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Review: House of Cards Season 4 Episode 3 & 4

Hype is a powerful tool. Valentine’s Day 2015 and 2016 have showcased two of the most hyped movies outside of blockbuster season in Deadpool and Fifty Shades of Grey. Both received media saturation which translated into mega audience anticipation. But hype only amplifies the overall result.

Deadpool has collected over $650 million internationally for a variety of reasons. It’s got the built-in Marvel audience, it was slated in a not-so-crowded part of the year, there’s a great underdog story behind it and Ryan Reynolds is very sexy. But that doesn’t matter if the film is terrible. Fifty Shades of Grey was terrible. The novel was moral viral than a YouTube video and became the most ubiquitious literature since the final Harry Potter novel. A movie was greenlight and followed many of Deadpool’s cues. Only it was terrible and took out half the categories at this year’s Razzies.

After a few months everyone had an opinion and word of mouth was off the scale. As a result Deadpool soared and Fifty Shades is fighting tooth and nail for sequel funding. The same can be said of the most hyped film of a generation: Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. It will be such a relief when a consensus is reached so the hypotheticals can finally end.

The point is hype is dangerous. Netflix’s rapid rise in the last half-decade was due the hype of original programming. House of Cards is the jewel of their crown and every press conference, stock meeting, business proposal or advertisement the show is namechecked. It’s been placed on a benchmark that seems unobtainable.

As we follow Frank and Claire in the next two episodes it reaches that stratospheric goal. The expansive supporting cast are flexing their muscles now the gut-wrenching personal foundation has been laid.

It’s election time in Frank’s home state and a photograph has surfaced that features his father with a member of the Klu Klux Klan. It draws an immediate parallel to Donald Trump, who is still seen as a viable presidential candidate after not condoning the endorsement of their ex-leader. But the Donald lives in a fantasy land without common sense and is not reflective of House of Cards’ tone. The scenes were filmed months before but it’s still eerie.

Claire and her chief of staff were behind the photo, which ultimately ends his race. She then has the audacity to leave a gift from Francis is the safety deposit box to incite a conversation. Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright shine in a vapid negotiation. It is thrilling that she is this season’s primary antagonist.

The greatest rivalries in literature have not been placed in such a claustrophobic environment. Imagine Superman and Lex Luthor trapped within the same home, forced to appear to the world as though everything was peachy. The hallucinations Frank has of attacking his wife are no exaggeration.

And while it seems a smart woman like Claire would never aim for such a grand goal as the Vice Presidency on her opening salvo it does make terrific drama.

frank-and-claire

                In the background secondary threats fill in the gaps, always on the way to something. House of Cards has this great trick of never really abandoning a plot thread. It plays it to its fullest conclusion, which has caused three or more of Frank adversaries to wind up dead. And still sometimes the plots progress.

One of the greatest twists in recent years in the death of Kate Mara in the show’s second season opener. It changed House of Cards and course-corrected it to focus on Frank and Claire as a duo. Mara’s plot was treading water and there were few options left, but she was a fine talent and vital to the show’s initial success. The repercussions are still felt throughout the series, showcased by her short-term boyfriend and ex-coworker Lucas.

Lucas was imprisoned for trying to expose the president. In this season’s premiere he was released and continued his (rightful) vendetta. In an unexpected move his tragic arc culminated in his death at the hands of Secret Service, but not before he put two bullets in Frank Underwood.

Frank is fighting for his life but his poll numbers will probably increase. Claire’s threat for a divorce has temporarily dissipated and the attack he didn’t even see coming has been resolved, for now. Things are looking up once he steps out from the hospital.

And finally Russia – the pain in his ass. He put ‘spineless Donald’ as his vice-president as a precaution to safeguard the Oval Office. Before the attack Claire angered him and he took it out by antagonising Russia with a show of strength. Currently incapacitated, it is up to spineless Donald to continue this course of action.

Oblivious to the rest of the plot, Donald embraces Claire’s plan to bring season two antagonist China into the fold. It sets a long and dangerous course down the line and makes for thrilling television. The hype is real. House of Cards is Netflix as its core, bingeable best.

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