Very few long running series can sustain their strength in storytelling throughout all its seasons. Sadly, for me, House of Cards S5 (henceforth HoC) lost its mojo, which is quite disappointing. Since the crazy US elections, S5 could have been a surreal exercise with real life merging with the reel. But the writers seem to have written themselves into a hole with this season. They did try to throw in that flawed foreign immigration policy, but the whole thing was so hapzardly written and the idea was discarded like a piece of tasteless chewing gum. So it goes for the whole of S5 – nothing reached an empathetic crescendo.
Previously, it was a cautionary tale about the evil, power brings and its repercussions. I guess this season is about holding on to that power with all that they can use or even beyond their reach. Every character is unlikable and unsavoury. There are no good characters anymore, everyone has a self-serving agenda. I didn’t mind that, but unlike previous seasons, there was nobody I could root for. I have always enjoyed the Underwoods’ hair-splitting brush with getting themselves nailed for good, but in S5 FU and CU didn’t even come close to getting any sense of comeuppance or poetic justice.
The plot is also meandering and it is half-interested in getting issues resolved cathartically or emphatically. I hate it when writers drop new characters whose only reason is to push the gears forward, like the introduction of Jane Davis (Patricia Clarkson) who appears out of nowhere and she goes straight into the inner circle? And how about Mark Usher (Campbell Scott)? One moment he is the righthand man of President wannabe Will Conway and the next moment he is one of the confidantes for the Underwoods? The Oval Office feels like a coffeeshop, anyone who wants to screw the rest of the world and serve the Underwoods can have a drink and talk schemes. I find that so implausible. Gone are the jaw-dropping twists. This is tedious and almost sad to watch. The only good spot for me is seeing CU as President but that didn’t last long.
All in all, this is the most unsatisfying season of HoC. Uneven, meandering and tedious. The last 2 episodes shift into fifth gear but they couldn’t make me forget all the bad vibes and weak storytelling decisions made in the preceding 11 episodes. Even finally seeing CU break the fourth wall barely brought a rise out of me.