15 July 2017

Lefsetz Letter: “House of Cards Season Five”

House of Cards Season Five

It’s terrible.

Robin Wright is superb, Kevin Spacey is believable in every role he plays, he’s America’s greatest actor, not Meryl Streep, but they can only do so much with the material, which is underwritten and confusing and concerns a plot point that we’re not interested in.

How did this HAPPEN?

The loss of showrunner Beau Willimon.

It’s like when your favorite act stops working with their hit producer, but even worse, because Willimon wrote, HOC was his baby, and now I don’t even know if I can finish the season.

The point being one individual makes a difference.

Bob Lefsetz

Sadly, I have to agree. I have watched the previous four seasons last year without interruption, which is quite an achievement for me. And a token of how good the series was, with tight plotting and a fast pace, barely a moment or boredom or confusion. I saw some twists coming from a mile away (like Underwood’s relationship with Zoe and her subsequent murder), but I still enjoyed the show very much.

This season though? The plot is confusing and doesn’t seem to go anywhere for most of the season, with the White House and the country paralyzed by a tied election and later by revelations about the President’s rise to power. The characters themselves seem increasingly tangled in their own web of lies and deceit, unable to move forward, unable to draw a vision for the future, neither dark nor hopeful.

The outside challenges faced by the ruling couple throughout the 13 episodes are largely unoriginal, mirroring real-life events a little too closely. The election deadlock was already used as a plot point in Veep, in almost the same terms; the ICO plot line resembles ISIS and the murder of Bin Laden; a NSA operative defecting to Russia is basically the story of Edward Snowden; the all-male resort looks a bit too much like a KKK gathering; the President sacrificing the people closest to him to save himself all-too similar to the Trump administration. And how many times can you throw people down the stairs (or in front of the subway) and reasonably get away with it?!

When the trailer is more fun than the series

I liked the tense ending though, which promises a much more exciting season six – but until then I fear I will forget every last detail of this average season.

My rating: 3.0
  • “House of Cards” still delivers an addictive binge-viewing fix, but five seasons in, its weaknesses have never been more apparent. Because the Underwoods and practically everyone else in their world have no core beliefs or values, topical story lines about Russian interference in American democracy, about Syria and about the ISIS-like terrorist organization “ICO” have no emotional impact. A show that was once shocking in its depiction of a federal government that wasn’t just corrupt, but was bloodthirsty, has to keep upping the body count to maintain our attention because its bleak view of American politics no longer feels fresh.

    Judy Berman
  • The fifth season of House of Cards is the first without longtime showrunner Beau Willimon. Fans of the series will be relieved to know that new showrunners Melissa James Gibson and Frank Pugliese have kept the trains moving on time, while more tentative or wearied viewers should be warned that the frustrating aspects of the series have only grown worse and House of Cards spends at least seven or eight episodes of the new season spinning its wheels and running on forgettable fumes.

    To the show's absolute credit, entertaining and amusing things begin to happen by the 11th or 12th episode, and even though those things are ludicrous, implausible and riddled with plot holes, they set the show up well for the sixth season.

    Daniel Fienberg

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