House of Cards (U.S. TV series)
|House of Cards|
|Created by||Beau Willimon|
|Theme music composer||Jeff Beal|
|Opening theme||"House of Cards Main Title Theme"|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||39 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||43–59 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Media Rights Capital
Trigger Street Productions
Knight Takes King Productions
|Picture format||1080p (2:1 HDTV) (2013)
4K (2:1 UHDTV) (2014–present)
|Audio format||Dolby Digital 5.1|
|Original release||February 1, 2013– present|
|Related shows||House of Cards|
House of Cards is an American political drama television series developed and produced 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 has been renewed for a fourth season, which will premiere in 2016. Willimon has stated that plans for the show's future are decided after each season.
Set in present-day Washington, D.C., House of Cards is the story of Frank Underwood (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, manipulation, and power.
For its first season, House of Cards received nine Primetime Emmy Award nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actor for Spacey, Outstanding Lead Actress for Wright, and Outstanding Directing for David Fincher. It is the first original online-only web television series to receive major Emmy nominations. The show also earned four Golden Globe Award nominations and Wright won Best Actress – Television Series Drama, the first major acting award for an online-only web television series. For its second season, the series received 13 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, including Outstanding Lead Actor (Spacey), Outstanding Lead Actress (Wright), Outstanding Directing (Carl Franklin), Outstanding Drama Series, and Outstanding Writing (Willimon). The second season also earned three Golden Globe Award nominations, with Spacey winning for Best Actor – Television Series Drama.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast and characters
- 3 Production
- 4 Release
- 5 Reception
- 6 References
- 7 External links
|1||13||February 1, 2013|
|2||13||February 14, 2014|
|3||13||February 27, 2015|
Season 1 (2013)
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 to 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 day, 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 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, asphyxiating him. 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 the position and has been friends with Walker for years (it was Tusk who had 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 "favors" for him that benefit Tusk's policy 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 receives and accepts the nomination for vice president.
Season 2 (2014)
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 Ithaca, NY, 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.
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. 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 or not 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)
Netflix announced on February 4, 2014 that House of Cards had been renewed for a third season. All episodes were released on February 27, 2015. 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." He immediately faces immense pressure as betrayal and opposition grow inside his party. 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. Doug Stamper recovers from the injuries caused by Rachel Posner, and struggles with alcoholism. 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, Doug entreats his brother Gary to stay with him for two months. 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 compeer 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 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 and faces a crisis in the Jordan Valley, where Frank and the United States are pitted against the cunning President Petrov of Russia. 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)
On April 2, 2015, Netflix renewed House of Cards for a fourth season to premiere in 2016.
Cast and characters
- Kevin Spacey as Francis J. "Frank" Underwood, a Democrat from South Carolina's 5th Congressional District that is House Majority Whip in season one, Vice President of the United States in season two, and the 46th President of the United States in season three. An utterly ruthless and conniving politician, he pursues only his own political agenda and manipulates everyone around him to grab influence and prestige, at the potential cost of destroying everyone else to push himself forward. His name is derived from Francis Urquhart, the protagonist of the BBC version and the novel version of House of Cards, and Oscar Underwood, the first Democratic House whip. Just as Urquhart does in the BBC version, Underwood often breaks the fourth wall by speaking directly to the viewer.
- Robin Wright as Claire Underwood, Francis's wife. She runs the Clean Water Initiative, an NGO, in season one before giving it up to become Second Lady of the United States. She often abets Frank's political scheming, and proves to be just as cold, manipulative, and power-hungry as her husband. In season three, she becomes First Lady of the United States and the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Her equivalent character from the original series is Elizabeth Urquhart.
- Michael Kelly as Douglas "Doug" Stamper, Underwood's unwaveringly loyal chief of staff and confidant. A recovering alcoholic, Stamper prizes discipline and self-control above all else, but loses his poise when he comes into contact with Rachel Posner; he becomes obsessed with her, and falls off the wagon when he loses her. The end of the second season finds Stamper presumably dead in the woods, Rachel having bashed him repeatedly in the head with a brick. At the start of the third season, it is revealed that Stamper survived the attack. He undergoes physical therapy to regain his ability to walk, and becomes obsessed with tracking down Rachel, who has gone into hiding. An alcoholic, Stamper relapses in the third season. His equivalent from the original series is Tim Stamper.
