Opinion: This has been the most intriguing TV series I have watched since ’24’ While everyone was watching Pre-game ceremonies for The Super Bowl (Congrats to The Baltimore Ravens and their fans, by the way)I was glued to Netflix. Watching every minute I could before kick-off. I can’t find a way for anyone, especially those who are even remotely intrigued in politics, to dislike this show. Kevin Spacey does an award worthy job. As does Kate Mara. Very, very pleasurable viewing. Great Job Netflix. Can’t wait for season 2. Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Season 1 summary (Per Wikipedia):
Francis “Frank” Underwood (Kevin Spacey) is an ambitious Democratic congressman and the House Majority Whip. Underwood helped ensure the election of President Garrett Walker (Michael Gill), who promised to appoint Underwood as Secretary of State. However, before Walker is sworn in, Chief of Staff Linda Vasquez (Sakina Jaffrey) announces that the president will not honor the agreement and will instead nominate Senator Michael Kern. Furious at Walker’s betrayal, Underwood and his wife Claire (Robin Wright), an environmental activist, make a pact to destroy Kern.
Underwood begins seeking out pawns in his war against Walker. When the troubled Rep. Peter Russo is arrested for drunk driving, Underwood offers to save him from potential scandal in exchange for his loyalty. Underwood also encounters Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara), a young political reporter for the Washington Herald newspaper; the two come to an agreement where Underwood will give Barnes inside information. Using Barnes and Russo, Underwood destroys Kern’s nomination by linking him to an anti-Israel editorial. Walker is forced to go with Underwood’s own pick for Secretary of State, Rep. Catherine Durant (Jayne Atkinson).
Walker announces as his first major legislative initiative will be education reform, and has Underwood to help create a passable bill within the first hundred days. Underwood manipulates a hard-left congressman into abandoning the bill, then takes over drafting it. Underwood’s more conservative version of the bill outrages a teacher’s union, which comes out opposing him. Underwood gains the upper hand by using the murder of a child to bait the union’s lobbyist into attacking him; he then blackmails the lobbyist by threatening to report the assault, forcing the union to accept Underwood’s bill.
The Speaker of the House refuses to take Underwood’s bill to the floor for a vote. Underwood replies by threatening a coup, gathering enough votes so that the Republicans can vote out the Speaker if he does not let the bill come to the floor. However, to get votes for the coup attempt, Underwood is forced to save one Congressman’s shipyard from closing while closing one in Russo’s district. Russo subsequently becomes a pariah with an uncertain political future. Meanwhile, Underwood and Barnes begin an extramarital affair.
Russo confronts Underwood and forces him to repay his loyalty by helping him become Governor of Pennsylvania, a position vacated by the current Vice President, Jim Matthews. To help repair Russo’s reputation, Claire partners with him to create new eco-friendly jobs along the waterfront. Remy Danton, Underwood’s former press secretary and a lobbyist for natural gas companies, offers a loan to Claire in exchange for killing the jobs bill. She uses her influence to force two Congressmen to vote against it, defying her husband in the process. Afterwords, Claire temporarily leaves Underwood.
Underwood and his chief of staff, Doug Stamper, arrange for Russo to meet with a prostitute he frequents before an important interview, and has the prostitute get Russo drunk. The subsequent interview destroys Russo’s career and leaves the Democrats with no candidate for governor. To prevent the GOP from claiming the seat and potentially gerrymander the state in their favor, Underwood manipulates Walker into allowing Matthews to run for the governorship, with the intent of having him give up the Vice-Presidency only if he wins.
Vasquez deduces Underwood’s endgame: get rid of Matthews by having him give up his position and become governor again, which would allow Underwood to be appointed Vice President in his place; once in office, Underwood will run for President himself in 2020 as the heir apparent to Walker. Later, Underwood takes a drunk and repentent Russo into a parking garage, where he stages Russo’s purported suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. Russo’s death ensures that Matthews can enter the primary race for governor unopposed.
However, further complications continue to hound Francis, as President Walker has decided instead to approach multi-billionaire Raymond Tusk as his pick instead. Francis heads out to visit Tusk to make the President’s pitch, but before he leaves he discovers that Zoe has begun to help a fellow reporter investigate the links between Russo, Underwood, and the scandals Underwood has unleashed. They ultimately locate the hooker that Russo was with when he was arrested and reach out to Russo’s former lover/secretary.
While meeting with Tusk, Underwood receives evidence from Stamper linking the President to Tusk through a long history of business dealings. When he confronts Tusk, it is revealed that Tusk was the one who convinced the President to betray Underwood over the Secretary of State job. Tusk also reveals that the two have long since known that Underwood has been plotting against the President and his schemes. In spite of this, Tusk believes that Francis would be a vital ally to the President and to Tusk. Francis is then given an ultimatum: agree to a favor to be named later that must be carried out, or Tusk will convince the President to not pick Francis for the position.
Needing to put the fear in Tusk, Francis tries to recruit Remy to get his biggest natural gas client, to stage a corporate take-over against Tusk’s nuclear power plant holdings. As the holdings are the crown jewel of Tusk’s financial empire, Francis seeks to use the take-over as leverage to blackmail Tusk but Remy betrays Francis and helps Tusk stage a take-over of his employer. During their next encounter, Tusk reveals the reason for his reason for getting the President to betray Francis and his price for helping Francis. Tusk’s chief goal is to protect against a Chinese monopoly of an element necessary for the operation of Tusk’s nuclear reactors, although Tusk does not have a specific strategy for Francis or Walker formulated yet as such a plan would depend on China’s actions. Francis reiterates that he will not offer Tusk a blank check, but counters that Tusk helping him secure Vice Presidency would be the start of a loyal, cooperative, and long-term relationship between the two which would leave Francis inclined to honor Tusk’s favor, albeit not necessarily in exactly the time or manner that Tusk may want. Further, Francis asserts that time is short and Tusk has no alternative Vice President candidates who would be willing to play ball, much less be interested in building the aforementioned long-term relationship Francis offered. Tusk is convinced to accept Francis’ relationship oriented offer, rather than the quid-pro-quo offer Tusk had insisted upon.
As Francis returns home and celebrates with his wife by going out for a jog with her, Stamper calls frantically to tell him that Zoe has betrayed him by tracking down Russo’s hooker and deducing Underwood’s machinations to secure the Vice Presidency. But the call goes unanswered as Francis has left his cell phone at home.