The season four House of Cards finale picks up where the previous episode left off, with President Frank Underwood’s (Kevin Spacey) powerplay in process. A brash ultimatum leaves the fate of the ICO hostages in the balance.
Following the phone call, Frank sends Republican Presidential candidate Will Conway (Joel Kinnaman) on his way, having cornered him in a lie that threatens to end his presidential run. A maelstrom of negative press is driven at Conway.
The leader the ICO terrorists want released, Yusuf Al Ahmadi (Farshad Farahat), is sent from Quantanamo Bay prison to a safehouse in Virginia to speak with Claire Underwood (Robin Wright). If Ahmadi convinces the terrorists to release the hostages, he will be given access to more power once ICO is dissipated.
In the middle of strategizing to take the terrorists down, Tom Hammerschmidt (Boris McGiver) informs the President that he will be publishing his story about Frank’s illegal process at taking the White House. He extends an offer of an interview, which Frank accepts.
The conversation between the two is electric. Frank is visibly backpedaling to get Hammerschmidt off his back, making a plea to conscience that Hammerschmidt throws back in Frank’s face.
The cold war between the two is the most intriguing part of the episode—not to mention the whole season—yet it isn’t exactly centered in the arc of the episode, which is disappointing. The terrorist narrative that began just an episode prior takes up a lot of space, as well, and the two narratives come with very different levels of interest.
This isn’t to say that the terrorist narrative is completely uninteresting. Ahmadi goes against the deal he made with Claire, telling the terrorists to release the video to the press and condemn the administration.
And, with this, all the chips start falling. The hostage crisis faux pas, a failed raid to capture the terrorists, the removal of data analyst Aidan MacAllan (Damian Young) from his post, the release of Hammerschmidt’s story. Not only is it a certainty that Frank will lose the election, but he will be investigated for his actions.
Not that the Underwoods are ready to take the heat lying down. They are ready to embrace total sociopathy and engage in all-out war with the world.
Frank makes an address to the nation. He addresses terror. The terror of ICO and Ahmadi, sure, but also the terror of his own administration. The terror he is willing to inflict on anyone and everyone in order to survive as a political legacy. His smoke and mirrors act has escalated to pitting nations into war in order to save his own skin. His claim to fight evil in order to hide his own evil. And it all starts with the government allowing the death of an innocent man.
Hey, at least Remy Danton (Mahershala Ali) and Jackie Sharpe’s (Molly Parker) story ends on a light note. For now.
The haunting final shot of the season sets up for another season of escalation, as well as prolong the inevitable, that moment when the Underwoods will fall like tyrants at the hands of a bleeding world. Of course, this is the fatal flaw with the series. Now that Frank has risen as high as he could possibly rise, the delayed gratification is waiting to see his demise, but the only way to do that demise justice is to end the show. And House of Cards shows no signs of stopping.
As always, thanks for reading!
—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)