- Kate Mara as Zoe Barnes, a reporter for The Washington Herald (who later moves to Slugline following an argument with her boss). After meeting Frank Underwood, she quickly forms an intimate relationship with him. They use each other to advance their respective careers: Underwood uses her to leak stories that damage his opponents, while Barnes uses him to get bigger and better stories. Later, she becomes increasingly suspicious of Underwood's involvement with Peter Russo. In Season 2, her investigation ultimately leads to her death, as Underwood throws her in front of a Washington Metro train to protect his own secrets. Her equivalent from the original series is Mattie Storin. (Seasons 1–2)
- Corey Stoll as Peter Russo, a Democratic Congressman from Pennsylvania's 1st Congressional District. Russo is blackmailed into serving Underwood after Underwood "fixes" his arrest for DUI with a prostitute in his car and then holds it over Russo's head. With Underwood's help, he gets sober and runs for Governor of Pennsylvania. However, Underwood eventually contrives to have him fall off the wagon publicly, ruining his career, and then kills him and makes his death look like a suicide. Whereas most characters who were adapted from the UK version of House of Cards were based primarily on a single character, Russo's plotline takes reference from two characters: Mr. Stoat, an MP whose career Francis Urquhart saves after he is caught with a prostitute, and Roger O'Neill, the Conservative Party's cocaine-addicted press secretary, whom Urquhart murders by putting rat poison in his cocaine. (Season 1)
- Mahershala Ali as Remy Danton, a lawyer for Glendon Hill and lobbyist who works for natural gas company SanCorp in Season 1 and Raymond Tusk in Season 2. Prior to the start of the show, he worked eight years for Underwood as Press Secretary before leaving to pursue more money and influence than Underwood could offer. In Season 3, he becomes Underwood's White House Chief of Staff, but later becomes disillusioned because of Underwood's treatment of Jackie Sharp.
- Molly Parker as Jacqueline "Jackie" Sharp, a Democratic congresswoman from California, military veteran and the current Deputy Minority Whip tapped by Underwood to succeed him as Majority Whip when he is made vice president. While she claims to work for herself and not be beholden to others, she sees her position constantly tested through her ties to Underwood, Claire, and Remy Danton. She is based on Sarah Harding from the original series. (Season 2–present)
- Michel Gill as Garrett Walker, 45th President of the United States, former Governor of Colorado. He trusts Underwood as a close adviser and lieutenant, but remains blind to his machinations. His equivalent from the original series is Prime Minister Henry Collingridge. (Seasons 1–2)
- Gerald McRaney as Raymond Tusk, a billionaire businessman with a wide network of influence, although he prefers to live modestly. As a close friend of Walker's for over 20 years, he exerts heavy influence over Walker, and suggested snubbing Underwood for Secretary of State. He later agrees to form a partnership with Frank in exchange for supporting the latter's VP nomination, though this alliance quickly crumbles due to their clashing self interests and degenerates into political war. In Season 3, it is revealed that Underwood pardoned Tusk. Tusk's character was influenced by billionaire investor Warren Buffett. (Seasons 1–2)
- Rachel Brosnahan as Rachel Posner, a prostitute whom Underwood and Stamper use to bring about Russo's downfall. Stamper becomes obsessed with her and begins to control her life. She attacks him with a brick in the season 2 finale and leaves him for dead. She flees to New Mexico and begins a new life under an assumed name. Doug tracks her down and ultimately kills her in the season 3 finale in order to prove his allegiance to Francis thus finally tying up the connection between Underwood and Russo. (Seasons 1–3)
- Nathan Darrow as Edward Meechum, a member of the U.S. Capitol Police and the Underwoods' bodyguard and driver. After nearly getting dismissed for a shooting incident, he is given a second chance by Frank after which he becomes one of Frank's most discreet and trusted staffers. In season 2 he is promoted to the Secret Service, continuing on as Underwood's foremost bodyguard. Often referred to by last name by Underwood and on a first-name basis by Claire, Meechum frequently struggles between maintaining professional detachment and personal engagement with the Underwoods. He is based on Commander Corder from the original series.
