We avoided it when it was released March 16 this year, knowing that we could get hooked. Would House of Cards Season 4, the Netflix series about Frank and Claire and their power ambitions, once again prove that we were helplessly lost? Unlike other series, where one episode is doled out each week by responsible producers, allowing time to recover before the next episode, the pull of a complete season released all at one time, without viewing constraints, was, once again, more than our brains can handle. Like the first three seasons, we have lost our footing, falling into a compelling unreality, where stopping is impossible, the urge to continue overcomes our ability to think straight, knowing it’s transforming us into helplessness. We must have more.
Smoking, marijuana, chocolate, ice cream and liquor have never defeated us; House of Cards was more unexpectedly seductive than any of them. We had recovered, we thought, during the six month hiatus between this season 3 and 4. We had forgotten that once addicted most always means you stay addicted, even in recovery when normal behavior and thinking is restored. Foolishly, thinking we could watch just one episode of season 4 before going to bed one night last week, we plunged once again into the abyss of addiction. It took over our senses, pushing aside the need for sleep, bodily functions and thirst as we binge watched seven episodes. From 9:00 PM until after 2:30 AM we sat, mesmerized, each episode drawing us deeper into fictional oblivion until I finally snapped into consciousness, realizing my sight was vanishing, my eyes too bleary to focus on the screen. We saved the remaining six episodes for another night, another fix.
There is a story line that, when combined with a 13 episode release, kicks in their strange overpowering behavior. It’s not just the couple’s hungry drive to attain the presidency; that was achieved in season 3. It’s not just their love of each other; love was eliminated at the end of season 3 when Claire walks out ready to divorce Frank despite their success. It’s not that Frank is evil and Claire is good. They both act on fundamental beliefs that the ends justifies the means; they have killed and ruined careers of others to hide anything that may prevent the attainment of their policies and programs, many conceived for the greater good. Despite all that, we love Frank and Claire, a love like children who have strayed from family, passionate, yet hopeless to help them.
We can’t let Frank and Claire go because at the core is Shakespearean drama — strength, passion, and tragic action filled with fatally flawed characters. We think they will eventually be brought down, but hope against hope they will repent before more tragedy happens; but if not, we incurably want to see how their house of cards will fall, if it will fall. Claire, statuesque, always elegantly dressed and insightful beyond her husband, is Lady Macbeth, a woman who fights furiously to protect her husband, but at the same time is fully capable of manipulating him to get what she wants. Frank, physically not very attractive, is, like King Lear, brilliant without conscious, an up-by-bootstraps fearless man, driven by forces outside of his control, so arrogant he takes asides to prepare his audience for what is to come, is haunted by his past, his core weakness.
Watch it. You’ll never think about American politics the same.