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Sunday, June 4, 2017

House of Cards Season 5: Reality Less Alternate

Well, it's obvious that with Trump in the White House, the alternate reality that House of Cards is with Frank Underwood as President is a lot less alternate than it was last year, in Season 4, with Obama in the White House on our nonfictional television screens.  Indeed the only big difference between Trump and Frank is that Trump has not actually murdered anybody - by his own hand or by order - and I'm not sure how much money I would bet on that, especially the latter.

That said, however, Frank Underwood is a vastly more literate and likely intelligent man that the current winner of the Electoral College vote.  Frank has a grasp of history so astute that he knows that Jefferson not Washington was the author of a famous statement.  One gets the impression that Trump won more from dumb luck that brilliant planning, which is precisely the opposite of how Frank has climbed to the top.

In previous seasons, we've seen Frank first work his way into the Vice Presidency, and then into the Presidency, culminating with a knock on the desk in the Oval Office, and a trail of bodies and broken lives in his wake.  He does the same in the first half or so of Season 5, holding on to the Presidency in the face of a JFK-like Republican challenge.  I don't know if I find the way he did it - manipulating the governors of Tennessee and Ohio to close their polls, due to a terrorist threat that Frank fabricated - completely plausible, but it worked in the narrative.

Even less plausible is Frank withdrawing in favor of his VP wife Claire, on her promise that she'll grant him a pardon (which of course she doesn't - at least not when she says she will - which nicely sets up the next season).  Claire has really come into her own as almost or even every bit Frank's equal in this season, with a new hairdo about halfway through that makes her look more like Megyn Kelly than Mika Brzezinski, and killing her lover Tom literally in flagrante delicto with her on top, which puts her not only in Frank's class but a significant step above.

But I don't completely buy Frank resigning because he thinks the truest power resides outside the White House, not to mention that he had to have seen that Claire's promise of a pardon could be broken.  So I'll be eagerly awaiting the next installment of this alternate reality, which begins sometime after Al Gore conceded and then withdrew his concession in 2000, which Frank aptly cites.

And it will be fun to see how the two new enigmatically powerful advisors whose loyalty to Frank or Claire is unclear - gamely played Campbell Scott and Patricia Clarkson - all works out.

See also House of Cards Season 1: A Review ... House of Cards Season 2: Even Better than the First, and Why ... House of Cards Season 3: Frank, Claire, "Putin," and Superb ... House of Cards Season 4: Trump and Frank

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