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Underwood 2016: 'House of Cards' Season 4 comes to Netflix on Friday

1

March

A mere three days after our nation's Super Tuesday and 11 days before our sunshine state primary, Netflix blesses us with 13 new episodes of House of Cards.

For some, it's the closest to participating in the political process they wish to get, and for others it's a chance to take a break from the hubbub of our own election year.

Then again, at the rate our 2016 election is going even a bloody, divorce-filled season of Cards still seems fairly tame.

Last season, Kevin Spacey's Frank Underwood — Mr. President to you — is settling into his first term. Only six months in, Underwood begins to realize the presidency doesn't hold as much power as he had hoped.

Both he and the First Lady, Claire (Robin Wright), refuse to be 'placeholders' until the election in 2016. Classy Claire doesn't just want to do typical First Lady duties. She breaks tradition by landing the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations seat.

For Frank, making his mark means trying to pass a massive jobs program unlike anything the country has seen since President Roosevelt's New Deal.

In the real and fictional worlds of politics, Frank and Claire's plans and goals don't come easily.

Through 13 episodes of Cards' third season, the Underwoods attempt to cement their place in presidential history as well as grab a foothold for the upcoming 2016 election.

Despite obtaining his ultimate goal (is it really?) of the presidency, Frank still stops at nothing to gain the respect — and fear — of the leadership and his constituents in hopes of being elected president.

Frank survived international, national and personal crisis last season. He first lost the man who devoted his entire professional life to Frank's success — former chief of staff Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) — only to gain him back in the end. He lost and won the respect and favor of the Democratic leadership and its members numerous times over the course of his campaign, ultimately winning the Iowa caucus over fellow candidate Heather Dunbar (Elizabeth Marvel), former U.S. Solicitor General.

In the thick of a heated campaign, Frank's personal life took big hits that may or may not break him in Season 4.

We all knew Frank and Claire's marriage wasn't the healthiest. They both admitted their relationship and marriage was partly made as a stepping stone to obtain power and respect.

Watching them interact with one another both publicly and privately is sometimes painful and cringe-worthy. It's too cookie cutter. Towards the end of this season, it's obvious they are trying too hard.

In a not-so-surprising upset, Claire tells Frank she's leaving him just as he is in the fight of his life in the election.

Claire was visibly dissatisfied for much of the season. At the end she realizes it wasn't just her role as First Lady and Ambassador that wasn't satisfying her, it was also her husband.

Pile on the brutal fights and harsh words from Frank on how he basically used her as a tool to get to the top, and Claire has more than enough grounds for divorce.

At least he's not cheating anymore.

Now, about Doug …

Much of the third season focused on Doug's recovery from almost dying, sink into alcoholism again, then more recovery.

At the end of season two, Doug was left for dead in the woods by Rachel Posner (Rachel Brosnahan), a former prostitute and seducer of the late Peter Russo (Corey Stoll). If you remember season one, Rachel seduces Russo twice, leading him into getting a DUI, doing a radio interview drunk and costing him the chance at being governor. Just like Doug and Frank planned, Russo spirals out of control until he's murdered by Frank.

Doug had a scary hold over Rachel, spending most of Season 3 trying to find her and control her. His craziness ends when he kills her and buries her in New Mexico.

The end of season three left Cards' main characters wounded, both professionally and personally.

Dunbar is an almost ideal choice for the 2016 Democratic nomination, even after a loss in Iowa. But Frank will not make her road to election easy. Even if she lands the nomination and ultimately the presidency, it will only be a matter of time before Frank dethrones her.

Doug is riding high again as Frank' chief of staff; he's back where he belongs. But the ghost of his murder of Rachel is not likely to disappear anytime soon.

Claire may be bored with her role as First Lady and U.N. Ambassador, but that all will change in Season 4. She's finally taking a stand against her controlling husband, and hopefully her actions will land her at the top. I don't know about you, but I'd love to see Claire pitted against Frank in any race.

Frank may have won Iowa, but he has a long way to go to win the presidency, especially with a public separation and possible divorce in his future.

Will Doug shine as Frank's right hand man, helping him obtain the presidency again? And what of Frank and Claire's marriage? Even if they pick up the pieces and remain married, a public separation is not something a presidential candidate easily bounces back from. Will Frank even get elected?

We will find out on Friday.

Season four of House of Cards is available on Netflix on March 4. The first three seasons are currently available to stream. Contact Chelsea Tatham at ctatham@tampabay.com. Follow @chelseatatham on Twitter.

 

[Last modified: Tuesday, March 1, 2016 1:20pm]

    

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