Monday, March 7, 2016

House of Cards - Season 4

After a rather disappointing third season, House of Cards marks a return to form in the latest season. This show has been a commentary on the real-life political landscape, and some aspects are so close to the ugly truth, that it leaves a bitter grin on your face.

Season four is presented in three arcs: episodes 1-6, 7-10, and 11-13. So for those who binge watch the show (probably the most of the audience), they can take a breather after each arc. The first one tries to tie up the conflict from season 3; more specifically, the feud between Frank and Claire. Claire Hale-Underwood was one of my favourite tv characters in seasons 1 and 2. She was an equal partner and her relationship with Frank was real, honest, and perhaps simply, "perfect". In season 4, a data analyst says that this partnership is what every marriage strives to become. But in season 3, the writers (led by Beau Willimon - the showrunner) tried to make a few changes to the character and made her an arrogant, ungrateful, and self-righteous serpent exploiting her position. She blackmailed Frank into making her an ambassador (considering everyone in the government was against it), and then she got super emotional and ruined the deal with the Russian President Petrov (Lars Mikkelsen), and she didn't even apologize for her terrible mistake... The first arc of season 4 continues on the same trait, and shows how ignorant Claire can be. She is of course a competent politician, but her scheme didn't make sense at all. She seemed to have forgotten that the reason anybody listens to her is because of her position as wife of the president. By attacking Frank, she was also burning her own platform - but she was blind not to see it... In one of the episodes in this arc (I guess 3 or 4), Frank broke the fourth wall and told us the story of his neighbour who used to run away and hide in his tree-house. Frank, finding boy to be ungrateful and ignorant of his blessed life, cut down the tree to teach him a lesson. This gave me hope that Frank would teach Claire a lesson as well, but contrary to his character, Frank surrendered...

Trying to ignore this feud and how it was resolved, I enjoyed the rest of the season: The partnership is back to where it was in seasons 1 & 2, and they try to complement each other. The adversary in the back half of the season is William Conway (Joel Kinnaman) - who is a parody of the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau. Conway has a beautiful family, savvy in exploiting social media to his advantage, and as power-hungry as Frank. The character was interesting and well-written, but the actor was not 100% convincing.

Overall, Conway was a worthy adversary for Frank, and their mind-games were fun to watch. Speaking of things fun to watch, I should mention the last three minutes of the season finale. Underwoods' (Frank and Claire) last strategy for keeping their head above water was pungent, and at the same time, too close to reality. It was a return to the badassery (if that is a word) of Underwoods from seasons 1 and 2. Of course it is expected that as the president he cannot be as reckless as he was before, and that is something dearly missed from the show, but it is fun to see evil Underwoods again in the last moment of the finale.

A comment about the show in general: although it is intriguing and didn't frustrate me at all, I can't help thinking that they are dragging this show. The first two seasons covered a longer period of time (maybe one year each), whereas seasons three and four seem to happen within one year. American tv shows try to milk the cow for as long as possible... but this show deserves to go while it is still on top (before it jumps the shark). So I hope they will finish it next season. But Beau Willimon leaving his duties as the showrunner and being replaced by people on his writing staff, give the impression that Netflix wants more than one more season. I should note that the BBC version of House of Cards (the source of the current Netflix show), had three seasons, with four episodes in each season (i.e. a total of 12 episodes) - so far, Netflix has produced 52 episodes. And as they say, too much of a good thing can make you sick...

My score for season 4 of House of Cards: 8/10.

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