TV review: House of Cards – Season 4, Netflix (4 stars)

TV review: House of Cards – Season 4, Netflix

Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright return in the sharp political drama

House of Cards helped legitimise video on demand and streaming services. The first Netflix Original series to garner universal critical praise. A powerhouse political drama set behind the scenes at the White House following Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) and his assent to power. HoC's cleverest tick is that despite committing some undeniably evil acts you still kinda like Frank. It's the way he breaks the fourth wall, directly addressing the viewer, drawing you into his schemes, confiding in you. It's a career best performance from Spacey, terrifying yet still effortlessly charismatic.

With the current presidential race in America the return of House of Cards couldn't be more timely. Frank is on his own campaign trail seeking the endorsement of the Democratic party to stand for election. The end of the last series saw Frank losing many of his greatest allies and most shockingly of all his wife, Claire (Robin Wright), announced she was leaving him. However political pitbull, Chief of Staff and Frank's staunchest ally Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) is back after his enforced sabbatical.

Leaks, backroom deals and treachery breed paranoia. Frank's backed into a corner, attacked from all sides, but you know what they say about wounded animals being the most dangerous. Claire and Frank circling each other like sharks. Frank is a master manipulator, as he proves with a subtly devastating play in episode two. Claire can be just as ruthless fighting back just as dirty the following episode. These are people who will exploit almost any event for a couple of points in the polls. Who will hold their nerve in this high risk game of political poker? Meanwhile spin and PR manages the public perception of their lives, highlighting the massive disconnect between the media image and reality.

And that's exactly where House of Cards is so effective. It isn't afraid to tackle the ugly face of power brokering, journalism, big business and pressure groups and the complicated interrelations between these factors that fuels modern politics.

Past crimes have a way of catching up with you and season four might be the tensest yet. We don't want to ruin any upcoming surprises but believe us something big happens that throws Frank's life into chaos. Spacey and Wright are at the top of their game, in lesser hands they could be figures of hate, but they give Frank and Claire such depth that you understand (even if you don't support) their motives. There are also a couple of great additions to the cast with Ellen Burstyn as Claire's mother and Neve Campbell as a tough campaign manager. Four seasons in and House of Cards hasn't lost its edge it's still one of the sharpest, darkest dramas on TV.

House of Cards season 4 is available on Netflix from Fri 4 Mar.

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