Where Should I Bail Out of House of Cards?
February 7, 2014 9:45 PM   Subscribe

How many episodes of House of Cards should I watch (given three assumptions)?

Please only reply if you share these three assumptions:

1. The first episode's real good
2. The series deteriorates as it goes on
3. There's too much great TV out there to waste time watching merely pretty good TV
posted by Quisp Lover to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
How far have you gotten already?
posted by jbenben at 9:49 PM on February 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

I watched the entire first season. I think the return on time invested starts turning quite negative in episode 8 and goes off the cliff at the end of episode 9. One man's opinion.
posted by VikingSword at 10:03 PM on February 7, 2014

Regardless of how far you've gotten, you should probably stop watching now. The basic point here is that you either a) assume you don't like the flow of the series or b) you actually don't like the series. So why invest your time on something you don't want to like or actually don't like? Would you ever go to a movie know that you'd only like the first 60 minutes and then leave after that point?

The series itself is written as a single unit; there are not episodes as much as one broad arc that is divided into pieces. This is one core outcome of the show being written for and produced for Netflix, then released all at once rather than as a serial. So while there may be ups and downs in terms of excitement or engagement within the arc, its not like they were writing the story (and it was falling apart) as the season went along - it was written and produced all at once. This is the opposite of something like the series Lost, where the writers likely didn't know the contents of each season or (this seems obvious) how the series would end until the end.

Weirdest question I've seen in a long time.
posted by pkingdesign at 10:25 PM on February 7, 2014 [9 favorites]

Have you seen the original? If not, bail out wherever you are and watch that immediately. I promise you will not ask this question of that version.

Keep in mind S2 is starting very soon so you might want to wait to hear on that. If the reviews are good then finish S1 but if you're not feeling it just quit; you're right that there's plenty of great stuff out there now.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:31 PM on February 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

BBC House of Cards and To Play the King are both very good, so you might want to try those instead. Also, it's only eight episodes.
posted by betweenthebars at 10:38 PM on February 7, 2014

You don't have to watch anything you don't want to watch.

I watched the first episode of House Of Cards and it didn't draw me in. I didn't watch the rest. If I later find out that I misjudged it, it's always there to revisit.

Why worry about it when there are so many great shows on these days and the internet gives us access to pretty much any interesting show ever?
posted by Sara C. at 10:43 PM on February 7, 2014

Sorry, to be clear I shared all three of your assumptions and in the past have strongly urged people to continue watching other shows such as Breaking Bad and Arrested Development.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:01 PM on February 7, 2014

To give some context to my opinion, perhaps I should elaborate, so you're in a better position to see if my view has any relevance for you (there are no spoilers below).

Again, I must stress, this is one person's opinion, and of course de gustibus non est disputandum. What I enjoyed in the first few episodes was some level of plausibility and psychological consistency. What made it fall apart for me, was when the plausibility completely went out the window, and it seemed (to me), that Frank was starting to act seriously out of character (same true of Clair, to a lesser degree). It is of course a very basic challenge for the writers - how do you keep escalating the tension without losing the consistency of the character. I felt the writers made a very poor choice. Instead of trusting in the innate interest of power plays at the highest level, they turned (IMHO) to cheap and implausible developments in a quest to goose the level of excitement, and in the process they sold out the consistency of the characters and it turned into a soap opera. What I was hoping for was a The Wire level of reality, a knowledgeable exploration of the brutality inherent in the political environment. That would have been thrilling. But that would have demanded a heck of a lot of research and perhaps the writers felt that it would be too much inside baseball, and not enough raw thrills for a broad audience. So they turned to eye-rolling developments (end of episode 9), where it all devolved into something so cheap I actually felt robbed of my time and insulted as a viewer. I should have stopped at episode 9, but I grimly slogged on through the rest of the season... I wish I had that time back. So that's where I'm coming from - my 2 cents, FWIW.

Subsequently (after watching the American version) I saw the British original - what I found interesting was what the Americans copied, what they changed, what needed updating, what needed adjustment etc.. It's an exercise I can recommend.
posted by VikingSword at 11:05 PM on February 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

I share all your assumptions (and love TV).

