On Dec. 15 during the Republican debate, a seemingly innocuous campaign ad aired in between questions fielded by the GOP candidates. However, at the end of the thirty second commercial, the viewer sees President Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), not
Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders, sitting in his rightful spot in the Oval Office. “America, I’m only getting started,” says Underwood as he campaigns for re-election in the fourth season of Netflix’s critically acclaimed political drama “House of Cards,” which streamed in its entirety on March 4.
Like other political ads, the “House of Cards” ad boosted morale going into the fourth season. The show picks up right where it left off, with Underwood, the conniving antihero of the series, on the campaign trail in the heat of the primaries trying to sew up the Democratic presidential nomination. However, unlike previous campaigns he’s put together, Underwood is without his wife, Claire (Robin Wright), who walked out on him in the final moments of season three. Underwood continuously provides his own commentary on everything by breaking the fourth wall, an event viewers have come to expect. This breaking of the fourth wall allows a glimpse under the facade that Underwood puts up to avoid suspicion and also adds clarity to confusion.
Claire Underwood’s growing independence from her husband is part of what makes this season one of the best. She fought her way out from under his shadow and plans on running for Congress in her home state of Texas. Her return home isn’t all she expected, though, as she discovers shocking information her mother has kept from her. Wright’s performance is nothing short of extraordinary in her role as both daughter and estranged wife, and many times her negotiation skills and cunning plans even best her husband.
Michael Kelly, whose performance as Doug Stamper, Underwood’s right hand man and chief of staff was the saving grace of the lackluster third season, returns to his typical scheming ways early on in order to help Frank locate his wife and prevent gossip about Frank’s marital status from spreading. Stamper’s typical lack of emotion and monotonous voice remains unchanged, as does his motivation and drive to do whatever it takes to protect the president, even if it means committing murder.
With the return of journalists Lucas Goodwin (Sebastian Arcelus) and Tom Hammerschmidt (Boris McGiver), it appears that Underwood’s numerous skeletons may make their way out of the closet he has them buried in. Nobody believed Goodwin when he first brought these concerns to light in the first and second seasons, but with the addition of solid evidence and the help of some surprising sources from Frank’s past who finally go on the record to help bring him down, this latest foray may just be the perfect storm needed to finally serve Frank the justice he deserves.
Much of the allure of this season is tied to the parallels drawn to the current election. The introduction of the Islamic Caliphate Organization and their role in the final episodes of the season eerily mirrors the actions of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant this past year. Similarly, both President Underwood and President Obama must search for candidates to nominate for a swing seat on the Supreme Court in the election year.
The final shot of the season finale, though chilling and thought-provoking, leaves viewers craving a more definitive ending, as there is no real resolution to the problem ICO presents through the hostage crisis.
After a disappointing third season, the fourth season, minus the finale, exceeds all expectations and brings the show back to its original glory. By focusing more on the main plotlines rather than the subplots associated with them, the showrunners have managed to catapult “House of Cards” into a league of its own.