This review contains spoilers
The month of May was the definition of no chill. Netflix had no chill. They didn’t take their foot off the gas for a second. We saw the return of Master of None, Sense8, Bloodline and F is for Family. May also introduced Anne with an E. House of Cards’ fifth season put the show up against May’s fence with a May 30 release date. Nonetheless, President Underwood (Kevin Spacey), First Lady Claire Underwood (Robin Wright), Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly), Katherine Durant (Jayne Atkinson) and company are back for thirteen more episodes of scheming, plotting and stabbing people in the back. After all, it wouldn’t be the Capital without a few betrayals once in a while.
The stress of Washington life is higher than ever, either working too hard; or double dealing; or playing both sides of the game. Season five shows that a TV series can juggle multiple storylines and still come out at the end alive in kicking, rather than falling flat on its face. Let’s not forget to mention the Netflix series continuing down its road of a Shakespearean variety. We have our Iagos, we have our Macbeths, we have our Tibalts and most of all, we have our tragedies. We said farewell to Tom Yates, at the hands of Claire Underwood. I’ve often said House of Cards is Game of Thrones in DC, and Claire getting rid of Tom in the fashion she did was proof of that.
Whilst previous seasons were almost pure entertainment for the most part and not so realistic, season five looks like it was lifted straight out of the US political climate of 2015 and 2016. Often I get that feeling when I’m watching the news, whether that be BBC or CNN that the things in House of Cards could never happen in real life and then in the next second they start reading news stories that seem like they were pulled from a House of Cards storyline. That’s what season five does. It takes elements of our reality, and spins it into great TV entertainment that can be digested by the populous, even if they have no interest in foreign policy or economic reform, for instance.
“You think I learned nothing from Al Gore?” says Frank in reference to when Bush Jr “defeated” Gore in the 2000 race. I use the term defeated loosely. Frank (Spacey) is not Al Gore. Frank has the political instincts of a velociraptor, engineering low voter turnout in two important Republican states by making up terror threats on voting centres. Frank upped his unethical ante this season, and breaking the law is no object. Choirs sang songs of voter suppression, as these states refused to show their results. And thus, neither Frank (Spacey) or Conway could become president. Frank managed to destroy his opposition and every American’s votes. He comes out on top, sort of.
And hence, the corruption runs rampant and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Terrorism is a sacred subject, and for any politician to defend it would be political suicide, even if it has ties to vote manipulation. Despite everything, Claire would become president. The Underwoods are cunning. “Underwood 2016, Underwood 2020, Underwood 2024”, seriously this is a chess match of epic proportions and the twelfth amendment says go ahead. The House named Claire VP and the constitutional mess meant there was no president. Frank is ousted (by his own doing) and his wife steps in. I may not like either of our pair, but their plan is the scheme to end all schemes.
Spacey and Wright again dominate the screen. Their performances maintain the high standards exhibited in seasons one, two, three and four. Their presence is one of the best TV pairs since forever. And they both revel in the semi-legal politics that both the House and the Senate have gotten themselves tangled up in because of Frank’s stunt with the voting stations and the NSA. Well after four seasons of dealing with Frank’s powerplays, I have begun to expect the unexpected from him. And Claire has proven herself to be just as ruthless as her husband. After all, Frank wasn’t going to let something like fair play stop him winning, and now Conway is out on his ass.
Netflix has fired Washington Monument-sized torpedoes at both Trump and Putin this season. We touch on government surveillance as well in our post-Snowden world. We look at Syria and the refugees. The Netflix series continues to ask questions that nobody wants to ask. It continues to hit us with those socially-relevant power punches and this one of the few shows that has retained its quality through its multi-season run.