The Buzz: 'House of Cards' Keeps on Rolling
What started out as a groundbreaking series that put Netflix original content on the map, has become a staple of television that makes politics fun. Then again, in the political age that is America 2017, the antics of the show’s ruthless leader, Francis J. Underwood, unsettle the audience in a way that was not as much of a factor under the Obama administration (when its first four seasons premiered). While consistently engaging, Season 5 of House of Cards goes into a very unconventional direction and portrays itself in its most melodramatic light since the show’s premiere.
Overall, this season definitely leaves you with a positive impression of the series and is worth watching if you have been following the Underwood administration since its seemingly innocent days of simply controlling the government from within Congress. However, Frank’s persistent attempt to remain in office is even more far-fetched than his efforts to get into it. The season picks up right where Season 4 ended. Frank (Kevin Spacey) and his now Vice Presidential nominee/wife, Claire Underwood (Robin Wright), are dealing with the aftermath of an ICO (ISIS inspired organization) execution of an American citizen (arguably prompted by Frank himself). On top of the public scrutiny that they are facing, the Underwoods are in a tight presidential race to remain in office against the military veteran and up and coming Congressman, Will Conway (Joel Kinnaman). Along with juggling a presidential race and managing his public perception, Frank also juggles suppressing the Washington Herald editor, Tom Hammerschmidt’s (Boris McGiver) investigation of his previous actions (which include, but aren’t limited to, murdering Zoe Barnes and setting up former President Walker for impeachment).
House of Cards has consistently done a good job of instilling the idea that Frank always knows what he is doing. Through intricate and successful schemes, alluded to by Spacey’s breaking of the fourth wall monologues, the audience is left to believe that Frank is a few steps ahead of the game. This is the first season where that idea isn’t so concrete. It is hard to tell if Frank is legitimately in the driver’s seat or if he is simply keeping a strong façade through pure improvisation. It sure seems like the latter, especially with the way the season concludes. Moments where Frank tries to impart confidence into the audience are contrasted by following scenes of defeat. A lot of that has to do with the extremely out-there political landscape that has been created. A former Vice President, forced to take over for a recently resigned President, fighting to be legitimately elected into office, with his wife as his running mate, while also suppressing accusations of political corruption and murder. The core of the season’s premise alone is out-there and it only goes further as the election ensues. Out-there in a way that portrays the show more as a soap opera than a critically acclaimed drama series. Nevertheless, there are plenty of high-intensity plot points that engage the audience.
As per usual, the acting on the show is fantastic. Spacey cannot be lauded enough for his brilliant portrayal of the devious and power-hungry president. Wright has done an outstanding job of turning Claire into a believable political force in her own right and not just on the hip of her husband. While many of the supporting actors are also great, another discouraging attribute of the show remains: weak supporting storylines. House of Cards spends a good amount of time developing supporting storylines to authenticate the political landscape it is creating, as it should (i.e. The West Wing). Yet many of the supporting storylines are not only slow, but also counterproductive, taking the viewer further out the story. Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) is virtually useless compared to his role on previous seasons, while newcomers Mark Usher (Campbell Scott) and Jane Davis (Patricia Clarkson) go no further than to merely intrigue the audience. It’s an issue the show has faced since it killed off Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara) and Peter Russo (Corey Stoll) in Season 1. Yet the Underwoods continue to serve as the backbone of the show and primary mean to captivate the viewers.
Season 5 of House of Cards keeps the ball rolling on one of Netflix’s most popular shows. It is by no means the best season, but it continues to develop the unimaginable and extraordinary political journey of Spacey’s iconic president, Frank Underwood. Following the season’s finale, however, things will never be the same for the Underwoods.