New Perfume Review Blackbird Broken Glass- The Beauty of Broken Things

We picked up a ding on our automobile windshield a few weeks ago. At first it was a focused circular bloom of tiny cracks. Over time two of those cracks broke free and began to elongate over the expanse of the entire windshield. I have been morbidly fascinated with this slow process of entropy. I have been so fascinated that Mrs. C had to very sternly remind me to schedule the repair. Looking at the world through a fracture allows me to see things as slightly disjointed. It means things I view through the cracks of the windshield are made into something flawed. Observing the shattered aspects perversely allows me to find an ephemeral beauty in the subject I am observing. For the past month I have been wearing a perfume which provides the same olfactory perspective of cracks within something previously unified. The perfume is Blackbird Broken Glass.

A year ago the Seattle, WA brand Blackbird made a significant shift in the way they make their perfumes. The in-house perfumer Aaron Way went from composing simple linear fragrances to making one of my favorite avant-garde perfumes of 2014 called Triton. I was hoping that Triton was not going to be a singularity. The two new fragrances I received a month ago, of which Broken Glass is one, indicate that this is going to be the Blackbird aesthetic going forward.

Aaron Way

Aaron Way

Very often when I wear a perfume for the first time it tends to be easily categorized in my mental catalog. What I enjoyed so much about Triton last year and now Broken Glass is Mr. Way is working on keeping the wearer off-balance. Just as I think I know where the perfume is going the development heads off in a different direction. Just like those ever elongating cracks on my windshield.

Mr. Way opens Broken Glass with the silvery shine of violet leaves matched with the green rose quality of geranium. At this point I was expecting a path forward into deeper green notes. Instead Mr. Way sends a crack infused with caraway and opoponax as instead of green we get black. Then it takes a ninety degree turn as a fulsome jasmine veritably explodes from within the gathering of the darker notes. The jasmine feels perfectly placed and at the same time out of place. It is the starburst crack at the heart of Broken Glass. Amyris and davana set up a slightly woody accord in the base where Mr. Way layers in cardamom and baie rose. This provides some warmth in contrast to the cooler darker notes in the top as Broken Glass forms its final fractal.

Broken Glass has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

When I call Broken Glass avant-garde this should indicate that this is a perfume that desires the attention of the wearer. Mr. Way has composed a perfume which is always changing as the wearer’s perspective changes. He has made a perfumed version of a world viewed askew. If looking at the world through a cracked lens sounds appealing you should pick this perfume up. Even though my windshield will be repaired in the next couple of days Broken Glass will allow me to continue to find beauty in broken things.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Blackbird.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Carner Barcelona Palo Santo- Into the Woods

There are brands which execute so well on their stated aims I get worried when they take their first steps away from that. The truth is for a brand to have longevity you can’t reliably keep mining the same inspiration. At some point the creative team has to take something of a chance in moving to a different vein of inspiration. My first indication that a change is coming is the press release. When I received the press release for the new Carner Barcelona Palo Santo there was not a mention of Barcelona. The previous five releases have captured the artistry and vibe of the city on its label I sort of wanted them to keep showing me more. Instead creative director Sara Carner has gone into the woods searching for a perfume which represents the mystical.

sara carner

Sara Carner

Palo Santo is the name of a wood indigenous to South America. It is burned as incense. Used medicinally as a tea. It is also part of mystical cleansing rituals. Palo Santo translates to holy wood because it has been used throughout the centuries in the sacred rites of the area. Sra. Carner asked perfumer Shyamala Maisondieu to help her find a way to interpret this wood as fragrance.

Shyamala-Maisondieu

Shyamala Maisondieu

In the previous five perfumes in the Carner Barcelona collection there was a real sense of vibrancy which matched Sra. Carner’s love of Barcelona. Palo Santo is the opposite of that as it almost asks the wearer to speak in solemn whispers while meditating. Mme Maisondieu works throughout the composition of Palo Santo to build a pyre of sacred smoke rising through a hole in an imaginary roof.

Mme Maisondieu chooses an interesting opening pair of the slightly fruit quality of davana floating on rum. The boozy opening could be mistaken for a party night on La Rambla. It doesn’t linger long before Mme Maisondieu deepens things while making Palo Santo a little less party and a lot more church. In the heart she takes guaiac wood and tonka to create a sweetly woody accord which she then pours warm milk over. This makes the heart contemplatively incense-like with a softness different than the top notes. That quality continues into the heart as two additional lighter woods add themselves into the mix as amyris and cedar join in. They fit seamlessly and make for a woody quartet of tenors. Vetiver provides the final bit of green woody aspect.

