Congressman Frank Underwood really knows how to run the show.
Frank, played with devious glee by Kevin Spacey, steers the plot of House of Cards, which debuted this past winter on digital streaming service Netflix. The political drama recently garnered nine Emmy nominations -- including nods for Spacey and Robin Wright, who stars as Frank's ruthless wife, Claire -- and seems to be amassing new fans daily as word-of-mouth spreads about the show's sleek portrayal of dirty deeds in Washington, D.C.
The series, which helped popularize the concept of "binge viewing" when all 13 episodes were released at once, returns for Season 2 in early 2014. Clearly, it's not getting nixed any time soon.
So while Netflix seems to be playing its Cards right, here are a few things we'd like them to improve.
DON'T LET FRANK TALK TO THE CAMERA AS MUCH
Whenever you discuss House of Cards with someone, this always comes up. And to be honest, it feels pretty jarring whenever Frank pauses the action to elaborate on his latest shrewd move. When he breaks the fourth wall to raise an eyebrow at the camera -- what is this, Jim Halpert on The Office? -- it yanks you away from the fiction and reminds you that you're watching a television show. We realize that the asides are channeling the original House of Cards BBC series and novel, which found inspiration in the soliloquies of Shakespeare's Macbeth and Richard III, and that it would be stupid to stop them entirely at this point. But still -- it bugs us.
CREATE MORE SYMPATHETIC CHARACTERS
Even though this show celebrates antiheros and backstabbers, we need some light to balance all of the darkness, right? Peter Russo became a likeable character for a while, as we watched him valiantly bury his liquor bottles, visit his irksome mother, raise his two kids and launch a campaign for governor of Pennsylvania. But now that Peter's been poisoned by carbon monoxide, we need someone new to cheer for. While activist Gillian Cole initially felt like a relatable character, her selfish plan to sue Claire's organization left a bad taste in our mouth.
MAKE THINGS HARDER FOR FRANK
Frank's too powerful, and he's too lucky, and his puppet-master abilities occasionally drain the series of any suspense. Whenever people get in his way, his right-hand man Doug Stamper materializes to silence the trouble. Only towards the end of Season 1, when Claire disobeys her husband and then abandons him for a rendezvous with an old flame in New York City, do we see any signs of weakness in Frank. Hopefully the journalistic investigation into Russo's death, headed by Zoe Barnes, will shake things up for our omnipotent protagonist. Because Frank can't hold all of the aces, all of the time. That would make for a boring game of Cards.