An excellent HoC seasons 1-3 recap can be found here.
Episode 1 Recap & Review is here.
Clearly there are multiple SPOILERS ahead so don’t read unless you’re up to speed with the nefarious Frank Underwood.
“He’s a classless, graceless, shameless barbarian” is Elizabeth Hale’s assessment of President and son in law Frank Underwood. Compliments, compliments; Frank would be pleased. Claire makes another attempt at securing the seat of soon to retire congresswoman Doris Jones, with the promise of funding for a long-planned breast cancer centre, imploring that having Doris’ daughter wait a term would be in everyone’s interests. Especially hers. It looks like she may have secured a coup, but we, and Claire, should know that nothing is simply for the taking in politics. Claire has promised to attend the State of the Union, and even wears the earrings of Frank’s late mother as requested by ‘Francis’, but has to sport her best poker face as Frank pulls an astonishing coup de grâce against her in front of all of Washington.
To thunderous applause, President Underwood announces federal funding for the very same breast cancer centre and endorses Celia’s succession in the same breath, leaving Claire to catch hers. The smile on congresswoman Doris Jones’ face suggests Claire has been played, and played well at that.
Elsewhere, a liason between married potential Presidential candidate Jackie Sharp and retired (not really we’re guessing) Underwood problem-solver Remy Danton is covertly photographed. But by whom? Perhaps Claire, who’s told campaign manager Leann Harvey to prepare for something bigger and needs a down payment of $1.5 million for her to do so. As though players in Washington ourselves, we’re going to be left in the dark on this, at least for a while.
Has Frank set his wife up for a potential bigger fall later on or did he make a huge, calculated mistake? In his State of the Union address, just before expertly filleting the very soul from his wife’s immediate goal of political office, he praises her for “repairing the burned bridges” with Russia that formed such a large part of season 3. Straight after, Frank is setting fire to those very connexions once more. An in-the-planning coup has been rumbled by Russian Premier Petrov (who’s definitely not Putin, honest, despite the similar name, looks and policies) who proceeds to get rid of these troublemakers by simply having them killed. Frank doesn’t bat an eyelid at such behaviour, and why would he? When one of the conspirators, Milkin, escapes and seeks asylum in the States, Frank’s instinct is to send him back to certain assassination without a moments thought. But then Petrov baulks at Frank’s offer of an economic bailout package, (understandably) untrusting of Underwood after previous events, and threatens to hike energy prices. Frank cries extortion (and without any irony, God love him) and immediately parks the asylum seeking Milkin somewhere safe, ready to play him when the game demands.
Special mention must really be given here for Ellen Burstyn as Elizabeth Hale. A match for both icy daughter Claire and Frank himself, she shines and brings real light into her scenes, something that can be sorely missing from House of Cards. It’s hardly a stretch for the Oscar winner, having played a very similar role in 2012 series Political Animals. Let us hope she plays as big a part in proceedings as she’s being set up for. A showdown between her, Frank and Claire would register on the Richter Scale.