Palo Santo has 10-12 hour longevity and below average sillage.

While Sra. Carner has taken a trip away from Barcelona, Palo santo does fit in with the rest of the Carner Barcelona collection. In particular it feels like a natural progression from Rima XI. After enjoying Palo Santo I am ready to follow where Sra. Carner is ready to lead me. Even if it is deep into the woods.

Disclosure; this review was based on a sample provided by Twisted Lily.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Caiparinha

I had my first caiparinha cocktail in 1984 when was at concert at SOB’s in New York City. SOB stood for Sounds of Brazil and this was the club to see the music of the islands and the Americas. My friend who lived there told me to try one and from the moment the drink hit my tongue it was an instantaneous love affair. A few weeks later we found a little restaurant called the Brazilian Connection where the Brazilian-born bartender made the best caiparinhas. Many nights out in NYC began at the bar drinking caiparinhas.

I had always wanted to go to Brazil but when I finally went on my two and a half week trip the quest was to find the best caiparinha in Brazil. I would find it in a beachside stand in Salvador in the state of Bahia north of Rio. This seaside mixologist showed me the secret which I will share with you in a moment.

caiparinha 1

Caparinhas are as simple a drink to make as can be. You takes sugar and lime and mush them together with a muddler or pestle. Once you have a nicely crushed pulp you add ice and pour the liquor known a cachaça over it. Cachaça is pronounced ka cha-sa and is a less refined sugar-cane liquor. I’ve compared it as the moonshine equivalent to rum. That’s a little harsh as cachaça is much smoother than moonshine but it is distilled from fermented sugar cane much as moonshine is distilled from a fermented corn mixture.

The origin of the drink is said to come from Sao Paolo in 1918. It was said to be the treatment for a common cold. I would certainly enjoy a caiparinha over NyQuil any time. The popularity of the drink has spread as it became easier to obtain cachaça. When I was on my trip in the late 1980’s it was difficult to buy and I came home with a case. Now I smile when I see it on my local liquor store shelf. Times change.

I promised you the secret to my favorite caiparinha as taught to me on the beach in Salvador, Bahia. Usually you take half a lime and cut it into four wedges and toss them in over the sugar before crushing. The secret I learned was to use a paring knife to remove the pith and connective tissue and seeds. Leaving mostly pulp and skin. Then you crush that with the sugar and pour in the cachaça.

I have ordered many caiparinhas but it has been only one bartender in Somerville, MA who also knew the trick of removing the pith. I told him where I had learned this and to nobody’s surprise he told me he had been born in Salvador.

If you are looking for an alternative to a mojito the caiparinha might fit the bill. You can also substitute the line with almost any tropical fruit and it is still a refreshing cocktail.

As these final days of summer fly by change up the drink menu before the beach days are gone.

Mark Behnke

Support Your Local Parfumerie

2

Joni Mitchell sang the lyrics “Don’t it always seem to go/That you don’t know what you’ve got/ ‘Till it’s gone” in her song “Big Yellow Taxi”. I am constantly reminded of that when things change and I realize the thing which I’ve taken for granted is no longer there. One of those instances happened when I moved down to the Washington DC metro area four years ago. Having lived in Boston I had many small perfume shops which I frequented and supported with my purchases. When I got to DC I was dismayed to find there was only one shop and it promptly went out of business within a year of my arrival.

When I would speak to the owner of that store he was sure the reason he was failing was because of online perfume sales. I am not sure if I believe that was as big a factor as he thought it was. The rise of the online niche perfume shopping options has only gotten bigger over the last five years. When you live somewhere that going to a store and actually trying a new niche fragrance is not an option these online retailers are the only game in town. When I was in Boston I felt it was important to support those who were giving me the opportunity to reach out and try new things.

arielle shoshana logo

Which is why I am very excited that there will be a new niche perfume store opening in the DC area next weekend September 5, 2015. Arielle Weinberg who wrote the blog Scents of Self has taken a leap of faith in opening a small perfume store in The Mosaic district in Fairfax, VA. She is calling it Arielle Shoshana and I am very excited that she has brought back the small store perfume experience to my part of the world. I realized I am unusually excited about this because besides the products these stores carry they are also a place for other fragrance enthusiasts to meet for a day. There were many days in Boston where I would meet up with others to try a few new things. There are as many fragrance lovers in DC as there were in Boston and now we will have a place where we can meet.

