Season four of House of Cards is one of my favorite seasons of television ever made (I gave it an A+ last year). That’s why I’m awfully disappointed to say that I found season five to be a complete and utter drag.
How did this immense dip in quality even happen? Is it because the show’s creator, Beau Willimon, departed the series at the end of season four? Or has the show’s premise simply run out of steam? Whatever the reason, this is not the show I fell in love with. I genuinely can’t remember the last time I was this disinterested in an entire season of television. Sitting through these 13 episodes was an arduous experience; I would frequently find myself detaching from the narrative and getting distracted at every turn. Bingewatching has never felt like such a chore.
Season four of the political drama ended with a marvelous implication: Claire looking at the camera and hinting at the fact that she could potentially narrate this year instead of her husband (or at least alongside him). Sadly that is not the case, as she only addresses the audience once this season, allowing the writers to conceal this gamechanging device for another season. When you make your audience wait an entire year for a new season, you better give them what they want instead of stringing them along yet again. Major fail!
I can try to tell you what this season is about in broad terms, but a lot of the dull political shenanigans went over my head. I watch this show for the evil machinations, not repetitive scenes of characters arguing over bills and carrying out redundant betrayals. It doesn’t help that half the characters are charisma vacuums, and that the show seems to have lost any semblance of fun in the process. It’s all so serious, dreary, and lacking in wit or charm.
On the bright side, the performances on this show are still top notch. I’m less impressed by Kevin Spacey as the seasons pass by (it now feels like he’s playing a one-note role), but Robin Wright is as as astounding as ever. Claire gets a lot of meaty scenes this year opposite Tom and Frank, and Wright imbues every one of her monologues with a ton of nuances and complexities. You can never really tell what’s going on in the ice queen’s mind, and that makes for a fascinating character journey.
Bits & Bills
– The opening fakeout with Claire talking to the camera only for it to be revealed as a TV interview pretty much dashed my dreams to pieces. Not cool writers. Not cool.
– Frank not “yielding” to Madame Speaker was badass. If only the rest of the season was as courageous.
– My favorite shot of the year: the pan out of the Halloween pumpkins with Claire and Frank’s faces. Stunning!
– Hilarious: Frank seated next to Claire and Tom in bed. Can you say ew?
– The most romantic thing Frank and Claire have ever done: spouting off the words to that movie in perfect sync.
– Love the “meet your new daddy” moment as Frank monologues all around DC. The season definitely could have used more scenes like this.
– Claire as temporary President just didn’t do it for me. Hopefully season six will give her her due.
– The bunker episode was definitely my favorite because it injected the season with a much-needed sense of urgency. If only the whole season was set in the bunker.
– How bizarre was Miss Davis? Terrifically unsettling performance by Patricia Clarkson.
– Frank kissing his trainer and practically choking him in the basement really creeped me out.
– How underwhelming was Cathy’s death? At least Tom’s death had impact. Cathy’s felt like an afterthought. Maybe that was the point?
– Does anyone buy the bombshell of Frank being the “leak”? Felt like an undercooked twist to me.
– Speaking of undercooked, Neve Campbell was useless this year. Why not give the actress more to do? Is she really dead now?
– What was that weird yoga room with the lights that Davis was in?
– I’ll admit that the final shot with Claire uttering “my turn” was pretty cool. Let’s hope it’s not another red herring.
Claire: I hate apologies.
Hannah: (to Will) First time I’ve fucked a president.
Francis: They’re like little children, Claire. Children we never had. We have to hold their sticky fingers and wipe their filthy mouths. Teach them right from wrong. Tell them what to think and how to feel and what to want. They even need help writing their wildest dreams, crafting their worst fears. Lucky for them they have me they have you.
Claire: You’re a fool, Donald. You always were. You and your dumb, dead wife that you never, ever shut up about. Principled? Idealistic? A champion for the people? What did you ever actually do? Nothing. The great crusader? I don’t think so. You just liked the position of the bumbling idiot that you are. The optimist. The idealist. You loved it so much that you couldn’t even make a deal or move a single thing forward. You have a legacy of nothing. Sign the measure, get the Republicans off the floor, start the vote now.
Donald: Do you know what I just realized? Your initials they’re missing an “n” and a “t”.
Viktor: You Americans certainly have a lot of presidents these days.
Claire: Fuck ’em.
Francis: I intend to.
Francis: Power is a lot like real estate.
Francis: Tom, don’t cheat on my wife.
Claire: It never ceases to astonish me how talented men are at making a mess.
Claire: (to the camera) Just to be clear, it’s not that I haven’t always known you were there. It’s that I have mixed feelings about you. I question your intentions and I’m ambivalent about attention. But don’t take it personally. It’s how I feel about most everybody.
Claire: Where’s your trainer?
Francis: Oh, he won’t be coming around for a while.
Claire: He did have a facial expression I won’t miss.
Francis: Is that so?
Claire: Hmm. Sort of perma-smile. It was creepy.
Francis: Maybe he’s just happy.
Claire: Happiness isn’t my concern. Not now, not ever.
Frank: Does it feel good to be back, LeAnn?
LeAnne: It does. Thank you.
Frank: Well, I know Claire is delighted to have you back in her office. Will you let me know as soon as the vice president’s meeting is done?
LeAnn: Yes, sir.
Frank: (to Cathy after she walks out) I hate having her back. She’s a liar.
Here’s hoping a comeback is in the cards (see what I did there?), because this show has lost what once made it so special. What a pity!