Perhaps it’s just the general bombast of the Netflix remake, but I find myself much preferring this quieter, British original to the American version.
Let’s take the line Francis Urquhart repeats over and over–heck, he says it twice within a minute or so in the final scene–“You might very well think that; I couldn’t possibly comment.” As stated by actor Ian Richardson, the line means a lot. He neither confirms nor denies, but simply lets the listener think what he or she wants to think, and he does so in a manner that implies many other things. A co-worker told me, as I related that bit to him, that Frank Underwood also uses that line, but as much as I generally dig Kevin Spacey and find some of his scenery chewing some of the better parts of the American version, it just doesn’t have the memorable gravitas that it possesses here. The home viewer knows both Urquhart and Underwood are dirty political fighters. The difference is, it seems less surprising coming from an Underwood than an Urquhart.
The relationship with the female reporter seems to be going better too. Mattie Storin seems to have some kind of connection to Urquhart in their few scenes together, suggesting something of a paternal relationship completely absent from the American version.
But lest anyone think Urquhart isn’t ruthless in the pursuit of power, he certainly shows it here, blackmailing the cokehead PR man for his party, slipping stories to Mattie and then manipulating her publisher to let the story see print, and outright lying to Prime Minister Collingridge about who leaked a false story of the PM’s brother doing things with party money. And that money thing was actually Urquhart in disguise anyway.
Most of this episode consisted of set-up. Urquhart attends a conference for his political party and points out all the ministers in Collingridge’s government who are, intentionally or not, in his way. He doesn’t think much of any of them. Now he just needs to knock them off one by one to get his own path to power settled. Given the inherent volatility of the British system versus the more stable American one, it seems a lot more plausible.
But “plausible” hasn’t been an attribute that someone could attach to the American version for quite some time.