Listening to Kevin Spacey in “House of Cards,” you feel as though you’re hearing the devil himself, in his most seductive and shrewd incarnation. His words have a pretty Southern curl, and he is as graceful as a poet with every syllable he speaks. But his not-pretty message is: Hurt me and I will destroy you. Somehow, his pleasing cadence makes even his character’s mercy killing of an injured dog — which he does by hand — seem a little less brutal.
Spacey, as vengeful congressman Francis Underwood of South Carolina, is one of the many pleasures of this promising remake of the 1990 BBC series based on Michael Dobbs’s novels. He delivers a commanding performance as an elegant man who doesn’t take betrayal lying down and who plays members of the House like a scrappy con artist. When the president-elect, whom Underwood backed, reneges on his promise to make Underwood the secretary of state, Underwood begins to orchestrate a quiet, crafty retaliation. You sympathize with him, but you fear him, too. Hell hath no fury like a US congressman scorned.