As in previous years, I’m binge-reviewing the latest season of Netflix’s House of Cards, the TV show that helped popularize the idea of “binge watching” when it premiered in 2013. Don’t read farther than you’ve watched.
Episode 4 (Chapter 43)
If you’re don’t like how the table’s set, flip it over. House of Cards has taken Frank’s maxim to heart, resolving an intractable—and, honestly, preposterous—stalemate between the Underwoods by shooting one of them.
A work of plausible storytelling caused by carefully set plot dominos falling into place, this is not: A lot of coincidences had to happen for Lucas to get free, and then to get homicidal. But as a work of near-Shakespearian thematic convergence meant to keep this TV show lively for at least another season and a half, it’s fabulous. With this twist, a longstanding loose cannon in the form of Lucas finally fires; a longstanding ally, Meechum, gets to make his heroic sacrifice; the violent motifs of the season pay off but in an unexpected way; what had been an intractable storytelling knot gets torn apart, opening up fascinating possibilities for the next tangle.
My biggest quibble was with how the show blew its surprise. You knew something bad was going to happen during Frank’s meet and greet with protestors, which went on for longer than any benign scene of its kind would normally have. I remember when Fitz was shot on Scandal—now that was well-timed. Then again, from another perspective, the timing of this assassination attempt wasn’t so bad. What I perhaps loved most about this bombshell episode was that it nestled the assassination attempt in the middle, so the misdirecting build-up and the immediate aftermath could unfold without having to hit “next” at the cheap urging of a cliffhanger.