Director: Jakob Verbruggen
Writer: Beau Willimon
WARNING: This review contains SPOILERS.
House of Cards has been absolutely incredible this season. It might just be the best in the show’s impressive history. I’ll talk more on that in my season review soon, but now it’s time for the season finale. The terrorist plot has been a very interesting new development in this season’s third act and the penultimate episode left it on a tease of excellent proportions. This episode starts absolutely brilliantly with Frank Underwood taking complete and ruthless control of the call with the hostage taker. It was great seeing Frank be so powerful in such a delicate situation, and the look on Conway’s face as he refused to play ball was amazing. Even more amazing was the complete dismissal of Conway as his lies became public via the newspapers. The anger it created in Conway really showed how manipulative and egotistical he is. He’s a younger Frank Underwood, who hasn’t gone as far as Frank has yet and is much more naive. I actually would prefer Frank be president than Conway. It’s a very interesting twist and I love how they’ve handled the character of Will Conway.
Claire Underwood was just as important however, as her conversation/negotiation with Yusuf Al Ahmadi was quite engrossing, although not as exciting as what Frank was doing. They didn’t need to be though, as they worked wonderfully as a quiet and subtle sequence to bounce off of with the big danger of the episode. Just as Frank appeared to be gaining complete power, Hammerschmidt smashed down the hammer. This finale really ramped things up, despite putting Conway to the side. Frank dealing with the hostages and Hammerschmidt’s damming article was tense enough and would have been overcrowded if Conway was taking up a large amount of the focus. Each of the main two problems were dangerous in very different ways and ramped up expertly. It was interesting, the little experiment it did. I was more worried about Frank being exposed than I was about a family being killed by terrorists. What does that say about me? I know what it says about Beau Willimon and his writing team – genius. At least I am genuinely creeped out by Stamper’s relationship with Moretti’s wife.
The hostage issue did become terrifying when Ahmadi sabotaged the call and shouted in Arabic. The failed raid after was also not only a powerful plot beat but also a very well shot sequence. And then it was instantly overshadowed by the fact that Frank is done. It’s a testament to a character and the writers that the simple self admittance, verbally, that Frank Underwood is frightened is more powerful than many of the deaths in Game of Thrones. What really got me tingling inside was when Frank and Claire then realised what they needed to do. With their last breath, the Underwoods gained a whole new level of self-power and Frank’s war speech was absolutely gripping for every single second. Kevin Spacey’s performance as Frank Underwood has always been incredible but that speech was on a whole new lever of gravitas and strength. This episode grew into a hurricane and then Frank was able to contain it all because no one gets in his way. Even with the horrific murder of the remaining hostage, Frank Underwood had control and that final fourth wall break before the credits was perfect.
Summary: This show is in the middle of a renaissance and a surprisingly strong season was capped off with a brilliant episode that showed us just what the Underwoods will do and how powerful they are, despite everything being against them.