Netflix UK TV binge review: House of Cards Season 4, Episode 13
Chris Bryant | On 06, Apr 2016
Catch up with our House of Cards Season 4 viewing notes here.
“I don’t know how we survive this, Claire.”
Quickly resuming the story pre-credits at Frank’s negotiating with the ICO kidnappers, it becomes clear that where Episode 12 was about political manoeuvrings surrounding the terrorist act, Episode 13 is about shutting it down altogether.
Yusuf al Ahmadi is brought to a government safe house from Guantnamo Bay to help end the siege. Farshad Farahat plays the steely-eyed ICO leader, one of the most interesting single-episode characters likely to be found on Netflix. As Frank deals with panicky, scared kidnappers, Ahmadi sits calmly and discusses his beliefs with Claire. Beau Willimon draws a fascinating parallel between Ahmadi and the Underwoods. The scenes are bold, finessed and serve to bolster fear of the Presidential couple as much as fear of ICO. Where the stakes are higher and the adversaries more ruthless, Frank and Claire respond in kind. This gives Spacey and Wright an opportunity to have fun with the characters. Delivering gut-wrenchingly intimidating lines and knowing smirks like never before, every tense twist is another chance for them to play truly larger than life characters.
The scenes with al Ahmadi live up to the expectation of a House of Cards finale. Farahat shines as the stoic, intelligent radical. Ever beautifully lit, the episode brilliantly contrasts the public face of the negotiations as Seth makes announcements and shepherds the press’ attentions, while Claire sits in a dark basement, imposing her will on an extremist in an orange jumpsuit. It’s tense to the point of physical symptoms.
Amid the negotiations, Tom Hammerschmidt arrives to confront the President with his accusatory article before it’s released. It serves as a reminder than Frank’s chickens are somewhat coming home to roost at the moment, as he brushes the grizzled reporter aside. It’s almost impossible not to look at the unfolding events of the episode and wonder: “How are they going to get out of this one?”
Episode 13 not only expertly displays the strengths of the entire series, but ramps up the tension once more in a series where the world has hung in the balance every episode. Where Season 4 may have caught some off-guard with its odd story pacing and That Twist, it settles into concentrating on what matters far better than previous seasons: as we reach the finish line, the Underwoods’ struggle for power is no longer what drives the show; it is the show.
House of Cards: Season 4 is now on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
Spoilers and further consideration
– The final 10 minutes of the show may well have had every fan in the world sitting horrified in their seats. Though, admittedly, we should’ve known, right? Where exploitation, perjury and murder are all viable political moves – why wouldn’t war be one?
– Claire’s “We are the terror” speech is not only staggeringly bold in both style and content, but represents a huge amount of what the show has been trying to display. Claire’s rise to power throughout Season 4 has been a long time coming, but she’s finally given a chance to shine when Francis has no answers left. Season 5 will have to work pretty darn hard to give her a challenge she can’t defeat.
– At what point do the audience believe Frank’s gone too far? While some of you may still have your “Vote Russo” badges proudly displayed, it would seem that Francis and Claire must be skirting fairly close to the edge. Declaring war is certainly a questionable act simply to ensure a grasp on the public perception. Then again, since when have the unstoppable pair cared for anyone else’s thoughts anyway?
– What else could Season 5 bring? While a declaration of war is all well and good, how will everyone react to Hammerschmidt’s exposé? What does the election hold? And what exactly do they mean by war? This is an immensely powerful end to an immensely powerful season about, erm, immense power.
Photo: David Giesbrecht/Netflix