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Frank Underwood 2016: ‘House of Cards’ Season 4 Review

Jessica Morris ‘19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey in House of Cards. Photo Credit: Netflix
Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey in House of Cards. Photo Credit: Netflix

There is much about Netflix’s House of Cards to commend when, despite witnessing the Underwoods deceive and murder their way to the top of the political pyramid over several seasons, the show manages to keep viewers rooting for both Frank (Kevin Spacey) and Claire (Robin Wright). The fourth season of the show, which was released March 4th on Netflix, is no different. While their relationship is at first tested in the new season, all is resolved when both realize they are perhaps each other’s most profitable political allies. The bulk of the season then follows Frank’s quest to be elected president in the 2016 general election. However, Frank finds himself tested by Republican candidate Will Conway (Joel Kinnaman).

Drama abounds in this season, more so than in previous seasons. Claire and Frank spend the first few episodes of the thirteen-episode season in bitter rivalry, because Claire hopes to concentrate on her own political career rather than Frank’s. Then, Frank nearly dies from an assassination attempt by Lucas Goodwin (Sebastian Arcelus), a begrudged former reporter for the Washington Herald, who is desperate to prove Frank’s corruption. Edward Meechum, a secret service agent and Frank’s trusted friend and sometimes lover, is killed during the attempt instead. After Frank receives a liver transplant, he recovers, and Claire reveals her desire to run as his vice president, a plan which Frank first refutes before scheming to help secure her nomination. Meanwhile, Tom Hammerschmidt (Boris McGiver) manages to gather compelling evidence of Frank’s wrongdoings and releases his findings to the public. A rising terrorist threat and a hostage situation further challenges Frank’s electability against Conway.

This is a very broad overview, but also a basic recap of the major events of the season. Clearly, this season was jam packed with shocking moments and revelations. While the events of the previous season at times moved slowly, season four never suffered the same affliction. However, while exciting, that doesn’t mean every plot point of the season worked for the show’s viewers. But at least there’s no denying that season four of House of Cards made for good television.

Kevin Spacey in House of Cards. Photo Credit: Netflix
Kevin Spacey in House of Cards. Photo Credit: Netflix

During such a convoluted election year, it’s nice to unwind with a fictional political campaign. Still, while fiction it may be, House of Cards has always tried to maintain some shred of realism. Yet this season there were plenty of moments where audiences found themselves doubting the logistics of a situation. For instance, while it’s not necessarily out of character for Claire to set her eyes on the vice presidency, the idea of the First Lady doubling as VP is hard to buy. Sure, the Underwoods make it seem as though the nomination can be accredited to the will of the party, but how could such a dynamic even be possible? Realistically, having Claire on the ticket with Frank would scream of nepotism and probably hurt rather than help Frank’s candidacy.

There is also the question of Will Conway as a viable opponent against Frank. Viewers are expected to believe Frank has finally met his match with Conway. He is significantly younger than Frank, a veteran, and a family man. Voters are flocking to his side. This is all believable. But, it is hard to find Conway’s threats and attempts at intimidating Frank convincing. For one, Joel Kinnaman  seems miscast in this role. At only thirty-six years old, Kinnaman is barely old enough to be president and looks it too, which is distracting for the viewer. And while passable as Conway, it is difficult for Kinnaman to hold his own against Kevin Spacey, an actor who has mastered the art of the monologue.

Robin Wright in House of Cards. Photo Credit: Netflix
Robin Wright in House of Cards. Photo Credit: Netflix

Overall though, the season works well. Again, it is fast-paced, which makes binge watching the season feel both rewarding and enjoyable. There is, however, the question of how much longer House of Cards can continue. With Hammerschmidt’s article threatening to expose the Underwoods once and for all, and the real possibility that Conway will win the election over Frank, where will House of Cards go from there? There is no stone left unturned for the Underwoods and nothing they won’t do to maintain or increase their power and yet, House of Cards’ fans love them for it. But, will the Underwoods continue to rise, or are they bound to fall?

Perhaps next season will be the last, and Frank and Claire (or at least Frank) will be brought down finally. The only thing for certain is that viewers can’t wait to find out what happens next. No worries of course, there’s only about a year to go until season 5 premieres.

Season Grade: A-

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