House of Cards has returned to Netflix and it’s darker than ever.
Gone are the hammy wink-wink-nudge-nudge moments and in their place is a slow-burning, toxic inevitability preceding the increasingly ludicrous events.
The show has carefully absorbed the current political climate and recent developments, but it’s refusing to let us off lightly. There’s very little irony here, or even dark humor.
Instead the viewer is dragged into the Underwood’s dystopia and made to take responsibility through constant reminders from Frank, talking directly into the camera, that we need looking after (by him of course) and brought this on ourselves.
After Claire broke the fourth wall for the first time at the end of the last series, we suspected that there was lots more in store for her.
Did that moment signify the unbreakable bond between Frank and Claire? Did it confirm the evil that was there all along?
Or did it hint at Claire’s imminent descent to the depths that we have seen Frank already stoop?
We know that Claire is cold and calculating, but up until now it’s been Frank that has sullied himself with the dirty practicalities that come with manipulating one’s way to, and through, power.
To recap, we’ve already borne witness to Frank killing on numerous occasions. In the very first episode it was a dog: surely a sign of things to come.
How many people could strangle a dog, even if it had been hit by a car and was dying?
Then it was aspiring Governor of Pennsylvania Peter Russo, and that was only after he’d bullied and broken him to the point of despair.
Next on the kill list was journalist Zoe Barnes. Initially this relationship looked almost equal.
However, soon it became clearer and clearer that it was Frank who held the power, that he was controlling the terms, and ultimately it was him who decided when her life should end by pushing her under a train.
Arguably the most brutal of Frank’s (many) crimes, the quick change in tempo and abruptness of her death contrasted with the carefully manipulated plots we’d seen up until then.
We were left wondering if this was an impulse decision, or merely had the appearance of one, not to mention which of these options would be scarier.
Could Claire be going down the same murderous road? And if so, who will be her victim?
Towards the end on the last series, we saw the Underwoods’ sometimes tumultuous relationship break down completely, with Mrs U. eventually leaving the then-President.
While they reconciled, what exactly does their bond entail? Do they crave power equally, as a unit?
Claire has been seeing speechwriter Tom on the side and this season we’ll find out if this is going to be a happily-ever-after affair. We’re betting not. Perhaps this is where Claire will truly reveal herself.
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