Netflix UK TV binge review: House of Cards Season 4, Episodes 5 and 6
Chris Bryant | On 11, Mar 2016
“It’s not just about the law, it’s about ethics.” “Then change your ethics.”
Episodes 5 and 6 of House of Cards Season 4 follow Frank’s struggle to survive the brutal events of Episode 4, and Claire’s decision to seize as much power as possible in his absence.
With Russia (or more accurately, President Petrov) cutting off the oil supply to the US, drastic measures are needed to keep public support above water for Frank. Claire ensures she’s Blythe’s right hand while the leader is incapacitated, a mixture of fear and encouragement keeping Blythe docile. Claire’s rise is as fascinating to watch as Francis’, except it’s more elegant and happening much faster.
On the right side of the law, Tom Hammerschmidt is questioned by the FBI regarding his knowledge of Lucas Goodwin’s assassination attempt. Though the press roundly lambast Goodwin as a lone lunatic with crackpot theories, Tom’s attention is being drawn a little too close to the facts for anyone to feel comfortable. Boris McGiver does a truly relentless job as Hammerschmidt, his stoic, neutral exterior ideal for the uncompromising journalist.
Elsewhere for the good guys, Heather Dunbar is forced in front of an ethic committee regarding her alleged meeting with Goodwin. It plays out perfectly – Dunbar’s obsession with honesty gives the character a moral dilemma all of its’ own. And ethical issues about truth aren’t too commonplace in this shady world.
Back where the ethics are a little blurrier (or not, in most cases) Doug Stamper is also forced to take centre stage in a duo of episodes that barely include the President at all. Michael Kelly’s unflinching portrayal of loyalty shows no signs of slowing, with Doug’s diligent work being mixed with rigging transplant lists and, once he discovers who leaked the KKK photos, ensuring they remain under control.
Kevin Spacey’s workload in Episodes 5 and 6 may not involve much dialogue to learn, but that’s not to say he doesn’t continue doing an award-worthy job. Forced through a series of testing, unsettling hallucinations, Francis is confronted with his sins in a stylistically perfect few scenes that track his past and his sacrifices.
Even with Frank’s agonising, silent battle, Episode 6’s highlight is undoubtedly Claire’s sit down with Petrov. He’s at his disgusting, detestable best, whilst Claire is at hers – calm, smiling and powerful as ever. The conclusion of the meeting proves that Claire can enact Underwood-brand diplomacy just as efficiently as Frank. And when an immensely powerful rogue dictator needs putting in his place, she is more than capable.
House of Cards: Season 4 is now on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.
Spoilers and further consideration
– The conclusion of Episode 6 is definitely a major moment going forward. Frank and Claire’s business relationship is repaired and, as he promises her the Vice Presidency, he explains his ordeal over the past two episodes. “It’s us against them. Always. Otherwise what’s the point?” It’s touching, but their renewed alliance spells trouble for everyone on the wrong side of it.
– The appearances of Kate Mara and Peter Russo in the nightmarish sex/violence acts, as Frank’s liver is transplanted, were incredibly striking. Visually astounding, it was a disturbing few minutes and, admittedly, exactly what we’d all expected Frank’s subconscious to look like.
– Claire’s verbal castration of Petrov has been over a season in the making. Frank managed to keep him under control, but Claire’s almost certainly made sure he stays there. Her careful approach to the situation proves that the writers and Robin Wright have an affinity with Claire Underwood by now, and are indulging in her rise to the top.
Photos: David Giesbrecht/Netflix