House of Cards Season 5: Specter of Donald Trump hangs over gloomy season premiere

Deven Kanal

May,28 2017 09:57 23 IST

Stop me if you've heard this one. The President of the United States is under investigation for alleged crimes. He stands before his accusers. Belligerent. Defiant. The smirk on his face conveying nothing but contempt for the faces he sees.

"I will not yield," he roars. "I will never yield!"

Remind you of anyone?

Kevin Spacey recently quipped that the difference between House of Cards and Donald Trump was that the TV show has better writers. Given the developments of the past few months, I'm not sure many people would agree.  The trailer for Season 5 of House of Cards seemed to play on most Americans' fears: The threat of a power-mad executive with strongman tendencies seizing the reigns.

"The American people don't know what's best for them. I do. I know exactly what they need. They're like little children," Kevin's Spacey's smooth, velvety tone informs us. "Underwood 2016. 2020. 2024. 2028. 2032. 2036....one nation....Underwood."

His path forward is clear. Power. At any cost.

Frank Underwood follows in the footsteps of Walter White, Don Draper and Tony Soprano, middle-aged men who break bad. Dangerous men. It's why so many of us, men and women alike, live vicariously through them. It's cathartic.

House of Cards. Images from Instagram

House of Cards. Images from Instagram

Of course, much has changed in the world. The deliciousness of the earlier seasons of House of Cards was imagining the reigns of power handed over to such an individual. Coarse. Scheming. Utterly without remorse. Some would say such an individual currently occupies the White House and watching him bumble and stumble over himself is a lot less fun than imagined.

The House of Cards show-runners have a problem on their hands — in many cases, viewers turn to entertainment to escape reality — and here it is, reality thrown right back in their faces. And House of Cards just can't compare with the real world chaos carnage caused by Trump. The words "if this happened on House of Cards people would say it was ridiculous" has become a refrain.

From the very first scene of the season premiere, it seems as if America is in mourning. A gloomy pallor hangs over every shot. We quickly learn that terrorist organisation ICO (read the Islamic State) has carried out a attack on American soil. Worse, the terrorist, a home grown operative, has brutally murdered a soldier and vanished. The manhunt is on. And a president under siege uses the incident to attempt to expand his powers, even as the days to the next election tick down.

The season premiere is slow burn, no doubt positioning pieces on the board for the fireworks to come. Kevin Spacey is near perfect as the amoral Frank Underwood, the man who schemed his way to power and would burn down the country if he could rule over the ashes, to appropriate a phrase from George RR Martin. His pursuit of power and disregard for the even the most sacred of traditions once seemed taboo. Now, it is merely commonplace.

Robin Wright, once again, provides support as his partner-in-crime and Lady Macbeth. Sadly, she isn't given much to do. Hopefully that will change in future episodes.

"You have nothing to fear," Frank Underwood intones, looking into the camera as the proceedings draw to a close. Except fear itself, his eyes say. The weapon of tyrants, madmen and wannabe dictators.

One thing is clear. It's Trump's Frank Underwood's America now. And it's a lot less fun.

Watch the trailer for House of Cards Season 5 here:

Published Date: May 28, 2017 09:57 AM | Updated Date: May 30, 2017 16:53 PM