House of Cards, Season 4 review: Only problem show faces is being utterly upstaged by the real thing

The film-quality production and ever-impressive accents, coupled with the stellar cast and host of new faces made for an excellent start to the new series

With all eyes on the real-life US presidential race – or the nomination for it at least – political drama House of Cards couldn’t have picked a better time to return to our screens. 

The fourth season – all 13 episodes – landed on Netflix on 4 March. Opening with the familiar slick, cinematic feel of the previous three series, we rejoined Francis (Kevin Spacey) and Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) at a particularly strained time in their relationship.

And it was only about to get more strained as the First Lady revealed some political ambitions of her own. Having set her heart on Congress (District 30 to be precise), Claire was sneaking around her mother’s home in Dallas trying to go undetected by the householder (Ellen Burstyn).

But as any teenager will tell you, mother always know what’s going on under her own roof and it wasn’t long before the pair were at each other’s throats.

Frank, meanwhile, was haunted by violent dreams about his AWOL wife and the media wasn’t happy either – the hungry pack of reporters desperate for a “trouble in presidential paradise’ exclusive. 

“When she got married I was sure she’d wake up in a year or two. I didn’t realise it would take her 30,” hissed Claire’s mother Elizabeth when her son-in-law arrived to confront his wife. Desperate to quash any rumours of a marital rift, Francis insisted Claire reveal her mother’s cancer battle to the public by way of explanation for her absence – the only the problem was, he had to reveal it to Claire first. 

The film-quality production and ever-impressive accents, coupled with the stellar cast and host of new faces (Neve Campbell and Cicely Tyson among them) made for an excellent start to the new series. Frank was, for the first time, looking a little vulnerable but still not lacking in killer lines (“I am white trash that just happens to live in the White House”) while Claire’s ambition was revealing a particularly heartless streak. The only problem House of Cards faces this season is being utterly upstaged by the real-world US political drama currently being played out on the international stage.

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