The Occasional TV Series Review

There’s a trend afoot in the world, to “binge-watch” entire seasons at a time of a TV series, as if sitting through 13 or more hours of non-stop entertainment is really that easy to do. At least it isn’t that easy for me to do. I just can’t keep it together for that long.

But I needed to come back to the House of Cards series as produced by Netflix. Last time I wrote about it, I was disappointed, and not sure I’d finish the season. Well, I finally finished the 13 episodes of the first season so that I could see if things got better.

They didn’t. In fact, it magnified a huge problem I have with a lot of TV series (and even some movies) these days: they don’t actually wrap anything up at the end of a season.

First, let me assess the House of Cards season: I still hate every single one of the characters in this show. No one is a hero or even an anti-hero. Everyone’s despicable and selfish and self-absorbed and not even the least bit likable. And because of that, I can’t say that I find anything in the series actually entertaining. I was not compelled to come back for the last few episodes to see how things turned out, except to see how it compared to the original.

I’m not even sure how Robin Wright managed to win her best actress award at the Golden Globes, unless acting consistently sullen and brooding is a good thing.

But here’s the big problem: nothing actually ended in the story. I got to the end of the 13 episodes and was just left feeling empty. We’re left stuck in a middle place where all of the various storylines have come to a stop, without a resolution that makes me want to continue. For instance, in the main plot line, Francis Underwood got his nomination to be Vice President as he wanted, so while his plan mostly worked, various aspects of it spiraled out of his control and he ended up backing into what he wanted and not really controlling the outcome. This doesn’t make me care one way or another for the character.

What really irritates me is that these shows and movies begin with the assumption that their viewers will come back to the show regardless of what they’re given, so there isn’t any incentive to resolve storylines in the first season. The result is that from my point of view, the best episode of this House of Cards season was actually the next to last episode. Not the last one that would make you excited to head into the next season.

It’s funny because this same conversation came up with Patrick, who saw the latest Hobbit movie–the second of three made from one book. He’s read the book and said that there are a lot of things added that weren’t in the book, and it made this film tedious. Whether he’ll go back to see the third film or not was still up in the air when we talked.

So maybe you film and television writers should go back and figure this out. I don’t mind storylines bridging the seasons, but at least give us resolution or a cliffhanger to bring us back.

See you tomorrow.