By Alex Neupert, Sports Editor
As primary season is in full swing, “House of Cards” offers a lot for the politically interested viewership. Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright once again boast strong performances in the show’s fourth season as the powerful and meticulous Frank and Claire Underwood, the duo that have continuously persevered through the grime and muck to rise to their esteemed positions. Intrigue pervades the show as always, and journalists from the show’s early seasons have found their way back into relevancy, serving as plot engines for both this season and possibly the next.
It is true that “House of Cards” continues to be a show worthy of binge-watching and has definitely improved on what was a tedious third season—a low point for the series that focused more on the Putin stand-in than it needed to. However, the show is also increasingly embracing its role as more of a typical drama, and the soapiness is beginning to seep through the notion that it represents, in any way, the true machinations of the political world.
Like the first three seasons, the fourth season of the Netflix series touches on several issues from our own political environment, including an ISIS substitute, references to the challenging task of filling a Supreme Court position, and, of course, the first lady’s more direct foray into politics, an easily-sighted allusion to Hilary Clinton’s transformation from president’s wife to much more. As much as the show would like to be taken seriously, though, based on the immediate relevance of these and other plot points, it dips its toes too often into the realm of fiction that—especially for a binge-watcher—begins to feel very forced and especially fanciful.
In the one season alone, there are two instances where strong political opponents of the Underwoods, with obvious upper hands in these scenarios, have silly lapses of judgment that culminate in the dissolution of their presidential aspirations. It is a bit of a stretch to suggest that one candidate would receive such luck over the course of his career, especially one with as many dirty dealings as Underwood. Furthermore, Frank’s assertion that a politician would “drown a litter of kittens for ten minutes of primetime” seems doubtful at best. Either the show has deluded itself into believing what it shows of the political machine, or it is trying its best to provide an entertaining and scheme-filled drama.
The latter is probably more true.
To be fair, this is not really a knock against “House of Cards,” as it has definitely embraced this line of play more as the show has gone on. For all the detractors that continually note the show’s false representation of politics and the fantastical situations that arise throughout, it is very likely that everyone has simply read the show wrong from the get go. Because of the hard-hitting cast and the Emmy nominations, viewers and critics alike have been led to believe the show wanted to be seen as a mirror of our own corrupt government. It would seem that the series’ creators were always leaning towards more of a soap opera than anyone thought.
All this in mind, the fourth season does a very good job of keeping the plot moving and the content interesting. Frank gets to face off against a politician very like himself—cunning, ruthless, and utilizing social media to advance his image and agenda—and Claire gets to assert herself further as a political powerhouse. The big point this season failed to do, however, was provide a satisfying conclusion. It felt very much like a ‘Part One’ movie, wherein there is a massive buildup with little, if any, payoff. A plot point that in a normal weekly aired program would last months of viewership was left up in the air at the season’s conclusion. Obviously, this points toward a fifth season, but it would have been nice to see a story arc come to fruition. Despite this, the fourth season of “House of Cards” is pretty satisfying and quite an improvement over the third, moving the show in a promising direction.
The Current’s score: B+