This is also a plea for those of you who have a great local store to please remember to support them. Places like Indigo Perfumery in Cleveland, OH or Parfumerie Nasreen in Seattle, WA are often the only game in town for many niche brands. Otherwise you’ll be humming Joni Mitchell too.

I am planning on being there next Saturday to welcome my new local niche parfumerie with the hope that many more days will be spent inside communing with perfume and perfume lovers.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Atelier Cologne Musc Imperial- Majestic Days and Nights

I definitely have my checklist of the great cities of the world I have not been to. Very near the top of my list at the moment is Barcelona. When it comes to travel I have a version of window shopping where I lay out all of the sights I want to see, the restaurants I want to visit and the hotel I want to stay at. No matter how much the first two categories have changed when my imagination goes wandering the hotel I want to stay in has never changed.

Majestic-Hotel-Spa-Barcelona

The Hotel Majestic was the first luxury hotel in Barcelona opening in 1918. The same family, Soldevila-Casals, has overseen the hotel for nearly one hundred years. It is situated in the Paseo de Gracia near to the Gaudi installations, La Rambla, and the best shopping. When my mind travels where my body hasn’t I try and visualize everything. Of course I imagine what they will smell like too. Starting in the spring of 2015 the Hotel Majestic started wafting a signature scent throughout the premises. It comes from one of my very favorite perfume brands Atelier Cologne and is called Musc Imperial.

musc imperial tableau

The creative team behind Atelier Cologne Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel have actually spent nights in the suites of the Hotel Majestic. When they were commissioned to create a fragrance to capture the spirit of the hotel they had personal experience to draw from. They asked perfumer Jerome Epinette to join them as they built a 5-star hotel out of a cologne absolue architecture.

What M. Epinette produced was the exhilaration of a day on tour in Barcelona. The energy of the morning. The afternoon in the gardens. The evening close together under the stars.

The day opens with a sunbeam of bergamot which is made Spanish by the presence of clary sage providing an herbal green tint. Blackcurrant provides a bit of berry lushness underneath the leaner notes of the bergamot and sage. The heart of Musc Imperial is a marvel of Nouveau Cologne. M Epinette takes a rich refined leather accord. I think of my Hermes messenger bag whenever I get to this part of Musc Imperial. M. Epinette infuses this refined accord with fig and lavender. Lavender is one of the traditional building blocks of cologne. In Musc Imperial M. Epinette allows that to ground the heart in cologne territory but the fig and leather make it richer, more opulent. It becomes a 5-star lavender. The musk shows up in the base as M. Epinette uses the more animalic synthetics. He then uses the botanical musk source of ambrette to round out the synthetics giving them more nuance. A little bit of cedar provides the final bit of foundation in the base.

Musc Imperial has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Atelier Cologne is a brand from which I like many but there are a few which have attained their own exalted tier amongst the collection. Musc Imperial was one of those which grabbed me from the moment I smelled it on a strip. It is one of the very best offerings Atelier Cologne has. As of September 2015 the exclusivity of Musc Imperial will be expanded to a wider audience as it becomes available at stockists outside of the Hotel Majestic and Atelier Cologne boutiques. For me as I imagine my eventual trip to Barcelona I now have the ability to have the reality of what I will smell when I enter the Hotel Majestic for real.

Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample from Atelier Cologne.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review A Lab on Fire One Night in Rio- The Party Never Stops

The greatest cities in the world carry signature smells with them as well. It is interesting to see what a perfume which wants to capture one of those cities chooses as their interpretation. Every once in a while my scent memory of a place and the imagination of a fragrance creative team coincide. The new A Lab on Fire One Night in Rio effectively captures my memory of many nights in Rio de Janiero.

More accurately One Night in Rio captures the smell of the early morning. Something I learned in my time in Rio was the night ends when you say it ends. As long as the party wants to keep going it rolls on. In my late 20’s this was a lifestyle I could get used to. Most nights ended with my group of friends walking home with false dawn on the horizon. The smell of those early mornings was especially sharp as the night blooming flowers overlapped with the blooms of the morning. I am not sure whether perfumer Jean-Marc Chaillan has ever been to Rio but this was one of my favorite natural floral scents. It was a way to signal this particular night was over.

jean-marc chaillan

Jean-Marc Chaillan

Creative director Carlos Kusubayashi has taken some of the most commercial mainstream perfumers and allowed them a bit more latitude than they might get in a more commercial brief. For One Night in Rio M. Chaillan takes that leeway and fills it in with tropical fruit and flowers. It makes for a very sweet composition.

