House of Cards has returned to Netflix for the eagerly awaited season 5.
President Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) and his wife Claire (Robin Wright) face foes on a few fronts; Governor of New York and Republican candidate Will Conway is running for the presidency in 2016 and terrorism is afoot in Syria.
Meanwhile journalist Tom Hammerschmidt of the Washington Herald is still trying to investigate and uncover various skeletons in the Underwood closet.
It’s no secret that House of Cards has been a tremendous success. Much of this has been down to the strong writing, compelling characters and slick pace and direction. Kevin Spacey captures the Frank Underwood character effortlessly; he’s still the villain you love to hate. Robin Wright with her cold clarity as Claire; is the ice beneath Franks fire, and she has proven over the course of the series to be the rock in the relationship. No, make that, the rock in the Presidential partnership. And she’s stunning which doesn’t hurt.
Yet despite it undoubted quality, House of Cards is starting to become a victim of its own lofty high standards. Lets take a step back for a moment to examine this.
Season 1 hit you like a freight train with a pace and a zeal that had you gripped from the opening episode. You knew where it and the Underwoods wanted to ultimately go; the White House.
Season 2 showed Frank making steady progress, now in the vice president position and one step closer to the coveted position he’d hope to capture in the series finale.
In Season 3 the dichotomy changed somewhat. The hunter now had become the hunted. Frank would be now looking over his shoulder, in protectionist mode assessing how best to control others while, defending against enemies. An interesting change of dynamics was now at play where Frank and Claire’s bond would be tested.
Season 4 introduced new adversaries to Franks Throne in Will Conway; ably played by Joel Kinnaman.
The Underwood administration would yet again be besieged with controversy, and Frank and Claire’s resolve would be tested intensely yet again.
Which brings us to season 5. To be honest, not much has changed.
And this is where the cracks are starting to appear. The show is now repeating itself because it’s out of ideas in terms of plot and for the first time, the show is starting to become monotonous. We have seen everything already at this stage; every infidelity, every betrayal, every reconciliation, every fresh start.
Don’t get me wrong, the quality on show here is still way ahead of many other Netflix offerings, but that is part of the problem. House of Cards was too good too fast and simply peaked too soon. There is nowhere left for it to go at this stage, unless something drastic happens in terms of some of its characters.
The original BBC series by the same name was much shorter, so did not have time to stagnate. Perhaps a short life cycle is what the US version needed the most.
This is where other character study series like Breaking Bad excelled. It was long but never grew tedious or stale. It had a much bigger journey to go through and a larger character arc for all its leads, so it took its time. Granted, many critics argued that Breaking bad was very slow in the opening few seasons, and then really picked up the pace and entertainment value. House of Cards is the opposite. It feels like a long distance runner that ran way ahead for the first few laps, but is now tired and falling back to the field behind it.
Season 5 is still very entertaining, but we’re just plain spoiled rotten from what went before. Still check it out though.’