The fourth season of Netflix’s original drama series House of Cards premiered earlier this month on 4th March and it’s obviously already all over everyone’s mouth. Similarly to previous seasons, the latest instalment of the highly successful and critically acclaimed political web series dropped all thirteen episodes at once thus pleasing hungry and indebted binge-watchers who eagerly waited for over a year to properly nurture their fictional thirst further with cutting-edge political intrigues. Despite this one being a very hot and concurrent period for big TV series releases and new season premieres – see for instance Better Call Saul, Vinyl, Love, Daredevil and Flaked to name just a few… – House of Cards quickly and intensively stole the scene for me emerging as the preferred streaming choice lately among the aforementioned titles. A good reason for this is undoubtedly the show’s extremely catchy and dense plot, full of deep one-to-one confrontations, narrative twists, and terrific cliff hangers that it’s probably safe to say have only gotten better with time, if compared to the previous three seasons. Sometimes I truly wonder how much more suspense can legitimately be created in the storyline without falling into the risk of self-reference and fast-food entertaining stimuli constructed pretty much just for the sake of it: well, the writers (as well as the actors involved) somehow always manage to contradict me while delivering solid, surprisingly credible and especially status quo-relevant narratives.
It’s precisely this very last attribute that I’d like to detail in more depth after having almost approached the end of the season: namely the show creators’ ability to sustainably grow with and adapt to the changing times, partially in a chillingly realistic fashion. [Readers don’t worry at this stage as I won’t unveil anything plot-specific that will ruin your entertaining experience with the show (THIS BLOGPOST HAS BEEN DECLARED SPOILER-FREE BY THE MPAA®), whilst I’m sure a good portion of you will have already gone through it all by the time you’re reading this and will only have to agree on the point I’m about to make].
Back to the main track. My argument here is that it’s somewhat surreal to note how many parallelisms and real world-related happenings are outlined throughout the whole season. Undoubtedly, this has also to do with the current simultaneous 2016 United States presidential election and related campaigning somewhat reflected in the fictional story telling of House of Cards’ fourth season, though aside from this (not entirely insignificant) tie there are a number of other strong connections between the show and real-world politics. Take for example main character Frank Underwood’s ruthless and pragmatic modus operandi recalling some of Donald Trump’s bold and controversial statements referring to radical decisions (albeit substantial party-specific differences), or even fictional Secretary of State Catherine Durant both physical and attitudinal resemblance to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Or again, on a more macro-political level, the analogous National Rifle Association’s controversies, tense relationships with other major countries such as Russia and China and, last but not least, ISIS-ICO’s terrorist threats presented under different name but having strikingly similar motives. This is obviously overlooking other minor but certainly not less influential similitudes between a blurry fiction and reality continuum, such as the role of spin doctoring in both everyday politics administration and campaign management, the disruptive and increasing role of the Internet as well as the inflated ego-centrism of political leaders eventually flowing into enhanced personalisation of politics.
However, what it’s most striking to me here is that, if one does the historical recalling right, the events and trends emerging from House of Cards appear to have preceded many of their look-a-like happenings in real life, at least as far as the writing and shooting go. At this point a variety of questions could arise. Did Frank Underwood’s cynical and pragmatic skills inspire modern day politicians and delegates? Does the dark and cutthroat spectre that contours Netflix show’s have something to do with the more and more scandal-filled and fear-driven showcasing of American politics? Did the strong profiles of Claire Underwood, Heather Dunbar, and Catherine Durant play a role in cementing and fortifying Clinton’s ambition for the White House this year? In some ways, it’s as if in the realm of politics fiction has come to acquire some kind of influence towards reality, and while this can’t legitimately be fully true – or can it? Conspiracy NWO-Hollywoodian theorist debating in 3, 2, 1… – one could the least note here is that show creators Beau Willimon and David Fincher could’ve earned a hella lot of money had they bet on the concretisation of some of their fictionally created events in the series. Again, think of not just when the series is being premiered online but also about the realisation that such shows originate years back from when they first air and normally go through long processes of conception, writing, casting, pre-production and shooting that can take ages. Hence, there should definitely be room to ask where the title-referenced house of cards really lies, is it in the apparent fictional world of TV shows or in our concrete everyday life reflected by ongoing campaigning and political manoeuvring? To say it all, at this point I wouldn’t be surprised if on 8th November it will be Frank Underwood’s big smiling face that will be taking over everyone’s screens.
I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.
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