Frank Underwood, at many times throughout House of Cards, speaks to others as though he is a God. So, it must be terrifying for Frank Underwood to be reminded that he is, in fact, human. Major Spoilers For Season 4, Episodes 1-6: After he's been shot by Lucas Goodwin, Frank Underwood starts to hallucinate on House of Cards . He sees the familiar, if not always friendly, faces in the form of Zoe Barnes and Peter Russo. He also sees visions of foggy woods and civil war soldiers. While these may just be the swirling thoughts of a man seeing the biggest moments of his life flash before his eyes, there's something borderline-apocalyptic about his visions as if all of Underwood's sins are catching up to him. So, why is Frank hallucinating? According to the show's doctor, Frank's diagnosis was "insufficient liver function. His brain is swimming in a pool of unprocessed amonia. If he's seeing anything, It's probably severe hallucinations."
According to the National Library of Medicine, one of the causes of hallucinations can be liver failure. What's more curious, though, is that while most of his most vivid hallucinations come while in recovery for his gunshot wound, Frank was already having visions of a violent altercation with Claire and a faucet that poured blood prior to his attack. If his hallucinations aren't exclusive to the death-bed, what is causing his mind to have these flashes of violence?
Season 4 — the first half of the season, specifically — is severely lacking in the to-the-camera asides that made Frank Underwood and House of Cards so distinct in the first place. However, they may not be entirely gone and instead have just taken a different form. Frank Underwood has always used his words to let us into his mind and let viewers know what he was thinking — but what happens when words can't fully explain the complex emotions that come with having murdered your way to the top? What happens is that you stop telling the audience what's going on in your head, and start showing them?
Frank's hallucinations offer the most in-depth insight into Frank's psyche yet. They're also reminiscent of dream sequences from other popular television shows like The Sopranos and Buffy The Vampire Slayer which dedicated episodes to abstract dream imagery that gave insight into characters' minds, as well as foreshadowed events to come. Frank may be sitting in the Oval Office, but he still remembers the two deaths he caused to get there, and he remembers the deep southern legacy that he represents and how it can also hold him back. Frank's visions of the deceased is especially timely as now former co-workers of Lucas' seem to try to put together the puzzle that Goodwin left for them.
The hallucinations are deeply troubling at best. Images of attempted eye-gouging and sex with people he's killed give a deep insight into Underwood's relationship with "sin." What's more troubling is the notion that Frank Underwood may want the audience to see what's going on in his head. It can be difficult to track the reality of a show where the main character plays fast-and-loose with the fourth wall, but Frank's hallucinations are the most boundary-pushing aspect of the show yet. Whether his visions are merely the show's writers showing us what plagues him, or a warning of things to come, there's no way it's easy to run a country when you can't get the idea of your wife stabbing you in the leg out of your head.
Image: David Giesbrecht/Netflix, Netflix