House of Cards S04E01 Recap & Review

Caution: Spoilers for House of Cards season four, episode one (and perhaps any previous episode of the show) ahead.

Season four of House of Cards opens on a strange yet perversely poetic image: former Washington Herald senior journalist Lucas Goodwin (Sebastian Arcelus) glibly reciting erotica so his prison cellmate can get off on the bunk below him. Goodwin was previously framed by hacker Gavin Orsay (Jimmi Simpson) and Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) loyalist Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) in order to prevent further suspicion over the death of Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara) at Underwood’s hands.


The reason for Goodwin’s lewd helping hand becomes clear later on, when it is revealed that he is aiding in retrieving a confession from his homicidal cellmate in order to be granted release. In spite of this, Goodwin feels his safety is at risk with the president in power. His unease comes despite his name change from Goodwin to John Carlyle.

Meanwhile, Underwood is hard at work campaigning for re-election in New Hampshire, where a speech indicates that he is losing in the polls to fellow democrat Heather Dunbar (Elizabeth Marvel). The absence of Underwood’s wife Claire (Robin Wright) is making campaigning a challenge for Underwood, and he sends Stamper on a goose-chase to get in contact with her.

Claire, it turns out, has moved to stay with her mother (played by Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn) in Texas. In eerily quiet scenes, we see the two essentially avoid each other throughout the large estate.

Claire is beginning her own political moves, hoping to run for congress in the 30th district, a seat already believed to be reserved for the daughter of the current seat-holder, Doris Jones (Cecily Tyson). Claire hires LeAnn Harvey (Neve Campbell) to be her campaign manager.

Is Claire working her way up the political ladder in order to eventually usurp her husband? Is she working to sabotage his current bid for re-election? The lack of transparency in her motivation is the most intriguing aspect of the season four premiere. This and the scene where we see the presidential marriage reduced to curt political trade-offs.

House of Cards season four, episode one delivers what the series as a whole has always promised: tense political intrigue and the increasingly complicated relationships of sociopaths. It doesn’t quite come in with a bang, but House of Cards is undeniably back and ready to make comment about the current political cycle.

As always, thanks for reading!

—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)

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