This article contains information that could be considered too revealing according to our spoiler policy. Proceed with caution. You can't unsee it!Reason Netflix released the whole season the same day.
Is Our Current Reality Stranger Than House of Cards Fiction?
And other not-quite-burning questions about the Season 4 premiere.
Welcome back to the bone white-tinted world of House Of Cards! When last we left the Underwoods, Frank had just defeated Heather Dunbar in the Iowa Caucuses, but was forced to issue his victory speech without Claire at his side, because, you know, standing within fifteen feet of him makes Claire's insides turn to molten lava. Upon returning to the White House, Frank became maybe the eighth or ninth President to choke out his wife in the Oval Office (email me for the Illuminati-sanctioned list of known abusive Heads of state), causing Claire to finally walk out on his slimy ass.
The Season 4 premiere finds Claire returning to her mother's home in Highland Park, Texas (and her mom is ELLEN FUCKING BURSTYN!), under the guise of setting the stage for Frank's state primary battle, but with the actual intention of running for her home district's seat in the House of Representatives. Meanwhile, Frank moves on to New Hampshire, Seth tries to play both sides of the Democratic race, and Doug -- his personal demon finally dead and buried -- spends the episode Doug-ing around.
But there are still a ton of questions "Chapter 40" leaves unanswered. Most importantly:
Has the reality of the 2016 presidential election surpassed the fictional insanity of House of Cards?
I missed (read: avoided at all costs lest blood violently burst out of my wherever) last night's Republican debate, so before I turned on the Season 4 premiere of House Of Cards, I checked the socials media to see what nonsense I'd be gauging the Underwoods' chicanery against. And then I saw that the clear frontrunner for the Republican nomination for President of the United States had publicly defended his huge, tremendous, $69 billion shlong.
One could conceive of a world in which the writers intended this season's election plot to reflect current political themes, but Donald Trump saw that attempt at relevance and took a gold-plated dump all over it. If anything, the HoC election works as a temporary vacation for those yearning for a universe in which the American electorate actually cares whether a presidential candidate is a sociopath. The smoke-filled rooms House Of Cards is interested in exploring have lost their political capital to a man who wears his villainy on his very classy, very impressive sleeves. By next year, film and TV will be chock-full of attempts at making pissy lemonade out of Donald Trump's verbal urinations, but if you've come to Season 4 expecting 2016 satire, you've come to the wrong place.
What would be the social benefits of funding a government program for down-on-their-luck writers narrating erotica for sexually-frustrated criminals?
Season 4 opens on an Armenian Power gang member jacking it while his fellow inmate, Tom Yates, describes a faceless woman straddling his junk. Later, Tom uses their masturbatory kinship to massage something else out of him: a murder confession. Now, Tom is in Witness Protection, in fear of retribution from both Armenian Power and Frank. We don’t know how Tom ended up in prison, or what Frank had to do with it, but a more interesting question still remains: what real-life writer would be the best at extracting a potent combo of jizz and truth out of a racist convict? My money's on Jonathan Franzen.
Is Claire actually stubborn enough to maneuver her way into a Congressional seat?
If stubbornness were the only quality necessary, the White Queen of the White House would have no problem. But, assuming this season ends on or after Election Day -- and, given Netflix's incentive for keeping this show going for at least a few more seasons, there's really no reason to think it does -- is it really conceivable that Claire will end the season as the congresswoman for Texas's 30th district? Crazier things have happened on this show, but Claire, a "lily-white" carpetbagger, is going to have to pull some shady shit to win the nomination in a predominately black district, over the daughter of the beloved Congresswoman vacating the seat. Especially when that beloved congresswoman is played by Cicely Tyson.
Have you ever heard anything more withering than Ellen Burstyn pronouncing the word "candidate"?
I certainly haven't. It's unclear yet just how Burstyn's Momma Elizabeth will play the spoiler, but you know it's coming. Her pure, unfiltered contempt for Frank and his "white trash" White House is a wonder to behold. The ranks of Frank's enemies know no bounds, but Elizabeth may prove to be his biggest challenge yet. After all, he can't exactly work to defeat his own mother-in-law.
HAHAHAH LOL JK. Who am I kidding? Frank forced Claire to publicly reveal her mom's cancer diagnosis without even consulting with her. He'll find a way to end Elizabeth, even if he has to pull a Scalia and smother her with a pillow himself.
How much shit would the real Juan Williams get from Fox News producers for saying "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark" on air?
"Yo, Juan, what in Nancy Reagan's pill stash was that nonsense? You're on Fox News. You really think this is the time to brag about attending school in a state where Shakespeare's works haven't been publicly burned for not being adamantly pro-gun? Do you know how many calls we've gotten from senior centers in the past fifteen minutes demanding to know what the fuck Denmark has to do with a marital dispute between the President and the First Lady? Stick to the Bible, the Constitution, and The Art Of The Deal, and take the hoity-toity college talk down a notch."
Did Seth leak the truth about Claire's exit to Dunbar's campaign?
It certainly seems that way. I've never doubted Seth's capacity for underhandedness -- after all, he did blackmail Claire about her three abortions after posing as a Planned Parenthood employee in order to trick a widow into handing over her late husband's medical records -- but does he really think betraying Frank will work in his favor? I can't imagine Heather would hire him as her Chief of Staff knowing what loose lips he's working with.
Are we finally done with Kevin Spacey breaking the fourth wall to stare into our lily-livered souls?
Season 3 featured significantly fewer asides than the first two seasons, but it did begin with Frank telling us why he was pissing on his daddy's grave, if only to remind viewers that he can peer out of our laptops and see us in all our drooling, Ben & Jerry-shoveling, binge-watching glory. No such reminder in "Chapter 40." It'd be odd for the writers to completely drop a device so crucial to the show's initial hype, but would anyone really miss Frank's snarky digressions that much?
Would Meechum make a good S&M partner?
It would hurt his hollowed-out heart to do so, but if Frank asked Meechum to play Claire in his rape fantasy (on both ends), you know he'd have to comply.