One Night in Rio opens on one of those flowers of the dawn as orange blossom rises up first. M. Chaillan adds a little shade with a judicious pinch of pepper mainly to draw you to the more repressed indoles present in the orange blossom. The heart is where the gardenia of the night and the magnolia of the morning create that shank of the evening accord I was describing above. M. Chaillan lets these two florals intertwine and samba a bit. Passionfruit provides a bit of colorful complement. The final phase is the smell of amber and musk as the exertions of the night come home with a bit of sweaty skin made less skanky with some vanilla.

One Night in Rio has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I have always found something magical about those hours where the night gives way to the light. I especially enjoy them when I approach them from the nightside. M. Chaillan has produced a fragrance which captures that transition in a place known as Rio.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Twisted Lily.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things- Honey

When it comes to the culinary arts honey is one of my favorite ingredients to use. It has so much versatility in the kitchen. When it comes to my sense of smell it can be an entirely different experience. Honey when used as the focal point of a fragrance has a tipping point for me. After a certain concentration it changes from being a bit of viscous sweet sunshine to the smell of a urinal cake. I am not unique in this as the perfume forums are full of the same kind of impressions. That doesn’t mean there aren’t perfumes which are on the good side of the line. Here are five honey perfumes I think stay away from the less desirable aspects of honey in perfume.

The first honey perfume I fell in love with was 2004’s Christian Dior La Collection Privee Bois D’Argent by Annick Menardo. An opaque opening of incense and iris evolves into a heart of honey and myrrh. Mme Menardo creates a gauzy drizzle of resins and honey which eventually finds purchase on a base of suede leather. One of Mme Menardo’s best creations ever.

The small perfume brand which has come out of the Bordeaux vineyard Maison Ginestet has made one of the best honey perfumes. Ginestet Botrytis is composed by perfumer Gilles Toledano. M. Toledano wanted to create a perfume reminiscent of the botrytis fungus which helps concentrate the sugar content of grapes. The perfume named after that is a rich mix of honey and quince most recognizably but there are a host of other candied fruits underneath. It all rests on a white flower infused spice bread accord. The wine snob and the perfume snob both approve of M. Toledano’s interpretation of both.

tokyo milk honey moon

Tokyo Milk Honey and the Moon No. 10 by Margot Elena is one of those amazing bang for the buck fragrances. I tried it for the first time in a promotional rollerball while waiting in line in Sephora. I was back a day later to buy a full bottle. It is a simple construction of sugary sweet on top. Candied violet and honey in the heart leading to sandalwood. It is simply constructed and one of my favorite very sweet perfumes.

The cumin, caraway, and honey opening of Maison Francis Kurkdjian Absolue pour Le Soir by Francis Kurkdjian is just the beginning of what I think is one of the best perfumes of the last five years. Whenever I need to remind myself of the artistry of perfume Absolue pour Le Soir is where I turn. The remainder of this perfume moves through an incense soaked rose down into an intensely woody base of sandalwood and cedar. This is not perfume for the faint of heart. It is perfume for those who love perfume.

I am not sure I have any more words left to praise Vero Profumo Rozy Voile D’Extrait by perfumer Vero Kern. My perfume of the year for 2014 by my perfumer of the year for 2014. I have said it before and I say it again this is the best post-modern rose ever. The reason is the honey which forms the viscous core around which rose, spice, and labdanum are suspended. It is an incredible feat of perfumery.

As I finished this list it occurred to me that for all that I am wary of honey in fragrance I consider four of these perfumes among the best ever made. It is probably the strongest collection of My Favorite Things to date. If you do like honey these are five perfumes which should be on your list to try.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Imaginary Authors An Air of Despair- The Last Sigh of Summer

The summer of 2015 is coming to an end. As a warm weather lover I am wringing every drop of sun and warmth out of the remaining days of the season. With schools opening up over the next few weeks even though the calendar says summer it means fall is on its way. Sometime in the next few weeks the great rotation of everything will happen. The heavier fall perfumes will move the summer ones to the back of the shelf. The sandals will be traded for loafers. The sweaters will come out of the cedar chest with the clean smell of the wood clinging to them. If I have a scent which signals the changeover from summer to autumn cedar would have to be it. I think Josh Meyer the independent perfumer behind Imaginary Authors might agree with me. His latest release is called An Air of Despair and it is meant to be a limited edition for the summer and fall seasons. It is a cedar focused fragrance and it captures that moment when we shift gears from warm to cool.