- Sakina Jaffrey as Linda Vasquez, President Walker's White House Chief of Staff. She works with Frank as much as she can but also sees into his duplicity more than others. While she gets her position in the White House with Underwood's help, in Season 2 she and Frank become more adversarial. (Seasons 1–2)
- Joanna Going as Patricia Walker, President Garrett Walker's wife and First Lady of the United States. She befriends Claire during season 2, supporting her legislative moves, while also dealing with marital stress. (Season 2)
- Sebastian Arcelus as Lucas Goodwin, an editor at The Washington Herald and later Zoe's boyfriend. In Season 2, his grief-driven obsession with solving Zoe's death and exposing Frank's involvement leads him to computer hacker Gavin Orsay, while catching the attention of Doug Stamper and consequently Frank. He eventually falls into a trap set by Stamper, Orsay, and FBI agent Nathan Green, and is imprisoned. He is based on John Krajewski from the original series. (Seasons 1–2)
- Jimmi Simpson as Gavin Orsay, a computer hacker turned reluctant FBI informant. His empathy for fellow hackers who have been imprisoned and the people he is forced to sabotage through coercion by the FBI is in conflict with his own desire for self-preservation and escape. In season 3, he befriends Lisa Williams under the alias "Max" and pretends he is HIV-positive, and manipulates Stamper into lifting a lock on his passport, which allows him to flee to Venezuela. (Season 2–present)
- Reg E. Cathey as Freddy Hayes, the owner of Freddy's BBQ - an eatery frequented by Underwood - and one of Underwood's only true friends and confidants. Frank is forced to end his friendship with Freddy when Raymond Tusk exposes Freddy's past as a gangbanger who did time for the deaths of two people, which causes Freddy to lose out on a franchise opportunity and get forced to sell his own restaurant to bail out his son after his son pulls a gun on a paparazzi photographer. In season 3, upon finding out that America Works sets Freddy up as a lowly dishwasher, Frank takes pity on him and gives him a job as a White House groundskeeper.
- Derek Cecil as Seth Grayson, a political operative who becomes Press Secretary for Vice President Underwood through blackmail. Despite his and Stamper's mutual distrust, Grayson's unorthodox methods quickly prove useful to the Underwoods. (Season 2–present)
- Kristen Connolly as Christina Gallagher, a congressional staffer involved in a relationship with Peter Russo, before becoming personal assistant to President Walker. She is based on Penny Guy from the original series. (Seasons 1–2)
- Constance Zimmer as Janine Skorsky, a reporter for The Washington Herald who becomes suspicious of Barnes' success but eventually joins her after Barnes gets her a job at Slugline. In season 2, she joins Barnes and Lucas Goodwin into investigate Underwood's role in Russo's death. After Barnes' death, she becomes frightened and leaves journalism for teaching. (Seasons 1–2)
- Jayne Atkinson as Catherine "Cathy" Durant, a Democratic Senator from Missouri who becomes Secretary of State after Underwood brings about the downfall of the previous nominee.
- Elizabeth Marvel as Heather Dunbar, an uncompromising lawyer from the family that owns the real-life Dunbar Armored Cars, Inc. and Solicitor General of the United States in the Walker Administration, who is appointed Special Prosecutor in the investigation into money laundering of foreign money via PACs. In season 3, she resigns as Solicitor General after seeing Underwood's manipulation and announces her candidacy for President, challenging Underwood in the Democratic primary. (Season 2–present)
- Gil Birmingham as Daniel Lanagin, a Native American casino owner in Missouri and friend of Raymond Tusk's. (Season 2)
- Kathleen Chalfant as Margaret Tilden, the owner of The Washington Herald. She forces Tom Hammerschmidt to resign after he negatively impacts the paper by insulting Zoe on tape and failing to prevent her from resigning. (Season 1)
- Terry Chen as Xander Feng, a corrupt Chinese businessman and back-channel diplomat and one of Raymond Tusk's business partners. (Season 2)
- Curtiss Cook as Terry Womack, Democratic Congressman from Missouri's 5th congressional district, the House Minority Whip and former House Majority Leader, and the leader of the Black Caucus, who rises to the position thanks to Underwood.
