Jan 11, 2017

[TV] House of Cards: Season 4

The third season of House of Cards ended with a pretty striking dramatic moment that certainly promised a major shift in the power dynamics of the Underwoods. Sure, Frank and Claire's relationship was always more one of political convenience rather than open and honest affection, but that always worked for them. The increasing tensions related to Frank's role of President plus other pressures at home finally came to a head.

This fourth season really made the most of  2016 being an election year by tying the story to Frank's own re-election campaign. It was an earnest effort to draw some parallels with the political situation in the US. Sure the candidates weren't exactly the same as the actual folks who ran for president, but there were interesting touches here and there.

The third season ended with a jarring shock but this one built up to a different sort of moment of triumph. But then what else do we expect from the Underwoods, eh?

Synopsis: House of Cards is an American political drama created by Beau Willimon as based on the BBC mini-series of the same name. The has one again been confirmed by Netflix for another season.

The rift between Frank (Kevin Spacey) and Claire (Robin Wright) is becoming noticeable while Frank is on the presidential campaign trail as she remains apart from him the entire time. Frank's efforts to reach out to her aren't received well as Claire begins to undertake a journey of her own.

This season also introduces the Conways Will (Joel Kinnaman) and Hannah (Dominique McElligot) as Will is the current Governor of New York and has been selected as the Republican presidential nominee. Where the Underwoods might play their cards close to their chest, the Conways try to appear open by sharing a lot of their life via social media videos and other modern communication channels. And the public quickly takes a shine to them versus the clearly divided Underwoods.

What I Liked: This season really goes further to examine the relationship of Frank and Claire and what brought them together. And it does this by first showing them apart and struggling to keep their eyes on the ball while maneuvering their respective spheres of influence. Bringing in Neve Campbell as the Texas political analyst LeAnn Harvey, who is brought in support Claire's own plans for the future. Claire without Frank is still pretty formidable.

Even as we watch them fall, the Underwoods are fascinating creatures. They were already great together in prior seasons and this season shows how strong they remain divided. For the most part it looks like all is lost and things will never go back to where they used to be. But then we are all reminded of what brought Frank and Claire together in the first place.

Power.

What Could Have Been Better: The Conways were an interesting addition to the cast but also an odd one that seemingly came out of nowhere. We already had so many political players active in the past seasons including a few presidential candidates. The Conways, like their campaign, felt rather artificial - designed to act as foils against the Underwoods by being the version of them that knows how to play to the public better.

And I'm really tired of Doug (Michael Kelly) and his shenanigans. She's a hell of an actor, sure, but his character is just so terribly self-destructive, it seems a wonder that he remains in the good graces of Frank and his administration. Sure he had a struggle to get back in the last season but in this one he seems to quickly fall back into his usual antics.

TL;DR: House of Cards continues to redefine what a political drama can become by crafting such powerful characters to carry things forward. And more and more of the supporting team feel relevant as the Underwoods gather more and more power to themselves. Thus the season gets 4 jarring moments of conflict and confrontation between Frank and Claire out of a possible 5.


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