Six True Things About House Of Cards Season 5
1. The fifth season of House of Cards is here. The action picks up not long after the end of season four. Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) and his Vice Presidential candidate slash wife Claire (Robin Wright) are still in the middle of a hotly contested election. As you can probably imagine, if you’ve watched this show before or even just heard two people talk about it for five minutes at Panera one day, things go sideways, quickly. The exact manner in which they go sideways isn’t extremely important (it’s a little Veep-y, we’ll say that), because all you need to know is that all hell breaks loose, as it usually does on House of Cards. What follows is a number of episodes about devious schemers scheming deviously. Sometimes Kevin Spacey addresses the camera directly. You get the idea.
2. This season leans hard into current events. A nasty election ending with a surprise twist? In the show. A hacker meddling on behalf of a candidate and leaking damaging information, only to end up as a semi-prisoner in Russia, kind of like a Snowden/Assange mashup? In the show. A presidential administration getting buried in scandals shortly after taking office, to the point it starts to overwhelm everyone and undercut the party’s agenda? In the show. A powerful, paranoid, borderline sociopathic man who relies on his own family for advice and clutches to his overinflated opinion of himself even as his world burns down around him? Oh, that is definitely in the show. It’s kind of like the writers of House of Cards watched the news for the past year and were like “Oh, cool” as they jotted down notes. It’s all almost a little too real in places.
3. It is also extremely not real and hilarious in others. House of Cards wouldn’t know subtlety if subtlety walked up and said hello and then reminded House of Cards that they’d met at least four times before that. Even if one of those times was a long weekend they spent together in Vermont. Even if they got snowed-in with only a Thermos of hot cocoa and their own body heat to keep them warm until help arrived. It’s not a subtle show. That’s what I’m trying to say.
Here are a few things that happen during season five, most of which I will keep vague enough so as not to spoil it for you.
– Two characters have sex on the lectern inside the White House Press Room
– Kevin Spacey looks dead into the camera and says “Meet your new daddy”
– Kevin Spacey repeats a line, once for the camera, and then immediately for a character in the scene, which is more just something I wanted to point out because it made me laugh
– Multiple — as in “more than one” — terror attacks are staged by political operatives to swing the election
– Someone attempts to blackmail an adversary with revenge porn
– There is, I swear to God, a secret billionaire retreat where everyone dresses in red robes and worships a statue of a crow, and it is the most Illuminati thing you’ve ever seen
– One character tells another “I’m not f*cking you because I like you. I’m f*cking you because I hate you”
– One character attempts to insult Claire Underwood by telling her that her initials are “missing an N and a T”
This last thing made me very upset. Yes, sure, because you shouldn’t just run around calling women the C-word, especially if they’re the First Lady. But mostly because that doesn’t even make sense. If her initials contained both of those letters, it means her name would need words that started with them tacked behind her last name. The only way that could happen is if she got divorced twice and remarried twice and kept all her names. She’d have to be, like, Claire Underwood Nicholson Taffer. Yes, in this scenario Claire Underwood is now married to Jon Taffer from Bar Rescue. If they can have a secret billionaire crow cult in the woods, I get to have this. Fair is fair.
4. I have described the show in the past as “The worst show I can’t stop watching.” Season four made me physically upset. The thing with Doug Stamper and his prostitute/lover/mother Rachel was so bad that I still don’t even want to talk about it today, over a year later, except to say that the silver lining in it all is that it freed up the actress who played her, Rachel Brosnahan, to leave that godforsaken hellscape of a plot to go star in Amy Sherman-Palladino’s Amazon pilot, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which was a lot of fun.
The show has been just dour and mean and not redeeming in a lot of ways, especially as it moved into the third and fourth seasons, and the fact that it was lumped in with the “prestige” shows of its era drove me nuts. Compare it to Breaking Bad or Mad Men or even something like Halt and Catch Fire, and it falls apart like a… uh… thing that falls apart… easily. Something you stack up. I’m blanking on a metaphor. There probably isn’t a good one. Anyway, Kevin Spacey’s performance is so big and hammy that it borders on distracting, and it feels important to note, now, that this show had Moonlight star Mahershala Ali in the cast for four seasons and never really figured out how to use him. I could go on. And on. Andonandonandon. But I won’t. Because here comes the twist.
5. At some point, I think around episode three of this new season, I had a revelation: What if I stop thinking of House of Cards as a crappy prestige show and start thinking of it as fun trashy soap opera? Like, instead of comparing it to the shows it wants viewers to compare it to (The Leftovers, The Americans, other such critic-bait), what if I just decide on my own to look at it the way I looked at Scandal, or the last season of 24 with Kiefer Sutherland (which, again, featured a plot about Catelyn Stark from Game of Thrones assassinating the President via drone strike in the middle of an empty, fully-lit Wembley Stadium, only to discover it was all a ruse), or even my beloved Young Pope? The Young Pope was a more artistic endeavor, certainly, but it did check a lot of the same boxes: power-mad narcissist in charge, bonkers stuff happening all the time and sometimes for no reason, swift and brutal retribution for any supporting character with any ambition. I mean, how can I get mad about this…
… when I openly applaud this?
I’m not that much of a hypocrite, am I? The Young Pope was definitely more fun on purpose, but that doesn’t mean I can’t choose to make House of Cards fun by sheer force of will. This was eye-opening and resulted in me enjoying this season way more than I expected it to, even as it slowed down in the back half, and even as Doug Stamper continued to annoy and infuriate me. I hope he gets murdered like the pope’s kangaroo.
6. I don’t know what to think anymore. If I’m enjoying House of Cards again, then, like, how far does this go? Do I need to question everything? Has everything I’ve believed for years been a lie all along? Do… do I like IPAs now? Because I’ve always hated them and found then to be bitter and flowery carbonated garbage water, but, I mean…
I have a lot to think about.
One Lie About House of Cards Season 5
1. I will finally stop watching this show.