House of Cards cunningly fixes previous errors

Photo courtesy of David Giesbrecht/Netflix

“House of Cards” is a series near and dear to the hearts of many a Netflix binge watcher since its first season was released exclusively on Netflix in 2013.

While its all-at-once seasonal releases and thick plots following ethically bankrupt Congressman Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey, “Shrink”) drew many viewers in for hours of binge watching, an extremely slow-starting third season disappointed a great number of the show’s followers. The third season introduced seemingly useless characters and plotlines as well as losing some of the show’s charm.

Another issue with the third season is that it made Underwood’s progress seem like pure evil rather than just unethical. This writing decision took away the audience’s ability to root for Frank to succeed while at the same time feeling guilty about it, which was one of the most unique parts of the show.

While season three was a disappointment, there is good news for “House of Cards” fans. Recently released season four brings much of the lost charm back to the show. Where season three introduced several useless characters and followed characters who had not been important for a good portion of the show, season four fixes those mistakes and makes those character’s stories increasingly important.

The best part about season four, however, is the fact that Frank starts overcoming his challenges again. He always faced barriers during “House of Cards,” but what made the first two seasons so good was that he overcame those barriers, which vastly improved his character for viewers.

In season four, Underwood starts overcoming obstacles again in clever enough ways that the viewer can respect him enough to overlook how sick and twisted of a character he has become. This allows the show’s viewers to once again begrudgingly root for the main character.

The new characters in the latest season add to the show as well. Even in the early parts of the show, secondary characters were merely portrayed as annoying idiots that could not catch on to Frank’s plotting and disloyalty. On the other hand, in season four the Underwoods must compete with a new political rival, a Republican Presidential candidate. This new character, Will Conway (Joel Kinnaman, “Child 44”), is strikingly similar to Frank in terms of political prowess but skillfully shown as the anti-Frank.

When Conway is being introduced, for example, the director shows him and Frank Underwood going about their morning routine, doing the same things in very contrasting ways. The scene was a great creative decision and those who have yet to see the new season should keep an eye out for it.

The main thing not to like about this season is that Paul Sparks (“Midnight Special”), the actor that plays Tom Yates, a novelist that the Underwoods hired to promote Frank Underwood’s main political project, remains in the show. Sparks makes such an attempt to avoid overacting the part that he drastically underacts. At some points, the viewer can barely understand what Yates is saying because he is droning on in such a monotone that the words blend together.

Overall, the show’s new season is an entertaining watch. While some annoying characters and other flaws stick around, this season is a great improvement over its predecessor.

Unfortunately, season four does not bring back all of the extremely clever aspects of the first two seasons. If previous television hits or this show’s own season three are any indicator, the writers will have trouble keeping the content at the high creative quality of the early seasons.