Mr. Meyer is another of this recent breed of independent perfumers who adds something visual and written to his fragrances. His perfumes carry the name of a book that never was including what one might find on the dust jacket of this fictitious fiction. Here is the description of An Air of Despair: “When Vivian Gwyn’s parents mysteriously disappear one month before her eighteenth birthday it foils an elaborate plan she had to kill them herself. In her search for clues as to their whereabouts she finds an elegant mink coat and a safe full of valuables in her mother’s cedar closet. Keeping the coat but selling everything else, she embarks on a glamorous adventure that takes her from the small Tennessee town where she grew up to luxurious penthouses in Manhattan, runways in Milan, and finally the castle in Switzerland from which she learns she is a descendant. No expense is spared in Viv’s valiant quest to shake the sadness that plagued her upbringing and she quickly learns it’s not riches that bring happiness but happiness that brings riches.”

Josh-MeyerJosh Meyer

What I enjoy about these descriptions is how I try to tie the olfactory to the written. Mr. Meyer has often taken me on a journey of the mind as well as the nose. With An Air of Despair it is when Vivian finds the mink coat in the cedar chest which captures two of the three ingredients in An Air of Despair. There is definitely something missing as far as the fragrance goes because Vivian should have traversed the spice markets of Marrakech for the third ingredient.

Mr. Meyer has taken a desiccated foundation of cedar as the nucleus of An Air of Despair. Cedar is most often used as a woody fixative in the base. There are other perfumes which feature it but not as many as say sandalwood. The cedar Mr. Meyer uses has that quality of carrying the past. It has a sharpness from it being in a high concentration. This time cedar isn’t trying to provide support. This time it is the star of the show. Early on saffron provides the contrast. Another excellent choice as it provides an exotic foil to the upright cedar. After a while a really great animalic musk provides the later stage competition for the cedar. Here it is the smell of the human animal underneath the civilized veneer.

An Air of Despair has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

If you have not tried any of Mr. Meyer’s other Imaginary Authors fragrances an Air of Despair is not the place to start. It is different than most of the others in the line mainly for its simple construction. For those who have been adding each volume to their collection An Air of Despair is an example of Mr. Meyer expanding his skills on something simply constructed; from which he manages to find the pathos to embrace the end of summer and the beginning of fall.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Twisted Lily.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Euphorium Brooklyn Suedois- Lady Nightengale’s Lovers

When it comes to year’s end wrap-up I already know that one of my favorite new lines for this year will be Euphorium Brooklyn. The line created and overseen by Stephen Dirkes is as much fragrance brand as an ongoing story. What has made this so pleasurable for me this year is the level of passion which winds throughout this project. Mr. Dirkes is creating the olfactory equivalent of a Penny Dreadful serial complete with eccentric characters, outlandish scenarios, and fragrances to match.

Earlier this year the first three installments introduced us to the perfumers of the Euphorium Bile Works in Brooklyn. Those first three releases were each tied to one of the personalities. Cilice was the story of Etienne Chevreuil. Wald was Christian Rosenkreuz. Usar was about Rudolph Komodo and his mysterious Komodo Process said to put the euphoria into Euphorium. With each of these there is an extended story on the website. This is what Mr. Dirkes is after; a multi-media artistic effort. It has been very successful to date with me and I was expecting to have to wait for a new chapter but Mr. Dirkes is going to keep giving me chapters to enjoy as there are three more coming before the end of the year. Chapter Four is called Suedois.

Suedois is said to be the first perfume collaboration between the three men of the Euphorium Bile Works. It was inspired by their realization that each of them had had relations with a Swedish opera singer identified in the story only as Miss Lind. The time frame is right for it to be Swedish Nightengale Jenny Lind and so I am making that leap as throughout the story our objet d’amour is only called Miss Lind. Upon her visit to New York in 1852 the three men invite her to visit them where they present her with the perfume made for her called Suedois. Each perfumer has created a phase meant to remind Miss Lind of her time with each of them. After the perfume was presented to Miss Lind it is clear The Komodo Process was strong with this one as the next morning Miss Lind’s attendant found her and the men unconscious in a state of blissful dishabille.

Jenny_LindDaguerrotype  of Jenny Lind c. 1850 by Poly von Schneidau

Suedois the perfume is different from the first three releases as it is now a traditional alcohol based eau de parfume instead of the oils that the first three were. I think this was a very good choice by Mr. Dirkes as Suedois is a much better perfume for being more diffusive in an alcohol formulation. I think as an oil this would have been much too quiet to describe the wanton moment of that night with Miss Lind.

M. Chevreuil is up first as he is responsible for the “Fleur Seudoises” accord on top. It consists of citrus at first as petitgrain eventually gives way to a set of wild flowers. M. Komodo buries his euphoria inducing process underneath a “Peau d’Espagne” accord of spice infused leather. The spices are cardamom, clary sage, nutmeg, and anise. These spices take the animalic aspects of the leather accord and make it something exotic, maybe a little bit dangerous. This is also where M. Komodo’s “Cendana” sandalwood accord really takes hold. It is there throughout the perfume as the spine it is constructed upon but it has a really delightful subtlety throughout. The heart notes somehow display it at its best. The base is by M. Rosenkreuz as he sets the scene with a “Bayerische Crème” gourmand accord. Heavily smelling of raspberry and vanilla it comes off as a decadent berry crème brulee on my skin.

Suedois has 10-12 hour longevity and way above average sillage. This is one to be cautious on how much you spray. On one day I applied my usual six sprays and I felt as if I was the one discovered unclothed by Miss Lind’s attendant. I found half that to still be quite potent.

Suedois is the most complex perfume from Euphorium Brooklyn so far. It is also my favorite as it comes the closest to matching the fanciful prose attached to it. I am just starting on the next chapter, Petales with 100 Tweeds yet to come. Like the 19th century readers I can’t wait for each new chapter from Mr. Dirkes.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Euphorium Brooklyn.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: House of Cards

It has taken me a while to finally catch up on the Netflix series House of Cards. I mostly watched a few episodes on my trans-Atlantic trips. Only recently did I have the opportunity to finally get all the way through the third season.

House of Cards is based on a novel by author Michael Dobbs and a British version of it shown as a 4-episode miniseries in 1990 was written by Andrew Davies. That would have two more 4-episode sequels in 1993 and 1995. This story is of Francis Urquhart who is the Whip of the Conservative Party in the House of Commons. After being snubbed for a desired Ministerial post after helping another man into the post of Prime Minister the story is of Urquhart’s rise to power by destroying those around him. Actor Ian Richardson played Urquhart with a conniving smile hiding the very sharp teeth and mind underneath. His wife Elizabeth was his partner in all of his scheming. The thing which set House of Cards apart was that Urquhart would speak directly to the audience from time to time doing what is referred to as breaking the fourth wall. I watched this series when it first aired and loved everything about it.

House_of_Cards,_season_3,_promo_image

When I heard a few years ago that Netflix has commissioned an American version starring Kevin Spacey. I was intrigued but not enough to go out and get Netflix to see it. Those who read my description of the British version will recognize many of the same themes except in an American setting. Mr. Spacey’s character is Francis Underwood Congressman from South Carolina. He also gets snubbed by an incoming President and decides to take him down. Underwood also speaks to the audience breaking the fourth wall too. For those who have seen the original series many of the same plotlines found their way to the American version.
The two biggest differences was there was much more background given to this version of Francis. We get glimpses of the man who would become the manipulator. Secondly while Urquhart’s wife was a big part of the original series actress Robin Wright has really created a mostly different character in her role as Claire Underwood. It is her performance that has really made the American version so enjoyable for me.

If there was any issue I had with the entirety of the British version and the first two years of the American version was our protagonists had no antagonists worthy of standing up to them. All of the scheming and plotting went down with little hitch. I never believed the adversaries for Frank and Claire were on their level. Season three brought in a number of characters who not only stood up to the Underwoods but manipulated them. I am looking forward to season four because it is not so easy to see these characters being easily dispatched.

House of Cards is an amoral tale of political power and what some will do to get it and keep it. It is well-written by American writer Beau Willimon. The performances by Mr. Spacey and Ms. Wright are as good as it gets. The only slight drawback to these characters is I feel funny rooting for them to have their scheming succeed. It is a nod to the writing that behavior which would make me recoil in real-life kept me binge watching my way through the last two seasons in a week.

Season four will be released in early 2016. I am already looking forward to it.

Mark Behnke