TV review: House of Cards Season 5, Netflix (4 stars)

TV review: House of Cards, Netflix

Season five of the Machiavellian political drama leans heavily on Trumpism and post-truth

'Why weren't you at the beheading?' It's not a question you hear on many TV shows, but when uttered with deadpan calculation by an Underwood, it's the kind of moment that neatly encapsulates the paranoid and unhinged House of Cards universe. The horror of that beheading which closed season four was not only matched but, arguably, superseded by the detached expressions of Claire (Robin Wright) and Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) as she joined him in a fourth wall-twisting camera stare. 'We don't submit to terror … we make the terror.' Bloody right you do Frank.

But a lot has happened in the body politic of American life since that series finished giving creator Beau Willimon plenty to chew on as work began on number five. How can even the Underwoods be a scary presence in the White House now when the real Oval Office is occupied by a reality TV star who could flip out at any minute? After a relatively humdrum opening few episodes as the presidential election result becomes mired in constitutional red tape and legal battles with Republican wonderboy Will Conway tipping slowly towards a full-on meltdown (another victim of the Underwoods' underhand tactics), the second half lets rip.

Mortal opponents and previous close allies are downgraded, sidelined (or worse) as Claire and Frank attempt to hold on for dear life to their shared, arguably undeserved power. But what of the relationship between them? What at first appeared to be the simple matter of a longstanding marriage perhaps having lost its sheen has turned into something altogether more manipulative and dangerous. It leads to another House of Cards-only moment when Frank warns speechwriter Tom to not 'cheat on my wife again'.

Unlike the first scene of the entire show, there's still life in the old House of Cards dog yet. But whether the Underwoods can keep playing a trump card on that guy in the White House remains to be seen.

House of Cards is on Netflix from Tue 30 May.

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