When House of Cards first debuted in 2013, it sparked a movement that would redefine television. The first Netflix original to receive both critical acclaim and a cult following, House of Cards proved that great TV no longer needed to be on television. The mass release of episodes helped to create the binge movement for new programming, no longer limited to older shows.
The first season was welcomed with a plethora of critical praise, revered for it’s dark twisted tone and commentary on American Politics. Frank and Claire Underwood (Kevin Spacey and Robin Wight), a sadistic and manipulative power couple, served as a dark satire to political ambition and couples who embody it. The critical response was well deserved given the show’s superior writing and stellar performances.
However, as the show continued, the sharp and engaging story lines began to fall flat, especially when compared to the remarkable first season. The second and third seasons found Frank in much more vulnerable state for good portions of the show. While he never lost his sadistic, manipulative edge, Frank’s power began to falter. Additionally, the side story lines became more and more uninteresting, with an emphasis on characters that lacked complexity to stand alone. While this is needed to create conflict, it was unlike his utter dominance that propelled the first season.
Season 4 is able to fix these dilemmas and create a narrative that pulled the audience in, just as the first season had done. Frank Underwood is once again an unstoppable force, yet his wife strives to undermine his power, creating an enthralling struggle between the two. Many of the clunky side stories were abandoned to allow for a more unified narrative. In the midst of a presidential election in reality, the political commentary is more relevant and relatable than in previous years. The new season excels where the others fell flat, bringing House of Cardsback to the top of my Netflix queue.