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The completed deck: ‘House of Cards’ moves the past to the present

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One of Netflix’s first original series, “House of Cards,” has finally come out with the latest season after making viewers wait a whole year.

Does the season live up to the hype? Definitely.

The fourth installment of the politically-charged series has ups and downs that are reminiscent of the first season. This season works to dig up the past, reminding viewers of Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara, “The Martian”) and her partner in crime Lucas (Sebastian Arcelus, “The Best of Me”). It also includes some new faces, including Claire’s (Robin Wright, “Weekend Warriors”) sick mother (Ellen Burstyn, “Interstellar”) and some familiar ones from the last season, like Heather Dunbar (Elizabeth Marvel, “The Princess Bride”).

The cast has increased exponentially since the first season, further complicating the situations that they all face and making the plotlines more intricate.

The season offers an odd parallel to the current political election as Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacy, “The Things we’ve Seen”) gears up for a presidential bid. It is a fitting mirror to the brutal process of campaigning for president. This season picks up right where the third one left off – the divide between Claire and Frank Underwood still exists as Frank continues to struggle on the campaign trail. But unlike the previous season, this season moves forward at a pace that’s enjoyable.

In fact, the pace of this season is what makes it great to watch – but not binge. It is better served watching a couple episodes and then stopping, since each is an hour long and content-heavy. It’s refreshing, since it can be so easy to binge-watch less complex shows and it gives the viewer an opportunity to truly enjoy the storyline.

The same way the issues of the past arise in this season, new problems propel the storyline forward. Gun control becomes an issue as television mirrors reality (fighting the “ICO” instead of “ISIS”) and policy and strategy are debated. This element of the show – the actual politics of decision making and sitting on Capitol Hill – are the background to the drama that occurs between characters, but serves as a steady foundation for conflict. Without this necessary, work-related conflict it would be more difficult to create alliances and riffs in ideology amongst characters.

Another new issue that the Underwoods face is a rival couple – the Conways. Will Conway (Joel Kinnaman, “The Killing”) is the seemingly wholesome, perfect military man – an accurate counter to Frank’s God-loving, Southern hospitality attitude. The two square off multiple times as both individuals and as a couple, as they fight for the image that they both want to appear to have.

The season arcs more often than any other, which is another reason why it’s so much more efficient to watch it in smaller doses. The action is what keeps the plot moving but this season in particular is jam-packed with multiple threats of danger, both to Frank’s candidacy and the lives of those who operate in the office.

Overall, the season is effective, more so than the last one and most reminiscent of the first season’s drama. “House of Cards” manages to stay interesting, engaging and relevant among other politically-charged dramas. Though the show has burned a lot of bridges and killed off a lot of characters – then managed to revive them through crafty writing – the season as a whole is a rollercoaster that makes for exciting jump into the next season – which has officially been renewed.

Tori Roseman is the senior features editor and can be reached at tori.roseman@ubspectrum.com


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