They Make the Terror: ‘House of Cards' Powers Up Again

The presidential drama returns for a fifth season with the Underwoods wielding fear as a political weapon.

The fourth season of "House of Cards" ended with Claire Underwood joining her husband, Frank, in turning to the camera and breaking the fourth wall as the final line landed.

"That's right, we don't submit to terror – we make the terror."

He said it, but she was thinking it, too.

The scheming first couple, now presidential running mates, return to Netflix Tuesday to wage a scorched-earth campaign fired by fear itself.

Surface parallels to real life abound as few would have predicted when Season 4 debuted a year ago: A president, besieged by investigative reporting shedding unflattering light on his rise to power, wields a deflection arsenal that includes declaring war on terror.

But "House of Cards" weaves a deeper, more intricate tale of a couple united by a quest for power at all costs.

While their marriage at times has teetered with the fragility of the title image, Season 4 culminated in a chilling show of unity amid an uphill election fight.

They didn't join full forces over Frank's near fatal wounding as much as the shared realization they're two parts of the same person – bound via a mind-meld that extends to finishing one another's thoughts while plotting.

Just take this exchange when they're at their lowest ebb: down in the polls to a handsome New York governor amid the damaging press reports and an unsuccessful attempt to free an innocent man kidnapped by homegrown terrorists.

"I'm done trying to win over people's hearts," Claire declares.

"Let's attack their hearts," Frank responds.

"We can work with fear," she concludes.

That led to a bloody ending, shocking by even "House of Cards" standards.

The Underwoods' latest human sacrifice on the altar of ambition underscored the heartless machinations that fill a show with no heroes – save for some great actors, led by Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, and some exceptional writers.

"House of Cards" returns at time when a constant stream of political revelations out of Washington threatens to wash away the ability to jolt a jaded public. 

But the show, based on its stellar track record, dangles the promise of delivering another surprise-packed, scary-good outing bound to resonate well beyond the fourth wall.

Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

Copyright FREEL - NBC Local Media
Contact Us