[Warning: The following contains spoilers about Season 4 of House of Cards. Read at your own risk.]
Welp, that happened.
If you gorged on House of Cards the minute Netflix unveiled Season 4 last week, you know by now Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) finally gets what's been a long time coming in the fourth episode. While we should of course never delight in someone getting shot, if there's any modern TV character we wish would... at least get maimed a little bit, it's Frank, whose ruthless race to control everything and everyone in his path has led to all manner of shady pursuits.
But Frank's shooting felt slightly cathartic too because, well, thank God something happened. This was one of those episodes in which the political machinations required to move the story along overshadowed the complex emotional haranguing and personal politics that makes House of Cards fun. That bang, delivered at the hand of sprung-from-prison investigative journalist Lucas Goodwin (Sebastian Arcelus) was the jolt we needed, even if it wasn't an entirely novel turn.
As narratives go, the event itself doesn't feel entirely surprising. Frank is walking among a crowd of protesters in Texas, and there's a sense of impending doom until Lucas springs out and fires. Still, the scene (this episode was directed by Robin Wright ) is compelling since the blink-and-you-miss-it shot required careful choreography, and story-wise, the implications open a new path. Two significant characters are dead — Edward Meechum (Nathan Darrow) and Lucas, whom Meechum kills during Lucas' assassination attempt — and Lucas is now officially a deranged maniac but a hero too since his crime begets more scrutiny into the crimes he was working to link to Frank.
TVGuide.com caught up with Sebastian Arcelus to talk about that scene and what's next.
Sorry about you dying and all. Can you walk us through shooting that scene? What was it like? Sebastian Arcelus: Thankfully we had Robin Wright at the helm. She was directing; she ran a right ship. She was exceptional to work with on my final episodes. That scene was sensitive. It was a big crowed area, and everyone worked in concert to create a good environment. It was an odd feeling to know that the end was here for me and Nathan, who plays Meechum, but we all worked together to keep it under wraps so no one knew and get to the point where we could execute the stunt in the most effective and interesting way. It was an exciting day. We definitely felt like we were working with special circumstances.
How was it coordinated?
Arcelus: We had an amazing stunt coordinator and stunt artist with us and we all sort of worked together to break through the crowd, and someone playing Secret Service and helped break the fall as we pushed through. We went down on cement, but we wanted as much authenticity as possible. But it also had to feel messy. It had to look both as well choreographed as possible but also fairly frantic and messy. The crowd worked well in creating that environment and of course Kevin is wonderful. Him taking the fall was second nature. Robin is a wonderful director. Robin, she is a remarkable performer. This dynamic between her and Frank is a wonder to behold and it's riveting. She helped me get to emotional places that were daring and strong leaps of faith and I really thank her for that.
To be honest, I'm quite surprised no one had shot Frank yet. Did you feel a sense of heroism in doing it? I mean, shooting someone isn't very nice, but did it feel good?
Arcelus: Someone had to, dammit! [Laughs] You know, it's an interesting question because while continually trying to hold on to a certain morality, I think Lucas has been victim to a system that keeps shutting the door in his face with each new development in his pursuit. While he might get one step further or at least try, he loses something in each attempt, whether it be his code of ethics or his mind or his self esteem, his life. It got to the point where he had nowhere else to turn. In this House of Cards world, he had no other recourse but to take matters in his own hands. Vigilante justice is not a heroic act, but in Lucas' mind, he needed to find a way with the extremely limited way he had to enact justice. I'm sure he went down thinking what he was doing was right. He had nothing left to live for and he certainly wanted to leave his mark and make sure Frank could not continue down the path he had been going. I wouldn't say it's cowardly — it was a sad and terrifying reality he was facing. He had nowhere else to turn. By ending, it he was also writing his own death sentence. I'll leave it to the viewer to parse what motivated that action, but it's multilayered for sure and complicated. While I'm sad to see my time on the show end, it's exciting to see it propel the rest of season into new drama and intrigue.
Let's say you could come back again and take someone else out. Who would that be and why?
Arcelus: [Laughs] Stamper (Michael Kelly). I think he knows wherever Frank is, Stamper is his shadow. Nothing happens without his knowing or being a part of it. Most things happen with him intimately involved. I would have loved to see Lucas sit on the opposite of one of the diners with Stamper and go toe-to-toe with him. Stamper's pretty vicious; I don't know they could go to toe-to-toe. I should say Michael Kelly, the actor who plays him is one of my favorite human beings. He is an exceptionally kind guy. You'd be surprised to see how big a transition he takes on.
Despite Frank being so despicable, we do have some empathy for him after he's been shot. Lucas, however, remains the ultimate bad guy in the public eye. How did you feel about that - are you rooting for Frank to get caught?
Arcelus: It's a complicated thing. Everything Lucas tries to do, it never quite hits. We know the information Lucas knows to be true but can't substantiate it - he can't execute, for lack for lack of a better word. It always ends up missing the mark, literally, and that's tragic. Part of what the viewing public loves is that Frank is able to find his way through mostly anything, and that makes it exciting to watch but makes us implicit. As a viewer, it's hard not to root for the antihero. The sad thing is that even the good guy becomes the bad guy. It's sad to hear people label him as sick and devoid of reality when we know as a viewer when he was sitting on right information but as a viewer, that's what makes it so delicious, that the Underwoods can spin anything.
Is Lucas going to keep shaking things up even after death? Will his ghost live on?
Arcelus: I'm not implying that in any way. I certainly hope viewers tune in to see repercussions of such a jarring shift in the dynamic of the show.
House of Cards Season 4 is currently streaming on Netflix.