Distraction. Executive order. Visa ban. Border control. These terms have become synonymous with America’s current political landscape, bolstered to hysterical levels by our own president. It’s no coincidence they all drop within “Chapter 53” of Netflix’s House of Cards. Much like ABC’s Scandal, the political thriller, in its fifth season, borrows heavily from Election 2016. Whether intentional or not, the stark similarities cannot be denied. And more importantly, they make for good drama.
We return to Underwood’s America two weeks from election day. Frank (Kevin Spacey) and Claire (Robin Wright) have positioned themselves for battle as they stump across the country against the GOP’s opponent – Governor Will Conway (Joel Kinnaman). Frank is confident he’ll retain his position as Commander-in-Chief despite Conway’s charming deposition with the public. However, side stories have become speed bumps on the road to the first Tuesday of November.
Tom Hammerschmidt’s Washington Herald reemerges with the late Lukus Goodwin’s conspiracy of Frank’s criminal activity. In addition to the media, a congressional committee formed by Underwood is compromised by Conway investigating Frank’s rise to POTUS. Meanwhile all of this occurs against the backdrop of domestic terrorism in the name of ICO.
While our main players manage from the top, the Underwood minions do the dirtier work. Everyone’s favorite Chief of Staff Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) persists with his unique methods of persuasion. He isn’t alone as campaign manager LeeAnn Harvey (Neve Campbell) returns with her trusty hacker colleague, who nervously enacts more criminal wrongdoing on the president’s behalf. Author Thomas Yates remains Claire’s “mouthpiece,” juggling his position as a necessary evil. And press secretary Seth Grayson finds himself in a precarious position as he attempts to bargain for immunity. The pride before the fall is in the air.
On the other side of the aisle, Conway arrogantly holds a 24-hour long skype session, answering the public’s questions. He’s basically handling damage control after wife Hannah’s comments show solace for the mother of a homegrown terrorist. His efforts seem to work but at a price. The basis of his entire platform – his valiant combat record – comes under question when he fails to recall exact details of his heroic actions on the battlefield.
Fast forward to election day. There’s nothing left to do but vote and wait. Frank and Claire take refuge in their home theater watching Double Indemnity, an election night tradition. Everything seems to be going smoothly until LeeAnn relays news about the polls in his native South Carolina. They’re abnormally low. Similar numbers in voter turnout pop up in Pennsylvania. They assume the same may be the case in Ohio. That’s two swing states
Hillary Frank needs to guarantee a victory. A panic fills the room as doubt lodges itself between the Underwoods.
Has Frank and Claire’s strategy to “be the terror” backfired? Or will Conway’s foggy memory finally reveal a crack in his pristine glass house? Can not wait to find out. Return here for recaps of House of Cards episodes 4-6 soon.
Editor’s note: The name of the former Washington Herald EiC is Tom Hammerschmidt. Previously he was incorrectly identified as Tom Hammerstein. In addition, the press secretary was erroneously referred to as “Press Secretary Toby”. That has been corrected to Seth Grayson.