Recap: House of Cards, Season 4 – The Early Chapters

Written by Dylan Brandsema


EPISODE 402: “Chapter 41”

Well, here it is. The worst episode of House of Cards. Many fans of the series will tell you that every season usually has at least one dud episode, and it usually only exists for purposes of advancing the plot, or showing us the result of something that already happened.

“Chapter 41” does both of those things, but neither very well or with any sense of care for the narrative. Almost every scene in Melissa James Gibson’s script is overflowing with informative political psychobabble and government vernacular. Obviously, this isn’t uncommon for this show or any other political drama, but it’s delivered in a way that feels overly expository, as if the viewer won’t understand what’s happening unless it’s spelled out step by step. It never finds the balance between character development and plot advancement, two things that, for this show, are often one in the same. It suffers from I like to call ‘Boardwalk Empire disorder’: Shoving too many new characters and too many plot lines into a story at the same time, it forgets about the withstanding ones, and never gives any of them the proper attention they deserve in order to be as interesting or dramatically engaging as they should be.

This is also the shortest episode of the series so far, running a total of only 41 minutes. But it feels like double that when nothing is actually happening, and instead characters are rambling on about things that will. It ends with some nonsense involving another traitor-captive conflict with Russian President Petrov (Lars Mikkelsen), with yet another miscommunication between he and Frank and yet another argument between Frank and Claire about their relationship. It’s all stuff we’ve seen before, only this time it’s nearly impossible to care. After the fresh change-of-pace premiere that preceded, this episode could have and should have been much, much better.


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