House of Cards S4 E1 “Chapter 40” – TV Review

By: Daniel Chadwick-Shubat

(Spoilers Ahead)

The epitome of good TV is a concept that people can buy into and watch for hours on end. House of Cards has offered that for years, now going into it’s 4th season it has once again proved to be a thoroughly entertaining and addicting show. Many people complained that nothing happened in the 3rd season and this was the creators answer to that complaint. I personally loved last season because we had a chance to get into the politics of the show and that was really important.

But season 4 is a perfect mix because plenty of things happen, dramatically and politically. The first episode “Chapter 40” picks up where we left off and pits Underwood vs Underwood. Claire has now essentially left Frank on the campaign trail and this makes the media start asking a lot of questions. While the audience knows that the problem is the Underwood’s marriage, the Underwood’s maintain that it’s to visit Claire’s mother (the formidable Ellen Burstyn). Frank has Doug but now Claire has her own Doug in the form of Lea-Ann (Neve Campbell).

While Claire is intent on attacking Frank and not even talking to him, Frank knows something that Claire doesn’t and blackmails her. Even his own wife isn’t safe from his vengeance. He finds out that Claire’s mother has terminal cancer so he tells the press that’s why she had to leave the campaign. This builds up certain hate for Frank and fuels the next 4 episodes into a brutal boxing match between Claire and Frank. This is the new and improved House of Cards. It takes no prisoners and doesn’t give you a chance to breathe. From the opening scene where Lucas Goodwin narrates erotica so his bunk mate in prison can beat off to the final scene where we see Claire cry after seeing her mother bald, the first episode of Season 4 is out to prove a point.

The relevance of this season to the current political climate in the U.S. is uncanny and it elevates the show in many ways. The way the show deals with cancer in a very respectful way, showing Claire’s mother, played by Burstyn who is as strong as Claire, if not stronger. You can also see this power couple, that even though they are apart they were meant for each other. They both deeply want to project power and as we see later on in the season, become the most powerful humans on the planet.

Obviously it’s fantastic to see the supporting players back, especially Doug, who took a role on the sidelines during the rollercoaster 3rd season for his character. He no longer has the worry of Rachel and now can fully focus on doing Frank’s bidding, which he does, with unquestioning loyalty.

Verdict: House of Cards returns to the exciting immoral romp that it became known for in the 2nd season. It still offers plenty of politics and drama for everyone, but matches it with a gladiator match for the ages and the return of Frank speaking to the camera on an episode basis. Back are the smooth Fincheresque camera movements, flawless dialogue and exciting cast of supporting characters. The Underwoods are back and better than ever.

Stay tuned for the finale review coming soon…

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