The fourth season is out. “House of Cards” went as far from the British original as possible. Its journey is often seen as criticism of the current US politics and as the personification of everything that’s wrong with it. After the events of the third season, where Frank Underwood was the President of the United States, there were piles of questions left hanging in the air. Will Frank and Claire finally divorce each other? Will he be able to stay in the Office? Will any of their sins surface? All these questions are answered in the fourth season, but the answers we got just raised more questions and opened new directions for the story and the characters respectively.
“House of Cards” is often mentioned in the context of the current primaries. An article I’ve read argues that HOC is responsible for the Trump’s ascension since it showed how corrupt elected officials in America actually are. I disagree with that theory. I allow that HOC surely has some influence on younger voters, but I’m not sure that the series itself is responsible for Donald Trump. That’s bigger and more complex issue in which the influences of the series are, in my opinion, overestimated.
However, the show tackles some of the most important questions in the current political debate and it does so with style. As in the previous three seasons Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright are great as the Underwoods and they are the series fuel. If you remember the marital discord in the previous season then you’re fully aware that the consequences of that couldn’t be easily erased. That’s the main reason why the beginning of the season focuses on Underwoods as opponents rather than friends. In that (un)natural situation the writers made things more complicated than they should. I compliment the new members of the cast, since they truly shined and, in these episodes, stole the show from the main characters.
Neve Campbell, “Scream” of the nineties, is here in the intriguing role of Lee Ann Harvey, PR to the First Lady. Her role functions as the main refreshment of the season, and her character poses a threat to the untouchable Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly). Stamper is Underwood’s fiercely loyal Chief of Staff, but he finds some of his past demons are making his way through the season irritatingly difficult.
The reason why the first half of the season worked for me wasn’t in the main couple, in the intrigues, or in the outcome of the primaries. The biggest plus was Ellen Burstyn’s role of Claire’s mother. Burstyn is a great actress, and she stole every scene in which she was in. We could say that the first half of the season was a warm-up for the things to come. That’s because the antagonists weren’t as strong as they were in the end.
The reason why is the Republican presidential candidate. That role was given to an actor known from the “Killing”, US remake of the Scandinavian title, where he plays easy-going, emotional and irresponsible partner with Sara Lund. Joel Kinneman is different here. He is a worthy opponent to Frank Underwood. As if that’s not enough, Frank will have to deal with the opposition in his own party before he can deal with him.
The dirtiness of the political campaign is something we already saw many times in the “House of Cards”. I have to hand it to the creators to succeed because they make dirt fresh every time when it shows up. Frank and Claire will have to find additional strength in their efforts to overcome obstacles this season, and as they’re both pragmatic in nature, state of mind in which “everything is allowed” becomes truly scary.
When you don’t like the way the table is set, turn over the table. That’s the core of the fourth season. In the end Frank and Claire finally turned over the goddamn table. For them, chaos is a natural state of mind. For everyone else, it’s horror. Wars really start like that? Creepy. For some, war is a permanent state. Frank Underwood is one of those. There are many reasons why that’s horrific, but the two most important ones are:
- He is the most powerful man on Earth
- He doesn’t start a war he can’t win, nevermind the victims or consequences.
In the end it would all be good if I could see it only as fiction. As disturbing as it sounds, I can’t be sure. “House of Cards” ended again on a high note. It resonates in the real world, where it never stopped playing.