As my time today is very limited due to some cool developments, I quickly wrote out this review for you guys. So sorry, if it’s not perfectly written. I hope it does it’s service.
House of Cards returned to Netflix for its fourth season, picking up where the last left off. Last season, Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood was settling into his first term after rising to the post due to the president’s resignation. Only six months in, Underwood begins to realize the presidency doesn’t hold as much power as he had hoped. Ending up with Claire (Robin Wright) having uttered the four words: “I’m leaving you, Francis.”
Last year’s limp wonkery and diplomatic crises have given way to rapid-fire storylines reminiscent of Homeland‘s adrenalized early seasons. President Underwood is still backed into a corner on multiple fronts, but he seems rejuvenated and ready to fight his way out thanks to a nemesis that brings out the best of the worst in him: his own wife. As the First Lady angles in pursuit of her own ambitions, back-stabbing (or front-stabbing) anyone who dares stand in her way, it generates the kind of electricity that’s been missing on this show ever since Frank moved into the Oval Office. At one point a character utters, “The Underwoods never cease to amaze.” That wasn’t so true last year, but it definitely applies now. But Frank is still a shadow of season one’s devilish puppet master. The White House has worn on him. Even at his most entertainingly diabolical, he is no longer the most compelling figure on screen, that title would go to Claire, who may well be surpassing her husband as House of Cards‘ center of gravity.
Suprisingly, Robin Wright took the directing helm for a majority of episodes during this season. I must say she really impressed me with that. The episodes that really stood out were the episodes she directed. Directing with a great pace, patience and getting out the best performances from the cast and performing her own character to absolute brilliance. Robin Wright is slowly becoming my favourite thing about this show.
The absence of Beau Willimon’s writing was obvious during the first part as Melissa James Gibson and Frank Puglies writing felt and sounded very average. As some of you may know, this is Beau Willimon’s last season, but it really felt he left before this season even began, giving the spotlight to the show’s new runners Melissa James Gibson and Frank Puglies. Out of all the new writers the one that impressed me the most appears to be the writer’s assistant of the show Tian Jun Gu and his script of Episode 11. I hope they give him more episodes next season because his writing is very comparable to his boss Beau Willimon. Writing out great and clever dialogue on every character in that episode. I hope this also serves the new runners to up their game, because if your assistant is out writing you, you should be worried.
As its obvious by now, I enjoyed the second half of the season more than the first. While the battle of wits did provide some much needed character development for Claire (we get to see how intelligent and ruthless she is, and why Frank needs her so much), the stalemate between the two characters meant the plot moved forward painfully slowly. The second half of the season dips slightly into the old “House of Cards” sauce, triggering its course with a mysterious and lengthy plot meant to make fans giddy with excitement (and earning it, for the most part), but also upping the ante, in a way, regarding one of Frank and Claire’s more daring sexual endeavors. But the problem is that I actually hate that the season feels like two separate parts, feeling like the first part was resolving Season 3’s disappointing ending and Season 4 actually starting up after six episodes, making the second storyline feeling a bit to short and cut out. I do hope they continue the pace Willimon left them at that excellent written season finale, which also happens to be my favourite episode of the entire season.
The season’s closing message is one that harkens back to America’s recent past while serving as a warning for its future. It’s final shot is absolutely brilliant and felt even a bit terrifying. Willimon can move on with his head held high, knowing he’s successfully progressed “House of Cards” from a rich soap to serious drama. I can’t wait to see what he does next. I just really hope the new show runners up their writing game for Season 5.
House of Cards (Season 4) gets a 7.8/10.
+ Brilliant final shot.
+ Beau Willimon’s last written episode.
+ Robin Wright’s directing and acting performance.
+ Tian Jun Gu’s writing in Episode 11.
+ Frank’s “hallucinations”.
+ Paul Sparks performance as Tom Yates.
– Disappointing first half of the season.
– Mid-Season’s story switch.
– Joel Kinnaman as an ‘American’ politician.
– Neve Campbell pointless character LeAnn Harvey.
– Kim Dickens disappearance of the show after mid-season.