House of Cards’ Underwood Evil as Ever, Show Takes Fantasy Turn, Presenting Sane, Electable Republican

house of cards 4aThis is The Monday Line
by Denis G. Campbell

House of Cards Season Four dropped on Friday so every free moment was spent taking in the thirteen 45-minute episodes in about 36 hours. Just as I did last year, I could not get enough of Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood and Robin Wright as his long-suffering wife Claire.

The good news? The feud of Season Three ends quite spectacularly thanks to the rise of several deliciously powerful women. Ellen Burstyn is spectacular as Claire’s long-suffering mother and Cecily Tyson as Texas Congresswoman Doris Jones steals the show. And, it was refreshing to see no fewer than six very powerful roles for women in a series that continues to break new ground. Robin Wright once again took up the directorial role of several episodes and they are fantastic and visually rich.

I liked the tonal shift in Frank as he was far less explosive and far more sinisterly dangerous. There are many surprises this time around as beloved cast members left the show quite spectacularly and others we thought were long gone, returned as the web of deceit and lies began to close in on the Underwoods. In typical fashion they turned the table over and replied by doubling down with brilliant ‘all or nothing’ counter-attacks.

There are several moments where you think the jig is up and the Underwods will finally get theirs in the neck, so it seems. And in the end they do not just wriggle out, they utterly destroy their challenger. One can only imagine how Richard Nixon would have loved Frank Underwood. His dirty tricks were pale by comparison.

dem and repubThe show also ripped story lines from recent headlines. Reference to privilege replacing someone on a transplant list immediately harkened one back to Dick Cheney at age 70 miraculously topping the list for a new heart. Nearly every other reference was ripped from recent political papers, except for the lunacy of The Donald, Cruz and Rubio comparing their ‘member’ sizes and a GOP Senate led by McConnell, Cruz and the Tea Party none of which exists in Underwood’s 2016 run. You get the feeling by inference that if a Trump or Cruz ever surfaced on the programme, he would crush them under his boot and spit in what was left of their faces. Any man who would open Season Three by pissing on his own father’s grave, would revel in the chance to destroy these clowns.

And what was most refreshing? You had two parties fighting each other with good old fashioned respect and bare knuckles, rather than allowing ideology to destroy their party from within. Joel Kinnaman as the youthful New York Governor and Republican Presidential nominee, Will Conway, was pure, but welcome, fiction. It was as if the writers poked fun at The Donald and the current GOP implosion the only way they knew how by creating someone who could never be nominated by the current far right wing incarnation of the party.

Conway’s youth and vigour (as well as his own lovely scheming wife and picture postcard perfect two young children) are the anti-Frank and Claire. The tension is palpable especially in the last episodes of this season where Frank schools the young Republican. You almost found yourself rooting for Conway, which is exactly what the writers want, before the evil Underwoods place a boot on their throats and assert absolute power.

house of cards castThe cliffhanger ending and strategy is so deliciously devious it will most certainly sweep the Underwoods back into the White House, shocking the nation into fear, anger, war and action in support of their President on live television. Now where have we seen that before?

Honestly, I could not stop watching this entire car crash season, devouring it in less time than it took to watch the last season. You always know The Underwoods will find a way to win, but how they get there is delicious, genius deviousness. I was disappointed with Frank shouting his way through Season Three, now I cannot believe I must wait 364 days for the release of Season Five.

Well done House of Cards.

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