House of Cards: Season 5 (2017) Review by: Tristan Bunn
One nation, Underwood. After a very long wait this year, House of Cards has returned and it is back with a vengeance! This show continuously blows me away, season after season…and Season 5 is probably the best one yet! I will not spoil Season 5, but there will be spoilers for the series up to this point: Seasons 1-4. So here is your SPOILER WARNING FOR SEASONS 1-4
You still here? Here we go! Season 5 picks up basically where we left off in the previous finale with the Underwoods in the midst of a nasty election against Will Conway and on the verge of war with terror looming in the states. Seeing how Frank will deal with terrorism, or use it to advance his power, is exciting as all of his power moves are, but the real strength of this season is the election. I’m constantly amazed at what the writers are able to accomplish on this show. I’m a writer myself and constantly work on scripts so I am endlessly impressed where the writers are able to take this show and make it endlessly interesting. They’re not afraid to back themselves into a corner and write their way out of it. This is intelligent, brilliantly crafted storytelling with deeply rich and emotionally compelling characters. I haven’t watched every show on television (who can keep up?) but this is the best writing I currently witness on television.
The direction to every single episode is flawless. I caught one odd edit through the entire season and it wasn’t a mistake as much as it was a matter of preference on my part. House of Cards is one of those programs that doesn’t really have different directing styles in each episode. They clearly bring directors on board and expect them to fall in line with the way they shoot, but the way they shoot is great. The most fascinating thing about the direction is their knowledge of when to use a medium shot, when to use a close up, or when to go wide. They use these different shots to tell different stories within the characters because the character is indeed a character itself…I mean Frank does literally talk to it.
This has been said over and over, but Kevin Spacey is masterful and so deserving of an Emmy in this role. During one episode, I literally thought to myself, “Oh, that’s Kevin Spacey.” He becomes Frank Underwood. He embodies this man. Spacey is gone and all that we see is this power hungry President. Robin Wright is worthy of all the critical acclaim she can receive as well because she is perfect. I love every second that these two are on screen. This has all been said before so I’m not adding anything new. The newest addition that I really enjoy is Neve Campbell from the past two seasons. I do have somewhat of an affinity for Campbell already, but I think she gives a tremendously grounded and subtle performance as Leann. Michael Kelly is endlessly brilliant as Doug and continues to bring so much depth to this tortured character. Paul Sparks does a great job with Thomas Yates, even though he is far more reserved this season…really reserved. There is an interesting story they continue to explore with Yates and his relationship with Claire that just further deepened these characters we love…or love to hate.
I think Season 5 progresses poetically and brilliantly, more so than any season thus far. The pacing of this season is perfect. It moves from plot line to sub plot and shifts thematically with ease. There is a moment where the plot does shift in a big way at a point during this season, but it does so gracefully and has you immediately invested in where you’re headed next. I don’t want to write about Season 5 spoilers, but once you see the season then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
Fans of this show are going to love this season just as they have the others. Without spoiling it, I will say that the finale is ballsy. You can’t accuse House of Cards of not taking risks. They constantly push the envelope and challenge the viewer. The way this season concludes had me shocked and almost in disbelief. I will admit I am genuinely worried moving forward to Season 6. I have no idea how they are going to make the future of this show as exhilarating as the first five seasons have been, but I didn’t think it could run this long and still be great.
Season 5 takes risks, pushes the viewer to places you never imagined you would go with this program, and dares you to keep watching. This is my favorite season so far, and although I’m very scared to view the next season and see what awaits us, I can’t wait. The only flaw with House of Cards is forcing us to wait 15 months for the next season. That is just plain torture.
House of Cardsshowrunner Beau Willimon tells us about the significance of the opening scene of the pilot, when Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) strangles a dog that was hit by a car:
“He is giving you his worldview off the get-go. What he’s saying to us is, ‘This dog is suffering in a way that is useless. I don’t have patience for useless things. What is the point of allowing this pain to continue? The dog is going to die anyway; I might as well end this useless aspect of its suffering now.’ It’s not even right or wrong, and he doesn’t really operate on a right or wrong spectrum, he operates on a useful/useless spectrum. So let’s remove one more useless thing from the world.”
Frank could have expected how this pairings assignments were going to go and who was going to request him. He just didn’t want to jump into any conclusions, but when he heard his name being announced to be paired up with a certain greedy blond, Frank smiled and made his way towards Beau. Hands casually inside the pockets of his slacks and whistling a catch tune, the Italian made a beeline until he was standing right in front of the staff member who requested him. “You’re insatiable.” He commented, leaning forward just a little bit and then shrugged slightly. “I’m here for you as you wished. Two hours, so use them wisely, Bo Peep.”