House of Cards season 4 offers hope of a return-to-form

At this point, fans of House of Cards should know what the show is all about. The Emmy-winning Netflix series presents itself initially as a smart, insider political drama, but in actuality, it is a primetime soap. In essence, House of Cards is a guilty-pleasure without the guilt—the best kind.

The change began in season one, and made the full shift after the shark-jumping but shocking death of reporter, Zoe Barnes. Once that happened, the show left any chances of coming back to reality.

If you accept the devil’s contract, the entertainment value and accessibility of the series ropes its viewers in and doesn’t let go.

Of course, the other core component that makes people return to their streaming devices is the hypnotic acting of the award-winning duo Kevin Spacey, playing Frank Underwood, and Robin Wright, playing Clare Underwood. Unfortunately for fans, the seemingly inevitable showdown, foreshadowed constantly between the two at the end of season three, doesn’t come to fruition.

Instead, the continuing alliance allows new but meager challenges to the cartoon-like villain that is President Underwood. These challenges came about constantly in seasons past, but none seemed to actually be a threat to the untouchable Underwood. This meant that only two things kept viewers returning to their computer screens – the fantastic performances from Spacey and Wright and the fantasy-like political conspiracies and excitement. Left to these devices, the show may have run its course.

But in season four, HOC fully embraces its soap-opera ways, jumping the shark multiple times, and offers substance in a downfall to Underwood’s tyranny—himself.

The show’s biggest mistake after season one was trying to find a worthy adversary to Underwood’s power, only to be crushed under the ring on his finger he lightly taps on the desk habitually.

Instead, HOC recognizes no one matches the dastardly ways of Underwood, so it stops the head-to-head and shifts to the internal.

With Underwood’s demons finally catching up to him, the show feels fresh again, resembling the path cult-hit, LOST, took after having a critically-acclaimed first season, only to flounder in its extremes. LOST, like HOC, had a renaissance near the end of its run, re-gaining critical interest and leaving its audience wanting more.

In addition, the guest appearance by Oscar-winning Ellen Burstyn gives Spacey and Wright a worthy opponent to share dialogue with, even occasionally stealing scenes from the two. That’s something we haven’t seen since Corey Stoll guest starred way back in the inaugural season.

As HOC takes a year off until its fifth and possibly final season, the show reinvigorates itself through a return to inner conflicts and spectacular theatrics.

Yet it remains to be seen if the series takes a glorious final bow, or ends up getting pushed into the subway before the curtain call.

-Josh Svetz

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