“The most binged show on television descends into terror.”
***SPOILER ALERT: Contains spoilers for House of Cards Season 4
It was late friday night when I finally got through the full season of House of Cards, which left the run time for me at exactly one week. Not as impressive as some (I know a few people who did it in the first weekend), but impressive nonetheless. When you watch a show as deeply intriguing as this in such a short span of time, it can be difficult to really process everything that happened, and I’m not quite sure I have yet.
I’ve stayed away from spoilers and other reviews, so I’m not really sure how well this season has been received. Did I enjoy it? Oh hell yes. Was it the finest season this impressive show has pumped out? Hmm, I wouldn’t be saying that. It had some weird flat moments, and some moments that made it really difficult to suspend belief.
In my last review, which finished up after episode 6, I made the bold prediction that the remainder of the season would revolve around the Russians. Boy, did I get that one wrong. Aside from a few mentions, faux-Putin didn’t even appear on screen for the rest of the season. Instead, Frank was pitted against his emerging nemesis, Republican Presidential candidate Will Conway. How much of a worthy adversary Conway is to Frank, varied depending on which episode you were watching. On the surface, Conway is young, fit, healthy, a father with a stunning wife, a former solider and a social media engager; essentially, he is everything Frank is not. But underneath his spotlight-seeking persona, lies a ruthlessness and a thirst for power that mirrors Frank’s own, and we see plenty of examples of this.
The first part of the season set up Claire as Frank’s ultimate challenger, but after Frank’s unfortunate incident with the casual boyfriend of his ex mistress who he threw under a train, the couple found their peace, and the ‘band was back together again.’ Claire’s rise from first lady to Presidential running mate happened so fast and so conveniently, it would be quite easy to slip the viewers mind just how absurd this concept is. The Underwood’s treachery, backstabbing and political scheming was shown in full flight here (one interesting scene saw them both offering the same job to different people at the exact same time), and their ambitious plan to trick everybody into thinking Claire as Vice President was not their own idea, worked absolutely perfectly. Too perfectly. Not only that, but the nation as a whole just seemed to accept it far too easily. First Lady as the Vice-President? Sure, why not?
Show runner Beau Willimon (who sadly will be moving on after this season) has always had a penchant for mirroring real life scenarios within the fictitious world, and season five had it all. The Gun debate and filling a Supreme Court seat during an election year were both addressed, yet the most obvious parallel with reality was the deadly Syrian terrorist organisation with a knack for social media, ICO. Now, I have to say straight up that I found ICO to be silly. Islamic Caliphate Organisation? Really? Organisation? Why not just go Islamic Industries, or the Islamic group of companies, or Caliphate inc? There was just something cheesy about it (maybe it was the font on the ICO flag) and it kind of drew me out of the moment and made me realise “Oh yeah, this is all just made-up pretends.”
The ICO story line did, however, pay off at the very end, and it was here where House of Cards made it’s biggest statement. Old Tom Hammerschmidt – Lucas and Zoe’s former editor at the Washington Herald – spent the back half of the season following up on Lucas’ outrageous claims in his suicide note. Slowly but surely, bit by bit, he starts to piece it all together. By the time Frank and Conway are teaming up to ‘take on the terrorists,’ Tom has managed to get former president Walker, Remy Danton and Jackie Sharp to go on record about President Underwood. It’s all there, the lies, the backstabbing the ruthless rise to presidency… all of it. Oh, except for the Frank killed Zoe and Peter Russo part, for some reason, Tom doesn’t seem to buy into that one. Not even threats from Frank himself can stop the article from going to print. This is it, it’s all exposed, Frank is done for, and he knows it. He has only one card to play.
“We don’t submit to Terror. We make the terror”
And with that final sentence, that followed a live broadcast of an American citizen having his throat slashed, House of Cards leaves us for another year, with a chilling and powerful image, and a disturbing reminder of how big of a part political manipulation plays in the ‘War on Terror.’
Some stray notes:
- Frank’s scene with Cathy Durant where he essentially confesses all his sins, was simply superb. It was both Spacey and Underwood at their absolute powerhouse best. You could see the look in Cathy’s eyes the moment she realises “Oh… you really don’t want to fuck with this guy.’
- How brutal was Freddy’s verbal beating of Frank? Jesus man, just make the man some bloody ribs.
- How brutal was Freddy’s physical beating of Tom Hammerschmidt? Got some anger issues Freddy?
- The only way you could retort a passive aggressive remark like “Do you ever regret not having kids,’ is to coldly reply “Do you ever regret having them?” Claire knows all the words.
- Doug Stamper, the creepiest looking guy on the show, gets all weirdly creepy with the widow of the man he essentially had killed to save the president’s life. Creepy Doug, and weird.
Another season done, and while it did have some annoying moments that I’ve probably over high-lighted here, it was yet another impressive season from one the best shows in the business, and the final image of Frank and Claire really brought it home.