Netflix’s House Of Cards: A Crisis Of Confidence

If you’re not a fan of this show by the end of the first season, you may as well quit now. House of Cards is one of those shows that is top heavy. Unlike many US dramas, it’s not full of saturated content to bloat it out. To binge or not to binge? That is the question. With any Netflix original series, bingeing is the only way. But that’s coming from a guy who is seasoned in the craft, an art form that is not for the fainthearted. It’s become a ritual for many of us in this exclusive club over the past few years since Netflix took the world by storm, and changed the way in which the world watched television. Alas, season four brings more Underwood mayhem to the fold and it’s an entertaining thread of events indeed.

Season four was not season four at all. In fact, it acts as half a season, as is evident in how it concludes itself. Much alike Viktor Petrov in season three, season four holds a worthy adversary for President Underwood (Kevin Spacey), his wife Claire Underwood (Robin Wright). It took a good shot via an assassination attempt at Frank for their marriage to claw back some of what it was in season one and season two. Though, the more we get into season four, the more we see that their marriage is nothing more than a sham. When you have a husband that is okay with his wife having an affair, you know something is up. Their shared obsession for power far outweighs their need to have a functional marriage.

Frank (Spacey), Claire (Wright), Durant (Jayne Atkinson) and others in Netflix’s House of Cards
(House of Cards, Netflix)

Typically, House of Cards is a reflection of our reality, including political offices using the concept of “terror” to protect themselves. Politicians are kings of hero syndrome. They create the problem, and then miraculously find cures to the said problem at the most convenient times. The Underwoods are cunning. In the White House, they are more dangerous than they have ever been. There was an intelligent use of their skills when they told two different people that they were promised the role of Secretary of State. The irony is bliss, since President Walker had declined Frank the very same position in season one. Great.

Like any TV show, not just political ones, there are elements that are just so outlandish that they can’t be true. Yet, these fruitful fancies are what make House of Cards so damn entertaining. When it comes down to it, I see the show as a docudrama. It’s fiction based on fact, which leaves room for creative license. Such instances include Frank choosing Claire for Vice President after she got hung, drawn and quartered in season three at United Nations. While Hillary Clinton was previously First Lady, that sort of political favouritism is downright insulting. Even for a show that is supposed to be fiction, things like that are just too good to be believable, but I guess that opinion comes from my cynical seasoned mind.

As the president, Frank (Spacey) had to adapt to round the clock care, in the form of security with guns
(House of Cards, Netflix)

Th Underwood-Underwood tag team are playing mixed doubles at Wimbledon, sending fleets of balls. But instead of balls, it’s a boxing match. Whilst one rests, the other puts on the gloves to give their opponents a further thrashing, sucker punching their enemies every so often just for fun. It’s blood sport in every sense. Though, it’s because of these unbelievably fictional moments that make this show so entertaining and so bingeable. The outlandishness heightens this show’s appeal, rather than the opposite. House of Cards is the show that introduced me to Netflix’s slate, of now epic original programming. And House of Cards is one of the few shows that has remained consistently good in its run. Not one bad season. Not one!

I enjoyed Joel Kinnaman (The Killing) as Frank’s Republican opponent Gov. Will Conway. If Underwood is Supreme Leader Snoke, than Conway is Kylo Renn, a child in Frank’s eyes but still powerful and can’t pack a punch. He comes across as Frank’s padawan, who is as cunning and calculating as he is, remorselessly using social media to enhance his public image and political agenda. It’s a plan that only Frank would be able to execute with such precision. He may be young but he’s a machine. Kinnaman gives a strong performance as the baby-faced Conway and I thoroughly enjoyed his arc. Joel Kinnaman is criminally underrated, and needs to be judged on more than Rick Flagg in the Oscar-winning Suicide Squad.

If Kevin Spacey is Sherlock Holmes, than Robin Wright is The Woman AKA Irene Adler
(House of Cards, Netflix)

There are no good characters in this show. The ones there were, are now dead or irrelevant. We had Zoe Barnes and Rep. Russo (Corey Stoll). Then there was Freddy, who was pushed to the side by Frank, and Lucas Goodwin was also ousted. House of Cards shows that the lives our characters lead are only full of bad people and badder ones. Season four is brilliant, even if it fills my gut full of despair. With excellent performances and and great narrative, season four is the best season since the first.

“You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

Harvey Dent