Each season of House of Cards is always full of scandal and skeletons in the Underwood closet, but the phrase ‘house of cards’ never seemed more appropriate than in Season 5. Leading up to season 5, there was always some past scandal about to be unveiled that would finally bring down Frank and Claire Underwood, but in the latest season of House of Cards all of these scandals were beginning to surface together.
Season 4 concluded with the Underwoods using war, fear, and terrorism to distract from Tom Hammerschmidt’s article. This information is still in the air of season 5, but now we begin compounding the problems. Let’s recap:
- Tom Hammerschmidt now also accuses the administration of using the demand for a declaration of war to distract from the charges against Frank Underwood
- Claire visits a recently burnt-down convenience store in North Carolina and gives the impression it was a terrorist attack (which it was not)
- The congressional committee that was supposed to be working together on a declaration of war is now focusing on investigating the crimes of President Underwood
- The actions of Aidan MacAllen (the computer hacker) are also coming to light as the congressional panel will eventually dig into what Aidan was doing and how it was connected to the White House and its attempts to sway the election.
- The Underwood administration pushes for the building of “safe” voter areas in key swing states monitored by the national guard. They use the threat of terrorism as cover, but of course we know it is a design to suppress republican votes in these key states.
- On election day when the numbers are looking dire for Frank and Claire, they convince the governors of Tennessee and Ohio that a terror threat is imminent, and ultimately the governors decide to close the polls thus leaving neither Frank or Conway with the required number of electoral votes.
- Lisa Williams returns. She was the friend of Rachel Posner (remember, Doug killed Rachel) and she now has Tom Hammerschmidt working to connect Doug to Rachel.
- The congressional committee is also digging deeper into Frank’s ‘pay to play’ deal with Raymond Tusk
- Claire’s boy toy Tom Yates has a broken heart and may seek revenge after Claire revealed their dirtiest secrets to him. Claire finally gets her hands dirty and later kills Tom.
- And let us not forget that Doug bumped Frank up on the organ donor list. Even this story is beginning to rise to the surface.
The Purpose of Season 5
If Seasons 1-4 taught us anything, it is that Frank Underwood never loses. In fact, we are reminded of this multiple times throughout season 5 by none other than Frank Underwood.
This very simple understanding but important cornerstone of the series is important to focus on, because after after 3 full seasons of Frank as President (and 1 as Vice-President), we are trained to think… “Frank will win.” But, the writers seem to be smart enough to realize that, if Frank keeps winning and remains President in the face of ALL these looming crises (and the metaphorical ‘house of cards’) how will we continue to be engaged in the show AFTER season 5? If nothing in the past could take down Frank Underwood from the Presidency, and the combination of every one of his sins still could not remove Frank from the Presidency, then what could possibly hold our interest in Season 6? What would make us concerned for Frank, and stay engaged to see if he would once again, ‘win’?
Well, Frank does win the Presidency… for a moment… but then he LOSES it. The biggest OMG moment of House of Cards, perhaps? Frank Underwood gives up the Presidency? He’s not immortal?
Oh wait… this was ALL Frank’s plan? Genius. The show reminds what really makes Frank tick… power. In order to keep winning, Frank must lose… but even in losing it is by his own design. He tasted Presidential power, but now he wants ‘real’ power.
He won, but had to lose, to do so? Or was it that he lost, but ultimately won? A House of Cards paradox, perhaps… but clever and necessary for the show’s future.
House of Cards – Season 5, My Thoughts
Frank doing whatever he must to become President was the storyline of Seasons 1 and 2, and still probably the best seasons of House of Cards. Season 3 was all about his administrative policy (zzzz) and Season 4 was about staying in the White House…. funny that season 5 has the same theme as season 4.
To survive, the show needed to make a drastic change in direction. The storyline of Frank simply being President and always winning could not continue forever, and as I’ve just shown, when you consider that all the cards were about to tumble with all of Frank’s dirty sins coming together and he still survived, the show was about to elevate the ‘Frank never loses’ precedent to a pretty boring level.
By having Frank no longer be the President and having the issue of whether or not he would be pardoned by Claire as the next challenge, we move into Season 6 in uncharted territory which was genius by the writers.
While Season 5 very much lacked in creepiness, the insane Doug moments, or having a murderous Frank Underwood, Season 5 did turn the ship in a new direction and deserves kudos for that. We have a new President (with a murderous sin of her own) and a Frank Underwood once again on the outside seeking power… what will he do next?
House of Cards – Season 5, Other Great Resources
What Went Wrong and How to Fix it – while I disagree with this youtube user’s final judgment on Season 5, I do agree with his views on what the series was beginning to feel like since Season 3