House of Cards Chapter 4 is the antithesis of Chapter 3. Chapter 4 is dark, impudent, thoroughly entertaining, and most importantly, moves the story forward. Very far forward. Frank Underwood has been pulling some favors and strings (and some blackmail) to put people in power that he wants so he will have friends in high(er) places that will owe him big favors when the time comes.
Where previous episodes have had some really great moments of suspense, grit, great performances and edginess, this episode was really able to tie all the elements into one explosive episode. This is kind of like the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll episode, it just has it all. To start with, we finally begin to see what has been going on at Claire’s charity. As we assumed earlier, San Corp. was, at one time, pulling some strings on Frank in turn for their large contributions to Claire’s organization. They clearly have a haunting past and have come back to try and weasel back into Franks game plan. Though by the end of chapter 4 San Corp. may seem out of the picture, I can virtually guarantee that is not the case. The way Frank desperately tries to avoid them again, even going so far is to give a not so subtle “gift” to Claire to expressly express his feelings on the matter shows that there is drama to be had here.
This episode primarily revolves around a Congressional bait and switch that is a little complicated, politically speaking, but if you pay close attention you can keep track of the goings on. Spacey is on his game in this episode. In earlier episodes I would sometimes have believability issues here and there, but there was no hint of that in this episode. And the 4th wall comments to the audience were scarcely distracting, as they often can be, but in fact, very insightful. Peter Russo (the rogue Rep from PA) is traveling further and further down the rabbit hole Frank has laid in front of him, giving him near impossible choices between his demons being unmasked or betraying family and friends to be Franks “good doggy”. He obviously is realizing the extent of his mistakes and you get a real feeling that he could easily become the type of character to betray Frank, even at his own expense. His despair is very well portrayed and kudos to Corey Stoll are in order.
The culmination of some brilliant double agent stuff on Franks part has lead to the eventual ousting of the Speaker of the House. While that may not sound extremely interesting, the way in which it is written, edited and planned makes it extremely satisfying. I suppose I should feel more ashamed to be pulling for someone so corrupt, but the show barely has anyone who is not in some way compromised and dirty. When Frank and Birch (the Speaker of the House) deliver the ultimatum to a completely surprised and shell-shocked Russman (schmuck) it just feels good, no matter how corrupt it may have been.
Then we come to the surprise ending. Up to this point Frank and Claire have seemed more or less like autonomous, celibate robots when it comes to intimacy, but that radically changed this episode. The only problem was that it was not with each other. While I did not assume sex would have no role in this show, I just did not see this coming for some reason. Claire walks a razor thin line which she manages to navigate successfully in order to get out unscathed, in a matrimonious sense, though it definitely shook her up. Part of the reason she walked the straight and narrow had a lot to do with Frank showing some devotion and expressing his feeling that she does not need anyone else in this world besides him, sexually or otherwise. While, ironically, he strays on the most surreal of whims to have an intimate encounter that seemed more like a business transaction than anything else. Given the relationship, however, it only seems fit, and in fact was very effective and somehow managed to be kind of hot.
If I have been waiting for this show to give me a reason to venture into the second act of the series, this episode was it. A job well done.