The following recap contains spoilers from the first episode of House of Cards‘ just-released fourth season. Proceed at your own peril.
House of Cards went directly to jail at the start of Season 4 to check in on an old friend.
In a jaw-dropping kickoff to the season, disgraced journalist and anti-FU crusader Lucas Goodwin — who has maintained an off screen presence since getting carted off to prison in Season 2 — is seen, um, assisting his Armenian cellmate with a personal matter. We quickly learn that Lucas’ randy roomie is his ticket out of the pokey. And sure enough, by the end of the opening hour, he is once again a free-ish man.
The character’s return, coupled with a certain ominous S4 teaser, suggests that this may in fact be the season Frank Underwood’s murderous past catches up with him.
Other key takeaways from “Chapter 40”: Claire, fresh off dumping Frank, flees to Texas to crash with her estranged mom (a formidable-as-ever Ellen Burstyn), who, unbeknownst to her, is battling cancer. There’s an ulterior motive behind her visit: Claire has her eye on Texas’ 30th congressional seat. She recruits a formidable Democratic consultant (played by Neve Campbell) to spearhead the would-be campaign and run interference with Frank, who is hellbent on crushing his wife’s political gambit. By the conclusion of the episode, Frank and Claire agree to a compromise: She’ll attend his State of the Union address if he agrees not to “meddle” with her campaign.
But back to the episode’s big comeback…
In the below Q&A, Lucas’ portrayer, Sebastian Arcelus, tackles a handful of burning Qs about his alter ego’s surprising reemergence.
TVLINE | What was your reaction when you learned you would be returning?
I was so excited. It was one thing to be invited into that room to begin with several years ago. And then I said my goodbyes and made peace with the fact that the show was moving on with a different story. But then they called [about returning in Season 4] and I was so excited.
TVLINE | You’re literally the first thing people will see when they start binging Season 4 this morning.
That’s pretty exciting, isn’t it? It’s been a season and a half since Lucas fell so hard from grace. And it’s thrilling to know that he’s not just rotting in jail, but using what talents he does have to stay alive. [Laughs]
TVLINE | That was some scene…
I literally went up to [showrunner] Beau [Willimon] and was like, “So it must’ve been 3 am and you were sitting at your computer going, ‘How can I mess with Sebastian…'” And he actually came back and said, “To be honest, I wanted to find a different and unique and exciting way to reintroduce you.” And I think he did. He found the most interesting way to get me back in and get me back out.
TVLINE | What is Lucas’ mindset in this first episode?
It’s all about survival. He found a way to suffer enough for the purposes of staying alive. Also, when you know you’re right, there’s a different kind of resoluteness that happens to a person.
TVLINE | Do you think he spent that year-plus in prison thinking up ways to make Frank pay for what he did to Zoe?
I think he never really let it go. Again, when you know you’re right, you can’t just let it go. He’s been spurned by the system. This is a system he worked at protecting and then he was brought down by it. So I don’t think he ever let go his desire to see this through.
TVLINE | How long before he reconnects with Janine (Constance Zimmer)?
Janine made it pretty clear in Season 2 that she wanted nothing to do with him.
What did you think of Lucas’ return? And the Season 4 premiere overall? Vote in the poll below and then elaborate in the comments!