February 14th 2014, is a very special day and one you should be very excited about if you have a penchant for high quality story-telling and incredible performances. For most people February 14th symbolises one thing - Valentine's day. A time of year when we typically show the ones we love how much we care for them. This year however, things are a little different and that's because on Friday February 14th 2014, Netflix releases its eagerly anticipated second season of the Emmy award winning House of Cards.
For those of you living under a rock or for whatever reason weren't able to catch the first season, House of Cards is Netflix's third original series and is a remake of a classic BBC television series with the same name. The US version is a slick, contemporary adaptation catapulting its audience into the murky world of American politics by way of Washington double-dealing and villainous horse-trading! It's all devilishly sinister! Not something you might typically associate with Valentines day.
Season one got viewers heart rates pumping and left us clamouring for more as we watched Francis Underwood, a Democratic US congressman, passed over for the position of Secretary of State, plot with his wife to gain bitter revenge against those who betrayed him. All in the name of professional advancement.
Perhaps the most captivating element of the whole show is the curious relationship between its two enigmatic leads, Francis Underwood, played by the immortal Kevin Spacey, and his stoic wife Claire, brilliantly brought to life by Robin Wright.
We spend a good deal of time in season one trying to decipher the true nature of Francis and Claire's relationship. The parameters of their marriage are clearly defined during an unforgettable scene where Claire explains to a dying member of their security staff (whom has just divulged his feeling of unrequited love for her), why she married Francis.
“You know what Francis said to me when he proposed? I remember his exact words. He said, ‘Claire if all you want is happiness, say no. I’m not going to give you a couple of kids and count the days until retirement. I promise you freedom from that. I promise you you’ll never be bored.’ You know, he was the only man—and there were a lot of others who proposed—who understood me.”
Adultery is tolerated as a necessary evil within their marriage so-long as they never turn away from each other. I wonder how much of this is true if you're a Sky TV customer and your currently enjoying a dalliance with Netflix? Perhaps if Francis is allegorical of the consumer then his marriage to Claire could represent consumers traditional marriage to cable providers such as BSkyB. If this can be accepted (even if its only for the purpose of this blog), then Francis' relationship with Zoe Barnes might symbolise the consumers inclination to flirt with new exciting and disruptive opportunities such as Netflix.
Exploring Francis & Claire's relationship in any depth falls outside the purview of this blog. If you want to read more about their relationship then I highly recommend "More Than Sharks Love Blood" a term used by Francis to describe how he feels about his wife, written by Hanna Rosin and available by clicking here.
The curious thing about House of Cards season 2 is, like the first season, it is being released as a box set everywhere, simultaneously. It is precisely this distribution model which is proving to be so disruptive and which is giving cable providers some pause for thought.
House of Cards is Netflix's $100m play to convince consumers that the device we watch our content on is no longer relevant. Last year Kevin Spacey gave the MacTaggart speech during the Edinburgh Festival where he reiterated that consumption is being liberated by new opportunities, saying:
'If you're not watching it [a film] in a theatre? If you watch a TV show on your iPad, is it no longer a TV show? The device and the length are irrelevant; the labels are useless.'
I urge you to watch the entire speech here: