House Of Cards' Monument Valley Appearance: How Frank's Story Relates To Princess Ida's Adventure

By Steve Buja , Updated Feb 28, 2015 09:33 PM EST
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Netflix released the third season of their wonderfully cunning and brilliant original series House of Cards, which focuses on the presidency of Frank Underwood. While the president has been known to indulge in some FPS action because it "gets his adrenaline up", episode five of the season, Chapter 31 of the show had him engaged in one of our favorite games of last year, Monument Valley.

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The reason Frank plays the game is that he was moved by a small review by a well-known novelist in the show. However, there are moving reviews aplenty out there - just look at any review any writer on this site has ever penned - and if it were just about the words, they could have used any more notable game. "Assassin's Creed Unity is, like the era it transports us to, broken and stands upon a knife's edge, delicately balancing between utter chaos and glory." Or some such writerly affectation.

But Monument Valley works within the series because it speaks to the character of Frank and his current position. Nothing as accomplished as House of Cards, and certainly nothing with the exacting touch of David Fincher around it, does anything without careful consideration as to why. Entire departments are used to convey feeling and situations without anyone having to say a single word. That's the magic of movies.

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Frank, like Princess Ida in the Monument Valley, is tasked with great responsibility but lacks the voice to make their wills known. They are each trapped in their own Monument Valley - as fitting a description of Washington DC as any, with the rulers of old ensconced forever watching and judging from their marble perches. A testament to glories past.

It us up to both Ida and Frank to move the world to suit their needs; to twist and bend the path before them, reshaping the landscape to achieve their end. Along the way they will enlist the help of various allies - for Frank it's various Congressmen and Senators, for Ida, it's the semi-sentient blocks that allow her access to unreachable areas.

But like Frank's allies, the blocks are never taken with Ida when she reaches the end. Many are, in fact, sacrificed for her.

And all around, crows impede both their paths, be they actual crows or the machinations and politics of Washington.

Ustwo said in a Tweet that "People have been asking, so we can confirm that MV appearing on House of Cards wasn't paid product placement, just a cool collaboration." Not for the money, but for the art. But, considering that so few of us have actually bought Monument Valley, I'm sure it was most appreciated.

Netflix knows that chess has been overused as a metaphor for strategy. Bergman did that more than half a century ago. But games remain a way of conveying meaning and emotion, and yes: manipulation, and few are better at provoking all of those than Ustwo's Monument Valley.

House of Cards S3 is available now. Watch Frank guide Ida HERE. According to Polygon, Frank also gets a taste of The Stanley Parable later on this season, but I'm not there...yet. I know, I know, the show's been out for more than day! How dare I...

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