Friday, June 2, 2017

House of Cards Season 5 Review

House of Cards (2013-)
Season 5 - 13 episodes (2017)
Watch House of Cards on Netflix
Created by: Beau Willimon
Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Joel Kinnamon, Michael Kelly, Neve Campbell, Ellen Burstyn, Cicely Tyson,
Rated: TV-MA

Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright play political savages Frank and Claire Underwood. They have maneuvered Frank from Senator to President, and the next step is securing the party's nomination for president and vice president to stay in the White House.
This is the first season without creator Beau Willimon.

I love House of Cards, though this season wasn't all I had hoped it to be. It's not the worst season, that would be the third, and  I liked season four a bit better overall than the fifth. This season's ends with a big shocker. I just wish the whole season had been on that level, and that the big reveal had been alluded to earlier. It appears out of nowhere, but this has never been a subtle show. Frank Underwood is power hungry and ruthless. That is the essence of the show, watching a true villain get to the top.
This season lacks a foundation in actual politics. So much of this season is theoretical what-if scenarios. The show is at it's best when it pulls back the curtain on the political machine and reveals a fictional would of back-stabbers and black mailers. Much of this season is Frank taunting his opponents and viewers.
Watch it.

What makes this show fun is that we want to think these behind the scenes antics happen. All of the conspiracies are real. Washington is a swamp and everyone has secrets. They aren't revealed because politicians enter uneasy agreements. The man with the most dirt, or the man with a lot of dirt and ruthless enough to use it wins.
This season picks up right after season five.

Frank and Claire are gunning for president and vice president respectively. Frank is unscrupulous using and fueling the war on terror to act as a smoke screen while he figures out how to rig the election.  Claire does get to serve as acting president later in the season as the botched election was sorted. There are hints of drama between Claire and Frank, and while nothing manifests this season, I'm sure it will come to a point in season six. Claire is going to distance herself from Frank one way or another.
I see no reason the show won't continue, though a sixth season has yet to be confirmed. Season 6 could easily be the final season in the series. That may not be a bad idea, though I'm sure Netflix wants to keep this show running. It was Netflix's first big foray into original content.

The show revels in melodrama and twists. Often Frank turns to the camera just to hammer it home. and gloat.  This season isn't very politically grounded. I like the look at fictional inner workings, while using a real world structure. While this season explores a loophole in the presidential election it felt like farce rather than behind the scenes. There wasn't much to ground this season, and it needed that link.

It does get silly at times. Being House of Cards, murder happens, but the repercussions were non-existent despite in one case some strong implications. If someone 'falls' down the stairs and you're the only one present that should at least lead to a few questions, but nothing happens. In another instance a character mentions they haven't seen the victim in a while, but that's it.

Season 6 pulls a fast one late in the season. It makes sense, but it also feels like it was pulled out of a hat. That reveal needed to tie back to earlier in the season so that I could kick myself for not picking up on the clues. There are no clues. It's a huge plot point and assuredly will be the focus of season six.

Doug's tribulations and transgressions resurface, a tired story trotted out once again. Frank even questions Doug's loyalty, which is ridiculous, and then Doug is put to the ultimate test. Doug's a mindless drone, but I thought this event might snap him out of it. It's clear while Frank likes Doug's loyalty, he doesn't necessarily care about Doug. Doug resists lightly, but we know he'll agree.

I was disappointed with Will Conway (Joel Kinnamon). He was Frank's foil in season four and while he challenges for the presidency, he ultimately leaves with a whimper. There's just no stopping the Underwood machine.
The show hints that his war hero story may be fabricated, but doesn't capitalize. I am glad Frank didn't use it as leverage to oust him. That would be just a bit too hamfisted.
Frank gets another challenger in congressman Alex Romero, but a little bit of black mail solves that.

Ultimately this season was Frank trying to mastermind a get out of jail free card. I don't mind the surprise, but it could have been planted better. It certainly sets up season six. While I don't know if it will work, Frank's adept at not getting caught.

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