of Excellence
House of Cards
Won
[111]
2014
BAFTA TV Awards
Best International
Beau Willimon, David Fincher, Joshua Donen, Kevin Spacey
Nominated
[112]
Season 2
2014
Critics' Choice Television Award
Best Actress in a Drama Series
Robin Wright
Nominated
[113]
2014
Television Critics Association Awards
Outstanding Achievement in Drama
House of Cards
Nominated
[114]
2014
Primetime Emmy Award
Outstanding Drama Series
House of Cards
Nominated
[100]
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Kevin Spacey
Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Robin Wright
Nominated
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
Reg E. Cathey
Nominated
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
Kate Mara
Nominated
Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series
Carl Franklin for "Chapter 14"
Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series
Beau Willimon for "Chapter 14"
Nominated
Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series
Laray Mayfield and Julie Schubert
Nominated
Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series
Igor Martinovic for "Chapter 18"
Nominated
Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic Score)
Jeff Beal for "Chapter 26"
Nominated
Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series
Byron Smith for "Chapter 14"
Nominated
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One Hour)
Lorenzo Millan, Nathan Nance, Scott R. Lewis for "Chapter 14"
Won
Outstanding Art Direction for a Contemporary or Fantasy Series (Single-Camera)
Steve Arnold, Halina Gebarowicz, Tiffany Zappulla for "Chapter 14" and "Chapter 18"
Nominated
2015
Screen Actors Guild Awards
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
Kevin Spacey
Won
[115]
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Robin Wright
Nominated
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Mahershala Ali, Jayne Atkinson, Rachel Brosnahan, Derek Cecil, Nathan Darrow, Michel Gill, Joanna Going, Sakina Jaffrey, Michael Kelly, Mozhan Marnò, Gerald McRaney, Molly Parker, Jimmi Simpson, Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright
Nominated
2015
Golden Globe Awards
Best Television Series – Drama
House of Cards
Nominated
[116]
Best Actor – Television Series Drama
Kevin Spacey
Won
Best Actress – Television Series Drama
Robin Wright
Nominated
2015
Satellite Awards
Best Drama Series
House of Cards
Nominated
[117]
Best Actress in a Drama Series
Robin Wright
Nominated
2015
BAFTA TV Awards
Best International
Beau Willimon, David Fincher, Joshua Donen, Kevin Spacey
Nominated
Season 3
2015
Primetime Emmy Award
Outstanding Drama Series
House of Cards
Nominated
[100]
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Kevin Spacey
Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Robin Wright
Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor for a Drama Series
Michael Kelly
Nominated
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
Reg E. Cathey
Won
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
Rachel Brosnahan
Nominated
Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series
Laray Mayfield and Julie Schubert
Nominated
Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series
Martin Ahlgren for "Chapter 29"
Nominated
Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic Score)
Jeff Beal for "Chapter 32"
Won
Outstanding Sound Mixing in a Drama Series
Lorenzo Millan, Nathan Nance, Scott R. Lewis for "Chapter 27"
Nominated
2016
Golden Globe Awards
Best Actress – Television Series Drama
Robin Wright
Nominated [118]
2016
Screen Actors Guild Awards
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
Kevin Spacey
Won
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Robin Wright
Nominated
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Mahershala Ali, Derek Cecil, Nathan Darrow, Michael Kelly, Elizabeth Marvel, Molly Parker, Jimmi Simpson, Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright
Nominated
2016
Satellite Awards
Best Actress in a Drama Series
Robin Wright
Nominated
2016
People's Choice Awards
Favorite Streaming Series
House of Cards
Nominated
Season 4
2016
Primetime Emmy Award
Outstanding Drama Series
House of Cards
Pending
[100]
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Kevin Spacey
Pending
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Robin Wright
Pending
Outstanding Supporting Actor for a Drama Series
Michael Kelly
Pending
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
Reg E. Cathey
Pending
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
Paul Sparks
Pending
Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
Mahershala Ali
Pending
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
Ellen Burstyn
Pending
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
Molly Parker
Pending
Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series
Laray Mayfield and Julie Schubert
Pending
Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series
David M. Dunlap for "Chapter 45"
Pending
Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Contemporary or Fantasy Program (One Hour or More)
Steve Arnold, Halina Gebarowicz, Tiffany Zappulla "Chapter 41"
Pending
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One Hour)
Lorenzo Millan, Nathan Nance, Scott R. Lewis for "Chapter 52"
Pending

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