Tuesday, 28 November 2017
House of Cards, Season 4 (2016)
I generally watch shows and write their reviews 6-10 weeks before the reviews actually get posted. Normally that doesn't really matter, but in this case there were some rather ugly revelations about leading actor Kevin Spacey that will inevitably cast a deep shadow over this show. With the exception of this paragraph and one edit in the final paragraph (which I've marked as such), this review remains as I originally wrote it, before the news about Spacey became known.
Frank Underwood is President of the United States, which you'd think would be a pretty sweet position to occupy, but it's proving a thorny throne indeed. He's fighting a bitter selection battle within his own party, and even if he prevails in that he's staring down the barrel of a formidable Republican candidate in the younger, more glamorous William Conroy. It's really not a good time for reporters to be sniffing around some of his shadier past dealings, or for his relationship with his wife - usually the main foundation of his strength - to be on the rocks.
But there's an old saying about never backing a rat into a corner, and when the chips are down, Frank is certainly as mean as rattus rattus, and might well be at home in a pack of James Herbert's murderous, man-eating rodents.
A couple of times in the past I have praised the US House of Cards for taking a longer form approach to story telling than that of the UK original, because I felt that Francis Urquhart (as he was named in that version) had things go his way rather too easily, overall. The risk of such longer form tales though is that they can begin to collapse under their own weight, and I think the structure of House of Cards is definitely starting to look a bit shaky here in its fourth season. The need to "outdo" what has come before in terms of bastardry and machination is definitely starting to tell on the series overall plausibility.
Now if you're a fan of the show, (edit) and you're not completely put off by the recent news about Spacey, (end edit) then I still think it is worth watching, even at this stage. The performances remain strong, and there is certainly some black humour to be found in the various sordid events. But the shine has gone off the show just a little.