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The Dose: #FU2016 finds its steel on ‘House of Cards’ new season

The Dose: #FU2016 finds its steel on ‘House of Cards’ new season

March 09
21:49 2016

Dalton LaFerney | @daltonlaferney

Matt Payne | @MattePaper

Disclaimer: This post contains spoilers for Season 4 of “House of Cards.”

It’s rare to see the President Frank Underwood squirm on the defensive, but when it happens, the ensuing hellfire is a thing of beauty.

After leaving millions of viewers on a cruel cliffhanger for more than a year, Netflix’s own “House of Cards” returned for a fourth season on the, well, fourth of the month. In legion fans were voracious to continue their binges as Frank, with First Lady and wife Claire Underwood, defended their White House residency against the noble Democratic candidate Heather Dunbar – all while tension both at home and overseas was on the upswing and allies-now-enemies pestered like gnats.

If Season 3 was a pit-stop for gas at the Daytona 500, you can picture dozens of piled-up race cars engulfed in flames at Daytona Beach as Frank cruises past in a bulldozer for Season 4.

Plenty happened, and there’s a lot to consider moving forward as “House of Cards” evolves.

Here are some guiding questions after our respective binges, and our thoughts:

Petrov’s Russia, involvement in China, ICO and friends – to eat or be eaten?

Dalton: I’m so glad the show is echoing the trouble U.S. policy makers are having with the Islamic State. I wonder how complicated it’s all going to get. I mean, today we see Russia supporting the Al Assad regime in Syria. Who knows what Putin – er, Petrov – will do to muddy the ICO situation. And China? Well, Frank goes way back with China. But I think the most important aspect to this cluster is Frank and Claire are now fighting for their lives with this conflict. It’s no longer just a foreign policy concern. The first couple have started a war to get elected, and it’s a war I think Frank wants to control (for the votes). So to answer the question: this is a question that I’m sure the writers want to linger during the off-season.

Matt: What sort of terror will be wrought not only upon opposing nations but on the U.S. itself? Frank’s archetype as a ruthless leader was manifest whenever the ICO militants killed their last hostage, father James Miller.

Although Frank didn’t shed blood by his own hands, every death this season can be attributed to him, at least indirectly. And I think that’s some major foreboding.

How long can Frank fend off Tom Hammerschmidt and the Washington Herald?

Dalton: We were in the situation room when this story really began to settle in with the American people, so I still haven’t gauged the backlash. But it’s a big punch to the face for the Underwood regime. There a few elements I want to look to. The first is Frank’s hallucinations while he was awaiting the liver transplant came at time when the news media on the show were all beginning to question the Lucas Goodwin situation and why he was even locked up in the first place. When Goodwin shot the president, Hammerschmidt got back to work. Point is there is something more at play here. It was almost as if God was at work, punishing and reminding Frank for his sins while simultaneously calling for the truth by way of Hammerschmidt’s journalism. The shooting was an awakening for Frank and Hammerschmidt. Next is the fact that Hammerschmidt tried once and failed to tell this story. Recall when Goodwin was first put behind bars. Hammerschmidt owes it to Goodwin and Zoey Barnes to follow through this time. And it was inspiring to see Hammerschmidt’s determination in the face of evil. I still think about the grave look in his face when the pizza man told him he’d seen Meechum in Zoey’s neighborhood. That was a man whose soul was in shock. He had just confirmed something nefarious. We know breaking a story is only the beginning. The key here is about controlling the public’s imagination — something Claire and Frank are well aware of.

Matt: Just as with Zoey Barnes, the only way Frank can efficiently deal with people who threaten his empire is to, frankly (ha), kill them. Hammerschmidt is hot on the trail of sound defamation, speaking with former allies like Remy Danton, Jackie Sharp and more – moreover, Lucas Goodwin had to exhaust all outlets until he realized his chase was in vain before he was driven to insanity and essentially succumbed to assisted suicide.

Frank better start talking with more journalists in dark subways (wink, nudge) at least to keep his track record up.

Does Gov. Will Conway (or anybody else) pose a legitimate threat to Frank’s campaign?

Dalton: Well, Conway sure seemed confident once the Hammerschmidt article was published. And Conway sure has the ammunition to run attack ads in every state until Nov. 4. But the beauty in Conway’s character is his presence has made the Underwood’s even more devoted to winning. Moreover, they overcame the notion that they were having marital issues by Claire running for vice president. And then there’s the obvious: the Underwoods are starting a war to beat Conway and company. There are no other characters with that kind of power. Conway has been critical of Underwood’s effort against ICO, so Frank moving toward war will work to overcome those attacks. I think the forces of evil are (still) working in Frank’s favor.

Matt: Up until Frank took the helm in negotiating with the ICO militants, Conway was poised to take both the GOP nomination as well as a nation now cynical toward the America that does not “Work” anymore. In spite of the surging gas prices on the show that give me echoes of PTSD remembering how high gas prices were a few years ago and a precedent of simply ignoring international threats, Frank has now taken a page out of Conway’s super-duper hawkish habits, and put them in action to a grand scale.

It’s genius, really. The fear Frank and Claire are coercing upon the masses both protects their longevity in power and reflects the overarching motif of this season: cold, hard steel.

Claire Underwood – who are we really dealing with, what’s to come in her future and can she be trusted?

Dalton: I feel like it didn’t take much consideration for her to stick with Frank once he asked her back, which given the nature of this show, I wonder what’s up with that. So she’s still a hazard if you’re Team Frank, which I am. The writers have made it clear that Claire is a driving force in Frank’s success. To look at this from the proper frame, we have to go back to the end of Season 3. That was a time of a lot of uncertainty for the first couple. The marriage was on the rocks, people were challenging Frank’s authority and political rivals were coming out of the woodworks to take him down. Over the course of Season 4 — pretty quickly, really — we see Claire move back into Frank’s good graces. In terms of their marriage (if you can even call it that) season four was about the couple recalibrating. But we’ll see. Anything can happen now that Claire has broken the fourth wall, which gave me chills.

Matt: Frank and Claire have never fallen in love. They have fallen in power.

Just like the picture of Frank’s father standing beside a KKK member plastered upon a billboard in Georgia, as well as insight into all the dirty work Doug Stamper, Seth Grayson and Frank have muddied their hands with, she holds the potential to end Frank’s campaign and send him to federal prison, very easily done by not complying with Frank’s every command. This angers Claire, and I’m convinced that if it weren’t for the solace found in her polyamorous relationship with author Tom Yates, we’d be dealing with a major threat to Frank’s future.

The two are powerful entities merely coexisting alongside each other as long as the rigmarole of the election benefits both of them. Else, we can expect those sporadic flashes of violence between the couple to take fruition.

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