- Ben Daniels as Adam Galloway, a British photographer who lives a Bohemian lifestyle in New York City and who is Claire's on-off lover. (Seasons 1–2)
- Jeremy Holm as Agent Nathan Green, the White House/FBI liaison. (Season 2–present)
- Sandrine Holt as Gillian Cole, the leader of a grass-roots organization called World Well that provides clean water to developing countries. Through the Clean Water Initiative, she grapples with Frank and Claire's interests. (Seasons 1–2)
- Kevin Kilner as Michael Kern, a Senator from Colorado and President Walker's original choice for the position of Secretary of State.
- Mozhan Marnò as Ayla Sayyad, a journalist working for the Wall Street Telegraph. (Season 2–present)
- Benito Martinez as Hector Mendoza, a Republican Senator from Arizona and the Senate Majority Leader. In the third season, it is speculated that he will be the Republican nominee for president. Meanwhile, despite promising Claire otherwise, he openly challenges her bid for US Ambassador to the UN. (Season 2–present)
- Boris McGiver as Tom Hammerschmidt, editor-in-chief of The Washington Herald whom the paper's owner fires after he insults Barnes and then fails to prevent her from quitting. As a favor when Lucas is imprisoned, he begins investigating Underwood, but finds nothing to support Lucas's claims. (Seasons 1–2)
- Elizabeth Norment as Nancy Kaufberger, secretary to Frank Underwood and Doug Stamper. (Seasons 1–2)
- Samuel Page as Connor Ellis, a media consultant who becomes Communications Director for Claire Underwood. (Season 2)
- Larry Pine as Bob Birch, the former Democratic Speaker of the House and current House Minority Leader.
- Al Sapienza as Martin Spinella, a lobbyist for the teachers' union. (Season 1)
- Kate Lyn Sheil as Lisa Williams, a social worker who befriends Rachel and later becomes her girlfriend. She later befriends Gavin Orsay. (Season 2–present)
- Paul Sparks as Thomas Yates, a successful author whom Frank asks to write a book about the America Works jobs program (being chosen based on his review of Frank's new hobby, the game Monument Valley). The writing job leads to extended interview opportunities with Underwood and, later, Claire. As a result of this unusual level of access, Yates becomes nearly a friend, but his intimate conversations with them may lead to the downfall of their marriage. Yates enters into a relationship with Kate Baldwin, Wall Street Telegraph political reporter. (Season 3)
- Libby Woodbridge as Megan Hennessey, a former U.S. Marine Private who was sexually assaulted by General Dalton McGinnis. (Season 2)
- Dan Ziskie as Jim Matthews, the first Vice President of the United States under President Walker, and former Democratic Governor of Pennsylvania. (Season 1)
- Reed Birney as Donald Blythe, Democrat of New Hampshire, a respected and long-serving Representative, and Underwood's foil in Congress. His wife suffers from Alzheimer's Disease. In the third season, Underwood selects Blythe as Vice President of the United States to get him out of the way in Congress.
- Lars Mikkelsen as Viktor Petrov, the President of Russia who opposes Underwood's involvement in the Jordan Valley conflict and creates controversy when Russia passes anti-homosexual laws and is publicly opposed by members of the band Pussy Riot. Petrov's character shares several similarities with the real-life Russian president Vladimir Putin. (Season 3)
- Kim Dickens as Kate Baldwin, chief political reporter of the Wall Street Telegraph who covered the White House after Sayyad and entered into a relationship with Tom Yates (Season 3)
- Kelly AuCoin as Gary Stamper, Doug Stamper's brother. Despite being somewhat estranged from his brother, Gary is fiercely loyal, and moves in with Doug when he is in recovery. (Season 3)
Real-life media figures who make cameo appearances as themselves include: Donna Brazile, Morley Safer, Stephen Colbert; ABC's George Stephanopoulos; CBS's Major Garrett; CNN's Ashleigh Banfield, Candy Crowley, John King, and Soledad O'Brien; Fox News's Sean Hannity and Dennis Miller; HBO's Bill Maher; and MSNBC's Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and Chris Matthews.
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. 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. Fincher was interested in producing a potential series with Eric Roth. Fincher said that he was interested in doing television because of its long-form nature, adding that working in film does not allow for complex characterizations the way that television allows. "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.
