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House of Cards, Season Four. Reviewed.

March 24, 2016

houseofcards

“There is no such thing as perpetual tranquillity of mind while we live here; because life itself is but motion, and can never be without desire, nor without fear, no more than without sense.”

Thomas Hobbes.

Surely everyone’s seen it by now?  I mean everyone with Netflix who was going to see it.  So I don’t have to worry about spoilers?

Well, the first thing to be said is that it’s way better than Series Three – and the reason is clear.  Season Three dealt with problems of governance – and if you are ruthless in pursuit of power, then mere governance is anti-climactic.  For Francis and Claire to express themselves adequately, they need to be fighting for something, they need to be goal orientated and risking everything for some glittering prize.

In Season Four, Frank Underwood struggles to ensure that he’s remembered as something other than a Gerald Ford – the only other President never to have appeared on a single presidential electoral ticket (until he lost on one).  Claire Underwood leaves Frank and wages her independent path to political power, only reconciling with Frank on her terms – very much her terms.

And I have to say that if I were President Underwood and Claire Underwood were both my First Lady and VP then I’d be sleeping with one eye open.

At this point we can’t help speculating about how and when the House of Cards will collapse.  Because that’s what they do.  Building a House of Cards is like the High Jump event.  It always ends in failure.  Just as the high jumper will always ask for the bar to be raised just another inch (or is it centimeter?) until s/he fails to clear it, so Frank and Claire will go on and on trying to expand their power and influence until the entire edifice collapses.

If the series reverts to the plotting of its British original, then Doug Stamper will feature prominently in the Underwood Apocalypse.  This would make a deal of sense, since Stamper’s unqualified devotion to the Underwoods is clearly a sign of madness, and some kind of elaborate revenge would be the logical result of some kind of “snapping point”.

In the meantime, however, we would like Francis Underwood to win at least one election.  We don’t want him to be Gerald Ford.  Besides which, his Republican challenger – Governor Conway – is at least as vicious as Underwood and considerably less charming.  If the Underwoods are to lose (and they bound to lose eventually), then it has to be to something less clumsy than Conway.

Of course, as VP, Claire may well try to topple Frank.  Or she might divorce him and run against him.   Or (and this is a favourite of mine), Frank and/or Claire may end up trying to repeal the 22nd amendment, giving Frank and/or Claire to stay in office for longer than they can at present.  This attempt to change to constitution in order to prolong their stay in power and give them more time use the powers of the Executive Office to check attempts to launch criminal investigations against them would perhaps be the supreme expression of hubris.

But fail they will and fail they must, because in Hobbesian terms – there is no such thing as “success” and no such thing as “satisfaction”.  Without a gnawing sense of lack, of want, of incompletion – there is no life and with the final satisfaction of all desire comes the end of motion and the end of life.

 

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