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Tay Yek Keak
Saturday, Jun 7, 2014

Showbiz

Couch Grouch: Human monsters are scarier

The Straits Times | Tay Yek Keak | Saturday, Jun 7, 2014

Monsters rule this week, and the human ones in House Of Cards (above) are far scarier than the inhuman creatures in The Originals.

Monsters rule this week, and the human ones in House Of Cards are far scarier than the inhuman creatures in The Originals.

Oh, you already know how vampires, witches and werewolves behave in The Originals, a spin-off from The Vampire Diaries TV series.

But in the riveting House Of Cards, Kevin Spacey is such a vindictive political animal and master manipulator that he makes those supernatural bloodsuckers look like puny, posy amateurs.

The series, adapted from an original 1990 British mini-series centring on a chief whip scheming to become the leader of the Conservative Party, is a Netflix production in America with its first season of 13 episodes streamed online all at one go last year. Season 2 was released earlier this year and a third chapter is on the way.

I binge-watched the show and, by the fourth episode, I wanted to kill Spacey's character.

He plays Frank Underwood, a South Carolina congressman and the house majority whip, who, in the opening episode, was expected to be named Secretary Of State by the new president-elect whom he had helped engineer to victory in the White House.

The problem is that the incoming president's team thinks differently and passes him over for the post, an act which sets the tone of vengeance and unbridled retribution underpinning the series.

Hell hath not seen a power player so badly scorned and the supremely miffed Underwood launches a power grab.

This American version leans heavier on the stench of power rather than the attainment of it.

It looks first-rate, even better than the original to me, because of the pinpoint acting, brainy plotting and terribly wicked truths.

"Such a waste of talent. He chose money over power," goes one line.

Would you enjoy it if you did not give a hoot about American politics? Probably not.

But in the machinations conducted by maestro- monster Spacey, you can still admire this entwining puppeteer's drama even if you do not love it.

One episode, in which he juggles lying to a grieving family that had just lost a daughter in a small town with conning an entire group of teacher's union leaders in Washington DC, is so good it qualifies as a lesson in multi-tasking.

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