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ReviewSteve Molk

Claire & Frank Underwood - fierce opponents
Image - Netflix

Netflix's juggernaut series HOUSE OF CARDS has returned with the fourth 13-episode installment with a vengeance, and President Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey) is facing challenges from all sides of politics - even from his now privately separated wife Claire (Robin Wright).

He's fighting for his political life, having never been voted in as President. He's competing in the Democratic Presidential Primaries for the first time and struggles in the polls compared to his main rival Heather Dunbar (Elizabeth Marvel). Then there's the Republican Presidential Candidate William Conway (Joel Kinnaman) in the offing as well, seeking to undermine the President so he gets a shot.

The sins of the past are closing in and Underwood will have to fight like never before... and President Underwood knows how to fight.

After a dry season three (and a patchy season two) House of Cards returns with strength to ensure audiences are captivated and continue to be drawn into the next episode as the previous ends. The performances across the board are mesmerising, as is the similarities (though not direct parallels but certainly elements spread across all key plays) to the real-life party primaries taking place in America today.

Each episode moves at a faster pace than S03 which helps maintain the story's momentum. Episodes four, ten and 13 all contain significant plot twists sure to shock and ensure you return to the series. While you can binge-watch the series quite easily I recommend taking 4-5 eps at a time and then giving yourself 24-48 hours to process that which you've seen.

One of the trademarks of the series returns a little more frequently with Frank breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience directly with the rest of the players remaining oblivious. When used as delicately as this it's an excellent trope to maintain a connection with viewers (the President is speaking directly to me!).

House of Cards is dark - brutally so, sometimes - and continues to set the benchmark for the new wave of televised drama. 

House of Cards S04 (13 episodes) - now available on Netflix.