TV & Ra­dio

Robin Wright steps into the pres­i­den­tial spot­light with a steely élan in the fi­nal se­ries of ‘House of Cards’; ‘Do­ing Money’ cap­tures the icy ter­ror of hu­man traf­fick­ing and sex slav­ery; and John le Carré adap­ta­tion ‘The Lit­tle Drum­mer Girl’ of­fers porten

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - PATRICK FREYNE -

Sound and screen reviews

When it came to know­ing what a fe­male pres­i­dency in the US might look like, the world was ef­fec­tively left won­der­ing. But not any­more. And if HouseOfCards (now stream­ing, Net­flix) is any­thing to go by, it’s not ex­actly pretty.

Now that Claire Un­der­wood (Robin Wright) is the 47th pres­i­dent of the US – hav­ing taken over the man­tle from her re­cently de­parted hus­band Frank (Kevin Spacey) – she is deal­ing with a some­what new form of cor­re­spon­dence.

“God never in­tended a woman to rule this land – she is the anti-Christ, and a Jew,” reads just one mis­sive plucked from a del­uge of hate mail. There are four times as many death threats de­liv­ered to her as to Frank, we find. Oth­ers are more cre­ative, ini­ti­at­ing a con­test to find the most cre­ative way to kill her (skin­ning, ap­par­ently, then cre­at­ing an Amer­i­can flag from her re­mains).

It was a huge ques­tion, per­haps the only ques­tion: how would Net­flix man­age the not in­con­sid­er­able task of dis­pens­ing of its piv­otal char­ac­ter at the apex of the show’s pop­u­lar­ity? In the wake of sex­ual-harass­ment al­le­ga­tions made against Spacey, there was an ini­tial, mo­men­tary panic that the se­ries would be un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously canned. In time, it was re­vealed that sea­son six would be its last.

This will cer­tainly be a very dif­fer­ent House Of Cards in the wake of Spacey’s de­par­ture. Frank Un­der­wood was an un­for­get­table char­ac­ter, yet the pleasant sur­prise is that the show ap­pears to be do­ing just fine with­out him. And given how Wright has held down the first episode with a steely élan, it’s safe to say that the only way is up.

As it stands, sea­son five ended on an in­trigu­ing note: with Frank re­sign­ing be­fore he could be im­peached and in­dicted for crim­i­nal­ity. As Veep, Un­der­wood prom­ises to par­don him once she is sworn in as pres­i­dent.

And she cer­tainly looks and acts the part: re­gal, glacial, tai­lored, prof­fer­ing the odd glossy, warm ex­change when needed.

Yet the brief warmth of pro­fes­sional and per­sonal sati­ety is soon re­placed by anx­i­ety. Spacey may be out the door, yet Frank’s pres­ence, legacy and death looms large in ev­ery scene here.

In the open­ing episode, Un­der­wood en­coun­ters some old friends (though new­com­ers to the se­ries), me­dia mogul Bill (Greg Kin­n­ear) and his sis­ter An­nette Shep­herd (Diane Lane). Osten­si­bly the wealthy, pow­er­ful Shep­herds sup­port her – An­nette is an old school friend – but that re­mains to be seen. An­other new char­ac­ter, a TV re­porter named Melody Cruz, also looks likely to fea­ture heav­ily in the pres­i­dent’s fu­ture fates. Can we as­sume that Un­der­wood is al­ready a step ahead of those in­tent on dou­ble-cross­ing her? Per­haps. But as ever, half the fun will be find­ing it all out.

Sea­son six’s opener is chill­ing, sleek and still (de­spite one jumpy heart-stop­ping mo­ment). There’s plenty of room for melo­drama and sen­sa­tional ac­tion fur­ther down the line, but for now, and in the wake of Frank’s death, the mood in the White House is def­i­nitely som­bre and some­what re­flec­tive.

Un­easy view­ing

It’s al­ready been a richly busy month for fe­male-led projects on Ir­ish screens, but it’s safe to say that Do­ingMoney (Sun­day, RTÉ One, 9.30pm) is about as far as it’s pos­si­ble to get from the su­gary, glossy Find­ing Joy, the break­neck melo­drama of Blood or the first-world prob­lems of Women On The Verge. Cen­tring on slav­ery, hu­man traf­fick­ing and the murky un­der­belly of the sex trade in Ire­land, Do­ing Money, a co-pro­duc­tion be­tween RTÉ and the BBC, is prob­a­bly the most bone-chill­ing drama to ar­rive on Ir­ish screens in some time. And in Hal­loween week, that’s say­ing some­thing.

Ro­ma­nian Ana (Anca Du­mi­tra) is work­ing as a cleaner in Lon­don when she is snatched from the street in broad day­light. “No­body knows where I am, not even me,” she re­veals in a mono­tone voice-over.

Re­sis­tance against her new cap­tors is, pre­dictably, fu­tile: ‘How far will you get in your knick­ers in a for­eign coun­try?” posits a fel­low sex worker. She and a hand­ful of other es­corts – in­clud­ing 18-year-old Daniela (Voica Ol­tean) – are pinged around the coun­try, al­ter­nat­ing be­tween the “porn-star ex­pe­ri­ence” and the “girl­friend ex­pe­ri­ence”, with vi­o­lent, blood­ied in­ter­ludes.

Her clients are un­likely to be of any help and, as one par­tic­u­larly chill­ing scene shows, those liv­ing their daily lives on the same street as what­ever house the women are “do­ing money” in are none the wiser as to what hap­pens be­hind pa­pered-up win­dows. Many of the women’s clients, as it hap­pens, are only too happy to look

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