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. 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. "It looked incredibly promising," he said, "kind of the perfect storm of material and talent." In finding a writer to adapt the series, Fincher stated that they needed someone who could faithfully translate parliamentary politics to Washington." Beau Willimon, who has served as an aide to Charles Schumer, Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton, was hired and completed the pilot script in early 2011. Willimon saw the opportunity to create an entirely new series from the original and deepen its overall story.
The project was first announced in March 2011, with Kevin Spacey attached to star and serve as an executive producer. Fincher was announced as director for the first two episodes, from scripts by Willimon. Netflix ordered 26 episodes to air over two seasons.
Spacey called Netflix's model of publishing all episodes at once a "new perspective." He added that Netflix's commitment to two full seasons gave the series greater continuity. "We know exactly where we are going," he said. 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.
Fincher stated that every main cast member was their first choice. 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." 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." 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." He was officially cast on March 18, 2011. Robin Wright was approached by Fincher to star in the series when they worked together in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She was cast as Claire Underwood in June 2011. Kate Mara was cast as Zoe Barnes in early February 2012. 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.
Principal photography for the first season began in January 2012 in Harford County, Maryland, on the Eastern seaboard of the United States. 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.
Most of the interior scenes in House of Cards are filmed in a large industrial warehouse, which is located in Joppa, Maryland, also in Harford County, which is about 17 miles north east of Baltimore. 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, 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.
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".
In June 2014, filming of three episodes in the UN Security Council chamber was vetoed by Russia at the last minute. However the show was able to film in other parts of the UN Building. In August 2014, the show filmed a "mock-motorcade scene" in Washington, D.C. In December 2014, the show filmed in Espanola, Santa Fe, and Las Vegas, New Mexico.
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.
- 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.
- For season 3, the company has filed a letter of intent to film and estimated costs and economic impact similar to season 2. Under the 2014 formula, "the show would qualify for up to $15 million in tax credits."
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. 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. 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, Netflix renounced Showcase's rights to House of Cards, with season 3 premiering on Netfix at launch.
In New Zealand, where Netflix was unavailable prior to 2015, season 1 premiered on TV3 in early 2014 followed immediately by season 2. 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, the series was unavailable and the premiere date and network of season 3 is unknown.
In India, where Netflix is unavailable, House of Cards premiered on February 20, 2014 on Zee Café. Seasons 1 and 2 were aired back–to–back. 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.
Season 1 was released on DVD and Blu-ray by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in region 1 on June 11, 2013. Season 2 was released on both formats on June 17, 2014, and season 3 was released on July 7, 2015.
The first season received positive reviews from critics. On Metacritic, the first season has a score of 76 out of 100, based on 25 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". On Rotten Tomatoes, the first season holds a rating of 84%, based on 32 reviews, with an average rating of 8.2/10. The ratings from Rotten Tomatoes 'top critics' was 81% with 21 reviews. 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."
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." Tom Gilatto of People Weekly lauded the first two episodes, calling them "cinematically rich, full of sleek, oily pools of darkness." 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." 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." Andrew Davies, the writer of the original UK TV series, stated that Spacey's character lacks the "charm" of Ian Richardson's, while The Independent praised Spacey's portrayal as a more "menacing" character, "hiding his rage behind Southern charm and old-fashioned courtesy." 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". Critics such as Time television critic James Poniewozik and Hank Stuever of The Washington Post compare the series to Boss. Given that the show is based on the UK show and novel of the same name which were in turn heavily influenced by both Macbeth and Richard III, it is not surprising that many have noted a strong resemblance to the aforementioned works of William Shakespeare. In addition, some critics find elements of Othello, such as Iago's bitter ire.
The beginning of the second season received even better reviews than the first, holding a score of 80 out of 100 on Metacritic and 85% on Rotten Tomatoes. The Rotten Tomatoes 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". But as the season progressed, reviews became more mixed. 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." 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-.
The third season has been met with mostly positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, the season has a rating of 76%, based on 42 reviews, with an average rating of 6.8/10. 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." On Metacritic, the season has a score of 76 out of 100, based on 25 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". More 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, 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."
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. 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). 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. 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. 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. None of the Emmy awards were considered to be in major categories.
For the 71st Golden Globe Awards, House of Cards received four nominations. 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.
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. 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.
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