The first time around, I started watching House of Cards right when it was released, and stopped after the eighth episode. A month or two ago, I went back, re-watched the eighth episode, and then watched through the end of the season. That second-go-round, I enjoyed the end of the season a lot!

So, I guess that's what I would recommend: if you're feeling bored/done/underwhelmed, just shelve it for a while. You can go back and finish the season later in another clump or two of episodes.

To be honest, I do the same with a lot of heavy/dense/bleak shows that I otherwise like (other examples are: Damages and the Wire). I don't know why Netflix is dumping whole seasons of House of Cards onto viewers considering that it's probably best not watched as a marathon *shrug.*
posted by rue72 at 11:57 PM on February 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think it's a fair question ... there are a lot of shows that I loved in the beginning and that lost me in the middle. Some find their footing again and are worth finishing (The Wire, Six Feet Under, American Horror Story Season 2), and some continue on a downward arc (I'm looking at you, True Blood). We want to know if it's worth the investment to continue.

I've also wondered the same about House of Cards - and also lost interest after the 8th episode (where Frank goes to a college reunion). I'll finish the season at some point, as it's not that long and I'd like to be ready for Season 2 if it gets good reviews.

I do find it odd that the series was written as a single arc, and yet went from plausible to eye-rolling wtf? half-way through.
posted by kanewai at 12:58 AM on February 8, 2014

I found the last three-four episodes really engrossing, tense, and exciting (after the lull in the middle). However, if you aren't feeling it thus far, you shouldn't force yourself to keep watching.
posted by lovecrafty at 1:03 AM on February 8, 2014

I watched the original first and found it very good. It's only four episodes long, so it's a tight story centered on Francis and the reporter.

The American House of Cards is 13 episodes. While part of this has to do with the path to power not being as as straightforward in America as it is in England, it also has to do with it having been a 13 episode order because otherwise there wouldn't be filler episodes like 3 and 8. I don't know where you are in the series, but I thought episode 3 was a big momentum killer so I'd just power through that if you're on the fence.

Having watched the original first, one thing that kept me interested in the American version was how Francis was going to solve a particular problem which cropped up. So my advice would be to watch the original first and then seeing the differences can help hold your interest.

Or just don't watch it. Really, it only exists because Netflix computed that based on user preferences, a David Fincher directed House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey would be a hit. It's not like there's anything guaranteeing that it's going to be quality TV.
posted by cali59 at 5:32 AM on February 8, 2014

I really enjoyed the first episode, but I lost all interest after episode six. It featured a series of plot twists so unbelievable that I couldn't enjoy the show any more. I can't tell you if it's worth going any further, because I stopped right there. Shameless is my new binge show.
posted by helloimjohnnycash at 10:22 AM on February 8, 2014

It starts to suck at episode three.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 10:41 AM on February 8, 2014

I can see why people are dismissing the college reunion episode as filler, but I thought it could be a setup for something that might come back in season 2 especially now because THINGS HAVE HAPPENED and COLLEGE FRIEND WHO KNOWS THINGS ABOUT FRANCIS could be a problem.

My wife and I watched all of the first season, and we're looking forward to season 2. Having said that, I haven' t made it past the first episode of the BBC series.
posted by emelenjr at 10:56 AM on February 8, 2014

I can only provide another data point. I share your 3 assumptions (shaky on the first) and watched until the college reunion episode, at which point it never made it back on top in my tv queue past Mad Men, Downton, Justified, Sherlock, back numbers of Cops, the James Bond Blu ray set, test patterns, etc.

I've learned to trust my instincts. If you're bored doing your taxes or during a grocery trip, probably best to find a way to win through. TV is optional.
posted by randomkeystrike at 11:46 AM on February 8, 2014

The backside of the peach water tower plot twist was amusing, though, since I live 30 minutes from one of those.
posted by randomkeystrike at 11:47 AM on February 8, 2014

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