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Netflix Rundown: House of Cards and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

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Have you finished them yet? It’s the question we’re all asking lately–thanks to Netflix’s latest releases. Between ‘House of Cards’ and ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ we had two weekends of pure binge watching. Have you finished them yet? I watched each of them in a day, as I have a tremendous fear of being spoiled (FOBS), but I waited to post this blog until I gave you all a chance to finished the–so here we go. (Skip below to just read ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’)

House Of Cards: Season 3

As many of you know, I am not a huge fan of this show. Season 1 was enjoyable–the introduction of scene chewing Frank and Claire Underwood was a fun moment in the TV landscape. I went on to finish season two for one reason–to get it over with. Sad, house-of-cards-season-3-posterbut true. It’s extremely hard to relate to the characters and buy into what they’re attempting to achieve, as there is little to no empathy. At least season 1 had Peter Russo (Corey Stoll), playing the part of  the audience’s emotional pathway into this world. This is a show of people doing mean things for their own career advancement and if Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright weren’t as charming as they are, this show wouldn’t work at all. Have you ever noticed how easily they cut through the warm butter that is this version of Washington DC? There is never any viable obstacle for the two devious Underwoods.

In Season 2 it’s never even an option that Frank won’t become President because that’s just what’s going to happen. It’s a TV show that doesn’t make the main character’s journey tough. Raymond Tusk, President Walker, and Xander Feng were never going to stop Frank because the show never really backed him into a legitimate corner. The show writes Frank as the smartest person in the world with no conscious and everybody else as an uncharismatic whimp. The best episode from the first two seasons is Season 1’s “Chapter 8,” when Frank reunites with his school chums for the naming of his alma mater’s library. It’s a character piece that humanizes the two leads and explores their nature and personal relationship with others and each other.

Season 3 is definitely my favorite of the trio, most likely due to the fact that it explored Claire and Frank’s relationship and dynamic in a detailed manner. The ustv-house-of-cards-season-3season still includes most of what I don’t like of the show, but Viktor Petrov (Lars Mikkelsen) and Heather Dunbar (Elizabeth Marvel) are much better matches for Frank. The writers cut down on Frank’s asides to the audience, which I thought helped the overall flow of the season. Too often in seasons 1 and 2 the asides diffused too much of the tension and overtly spelled out situations, talking down to us as a viewer. It trusted us to figure out his motives, then broke it by telling us directly. Season 3 makes those moments scarce, which makes Frank more vulnerable, especially as he begins to lose his wife in the process. Frank may have been excellent at stealing the presidency for himself, but he’s not that good at being President. He’s trying to build something on the ground that he destroyed in the first two seasons.

The season really gets going in its second half with Frank’s run in Iowa with Claire. All of the build up from the first few episodes (Russia, the Middle East, etc) comes crashing down on their relationship and marriage. While we always witnessed their teamwork throughout the series with only moments of weakness, these closing episodes of season 3 are intense as these two forces begin to challenge each other. The streamlined storyline (Iowa/campaigning and their marriage) aided in creating a more engaging show. The writers focused on the show’s best elements–its two leads. I did enjoy Doug’s struggle and the other character’s conscious self-discoveries, but Claire and Frank’s tension stole the show in the end. Netflix’s prestige show doesn’t rank in my top 20 TV programs on right now. While I know I’m in the minority on my ‘House of Cards’ opinions, this season was a step in the right direction for me.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

“They alive, dammit. It’s a miracle!” ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’, from our favorite ’30 Rock’ creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, was a pleasant surprise. It may be ’30 Rock’ lite, but that’s not a bad thing at all. It’s a positive, fun, colorful sitcom with an incredibly energetic cast led by Ellie Kemper (Kimmy), Tituss Burgess (Titus), Jane Krakowski (Jacqueline), and Carol Kane (Lillian). It’s incredible funny and moves at a breakneck pace and is a wonderful showcase for so many talented women.

Rescued from an underground doomsday cult, after years of being held captive, 29 year old Kimmy Schmidt moves to New York City to figure out who she is and start a life for herself. With her new best friend, landlady, and employer by her side, she’s unbreakable. “They alive, dammit. It’s a miracle!”

Ellie Kemper keeps this show afloat as Kimmy with her infusion of love and naivety into every scene and joke. This role could easily get annoying or “too unbreakable-kimmy-schmidtdumb,” but she always keeps it consistent and believable in this off-kilter world the writers have created. She is matched by Tituss’ Titus Andromedon and his pure optimistic cynicism. Let’s just say in addition to the opening credits, I can’t get ‘Pinot Noir’ out of my head. And his backwards Werewolf transformation was something special. Krakowski (playing a version of Jenna) and Kane (a perfectly kooky NYC landlord) round out this wonderful cast.

As was the case with ’30 Rock’, the guest stars always nail the material they’re wolf6tvf-1-webgiven. From Tina Fey herself to Jon Hamm as the Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne to Tim Blake Nelson to the small, but great cameo by Amy Sedaris. I laughed more consistency during this show than most comedies, by this irreverent comedy is right up my alley. The ‘Daddy’s Boy’ musical joke is worth all 13 episodes.

I’m really happy that NBC passed on this show, so that we’ll actually see more episodes and seasons on Netflix. What an easy show to binge watch an I can’t wait for season two. And boy is that these song catchy as hell. Hashbrown, no filter.

So, Netflix’s February was a strong month. Hopefully the upcoming ‘Bloodline’ and ‘Marvel’s Daredevil’ will be equally as engaging. Let me know what you thought of ‘Kimmy’ and ‘Cards’ below–that is, if you’ve finished them, of course.

Keep On Watchin’!

-Bryan