Showing no signs of slowing down
Season 4 Review
Do you know the main thing that separates a politician from the rest of the species? A politician is the one who would drown a litter of kittens for 10 minutes of prime time.Season four of the Netflix juggernaut House of Cards hits our screens running, continuing straight after the tumultuous events of last season’s finale. Frank has to quash the rumours of his marital breakup, while Claire strengthens her political ambitions. When it looks like the pair might both suffer they form a pact and formulate a plan conforming to their combined ambition; President and Vice President of the United States. Meanwhile their adversaries continue to chip away at their bullet proofing; a new opposing candidate uses youth, charisma, national pride and terrorism to gain seats, subversive dealings begin to show their face, Frank’s involvement with Zoey’s death is under investigation, a new gun law may prove too much to handle and terrorist hostage takers try to blackmail the Presidency.There is no let-up in the story telling this season and the dark dealings become ever more delicious to behold. Story development, episode pacing and overall tone are excellent throughout the entire episode run; this really is one continuing saga. Taking inspiration from real time events the show has a handle on the spin needed to make it in American politics. To this end I would have loved to see a ‘Trump’ style character added into the mix as a real opponent to Frank and his schemes; it would really have brought home the hypocrisy, back stabbing and lying on a show that manages to be both biting and entertaining. As the overlapping story threads continue to build there is a real sense of building to a climax, that once seen is both shocking and perfectly in tune with Frank’s nature.
Picture QualityThe discs present a broadcast correct widescreen 2.0:1 1080/24p transfer using the AVC codec and are region free.
Now captured and streamed in 4K this Blu-ray presentation is excellent; detail is sublime from skin texture and clothing weaves to building facades, grassland, crowds, cityscapes and newspaper headlines; all are clear, sharp and crisp with no softness whatsoever. Colour is bold and strong with all primaries coming off well, the red of the Stars and Stripes, the blues of the skies and the greens of fauna are well defined with no hint of wash or bleed.
Recorded and available in 4K this Blu-ray presentation is excellent
Brightness and contrast are set to give superb blacks adding depth and punch to the image; shadow detail is evident when needed, such as in dark corridors for clandestine meetings or the occasional night shoot, but equally it can remain pitch when required. At the other end of the scale whites never clip: shirts, walls, papers, never is there any detail clipped. Digitally there are no compression issues or edge enhancement. The original print is pristine; nothing to fault.
Blu-ray to 4K UHD Stream ComparisonIt’s a lot closer than you would think, especially at normal viewing distances. What is apparent, though, is the finite detail that the 4K stream has over the Blu-ray; this is most apparent in distant shots (such as in the opening titles, the cranes – or barren trees – against the sky, stars in the night sky, the Washington monument against the skyline etc.) whereas the Blu-ray is marginally softer in this regard. Close up detail, such as skin texture, 4K has more highlights, greater depth of pore and cleaner lines to hair compared to the Blu-ray which is, again, marginally softer. Colour reproduction and contrast level are the same for the two formats; it is just the finite detail that separates the two. It is very close; the above write-up gives the Blu-ray a reference score, and it is just that compared to other Blu-rays – but against a 4K source it lags behind. To really see the differences you have to move closer to the screen, even though from normal viewing position it is possible to discern between them, closer scrutiny is needed.
Indeed it is so close that it is little wonder HDR is needed to really separate the source differences
Sound QualityThis is one area where the Blu-ray still has the edge with a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track. It is, like the picture, reference all the way, with its reliance on ambience to create a realistic surround environment. Effects, such as traffic, crowds, weather, etc. filter through the surrounds with such authenticity that you could be forgiven for thinking you are in the scene. Dialogue is clear, precise, sounds very natural and given directionality when called upon. The score makes use of the speakers placing you, again, in the centre of the action. Bass is well handled, the series doesn’t rely on huge LF effects (there are a few though) but the low end is tight, well controlled and well layered into the mix. This very natural and realistic soundtrack remains evocative throughout.
Blu-ray VerdictNetflix’s magnum opus shows no signs of slowing down and Frank Underwood, just like the show itself, remains a force to reckoned with. The fourth season of House of Cards continues with the same story threads as previous seasons, whilst adding running for President into the mix. All the while the political manipulations and dark dealings threatening to overthrow everything make for extremely compelling viewing. The fact that the show looks so good and is acted so well just adds to its charisma.
Frank Underwood, just like the show, remains a force to reckoned with
The set from Sony is every bit as good as the show. The picture is reference quality with plenty of detail, great colours and incredible blacks. The sound which is rich, enveloping and well layered. Shame about the lack of extras though.
You can buy House of Cards Season 4 on Blu-ray here
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