'House of Cards' Uses Retro Writing Device

House of Cards is a Netflix original series that follows Congressman Frank Underwood as he politicks his way through Washington, D.C. One episode turned me into an absolute fanatic.

The show's writers know what the hell they are doing. They have taken directions with the show that demonstrate their collective genius and IMHO, ensure the series will have a die hard following and consequently, staying power. 

But House of Cards could've died from self-inflicted wounds during the pilot.

The writers reached back in time for a single device that saved the show: they broke the Fourth Wall.

The Fourth Wall theory comes from playwrights. The idea is that stage-front has an imaginary wall across it. No attention should be drawn to the audience, because acknowledging its existence is equitable to admitting that the play is a work of fiction (Source: TV Tropes). 

Using this device was a risk, but one worth taking. If it didn't catch on, if viewers found it corny, or if improperly incorporated, the device could've pulled viewers completely out of the storyline. Breaking the Fourth Wall has been out of fad for some time, but because it was smoothly incorporated, instead of being a show stopping interruption, it worked.

If viewers didn't have this method of connecting to Frank Underwood, the last five minutes of the second episode alone would have so repulsed that there may not have been an audience anymore. Viewers need to feel like the main character doesn't detest them or think he is better than them. The choices that Frank Underwood makes, the way he treats others, and the comments that fall out of his mouth all suggest that he doesn't think highly of John Q. Public. 

In addition to this, none of the politicking that takes place in the show is ever about the American people--not even the voters. With depictions like these, in a climate like now, it would be all too easy to want to watch something else, anything else.

That is why the writers chose to let viewers into Frank's close knit circle, through having interludes with him throughout the show. This creates an inner circle feel that elevates the viewer, since making Frank seem more like a common man just ain't gonna work.

It was a brilliant move that didn't perish upon execution. And with that one choice, House of Cards has allowed viewers to connect with Frank Underwood and ensured at least a second season of my new favorite show.

Happy viewing,

C