Man oh man. I mean, it still doesn’t live up to the “I killed a recurring character in the first episode” act that House of Cards pulled in season two, but it introduces the ever wonderful Ellen Burstyn as Claire’s dying mother Elizabeth Hale and Neve Campbell acting as Claire’s “Doug” counterpart Leann Harvey.
There’s new power in this season, just as we are introduced to old. We meet up with Remy and Lucas again, finding out that the former has been ever more retired with Jackie and the latter is waiting it out in jail. And we’re introduced to Underwood’s fourth wall late in the second episode, where we realize that Frank really only cares about himself—but it’s not that shocking now is it?
Season four also marks writer’s Beau Willimon’s last stint on the show. But it does give Robin Wright more time to direct, having directed four of the thirteen episodes. However, this season is particularly important to Wright and her character: it delves into Claire’s life and personal family history. We soon start to see references made from the last three seasons open up before us, explained and left wide open again for us to wonder what possible actions could be done from this.
Yes, this season is all about dynamics: whether it’s family, colleague, friend, or just plain neighborly book club readers, this season really takes a toll on who you can trust, even those who you married or perhaps gave birth to you. As we enter this season, we should be reminded that Claire left Frank at the end of the last season, and this jumps to her missing of just a few days.
We start off with Frank at a rally, angry at the lack of phonetics in his speech and questioning what he would say to reporters who would ask of Claire’s absence. Throughout the first episode, we’re given a reintroduction of everyone: we see Lucas in jail telling rather Boccaccio-styled stories to a member of the Polish mafia; we see Elizabeth become Claire’s mother and tell her about her resentment towards Frank; but most of all, we see Seth offer valuable advice and information to Dunbar’s aide.
So a lot of build up is happening for the rest of the season to come. What we do know is that Frank and Doug have caught the smell of a rat in their presence and it only leads to some unflattering picture sharing—you know, the kind where your friend posts a picture of herself because she looks great but you’re in the background midsneeze? Well, more so just you foreground with a member of the KKK. That’s the kind of picture that Frank just doesn’t need, and we see him struggle with the leak and try to cover it up as best he could.
But for the most part, Frank seems like a side character—at least in the first three episodes. We follow Claire around, her actions, her intentions to run for office herself in Texas, where a black incumbent is resigning and hopefully awaiting her daughter to take over the spot. Are they welcoming to a white outsider who is the First Lady and hasn’t done much for her community back home?
The logical answer is yes, all with the help of Claire’s new sidekick Leann, who basically is brought on by Claire, intimidated by Doug and Frank with her own gun, and then pulls some crafty camera tricks to get some leverage on some wild cards. Claire sets herself up for success and almost reaches it—
Until Frank comes in with a bull dozer and ends up destroying all her plans. HE is running for the presidency. HE is the main star of the partnership. HE has a big ego that’s probably overcompensating for something—I mean, why else does Claire need to leave with Meechum to have fun with Frank?
Basically, it’s Claire’s story in the past three episodes. We’re introduced to so many new and old people that they provide little plot lines to what the audience is interested in: Claire and what she’ll do once or even if, she’s in power, and how she’ll get those opportunities. Until then, we start to ponder what else could happen in the next ten episodes, and just how much turmoil could really be upset when the action gets going, and things get serious.