Released on Netflix on March 4, “House of Cards: Season 4” grabs viewers yet again—primarily because of the spectacular rise of Claire Underwood (the incomparable Robin Wright). Equal to her husband Frank as a partner in crime (Kevin Spacey at his best), Claire’s rapid and ruthless ascension to power left this viewer breathless. For better or worse, this is a marriage like no other portrayed on television.
Season 4 weaves in past stories, corpses, ex-lovers, and accomplices at lightning speed, to remind us that what Claire wants most in life is to be significant: to be recognized for the power she has, with or without her husband. All of Claire’s hunger and dissatisfaction arise in fury as the woman scorned.
This season revels in the seesawing of the Underwoods: pulling together, then ripping apart. separating and reuniting, as the ultimate power couple realizes they are an inseparable force. Formidable beyond measure, stronger when united, the Underwoods are nothing less than a molecular structure whose chemical bond creates a new element.
For the first time Claire’s backstory helps us understand why she had become the person she is. A brilliant narcissistic mother (played by the elegant Ellen Burstyn) reveals the fractured relationship between mother and daughter, which has damaged Claire. Far more than the one-dimensional ice queen, Claire compartmentalizes her life in order to maintain control. For both of the Underwoods—as revealed in their backstories—power is their identity, in the absence of family love and acceptance.
As Claire, Robin Wright smoothly and with little affect cuts through their path to survival with increasingly more perilous Macchiavellian strategies . They have merged into a singular, ruthless force determined to be unstoppable.
In the final two lines of Season 4 we have a jaw-dropping moment, demonstrating Claire’s shift in strength, resilience, and as a catalyst for Frank. Two terse sentences uttered by Frank, but equally imaginable as spoken by Claire, frightened and stunned this viewer.. The paradigm and plot have shifted radically in Beau Willemon’s continued brilliance as a screenwriter. The newest season of House of Cards is indeed binge-worthy.