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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Live Blog: House of Cards Season 5, Episode 1

America's most notorious political couple is back and more dangerous than ever.

More than a year later, the wait for the new season of House of Cards is over. Airing just as the country is, at least half-heartedly, attempting to adjust to a new administration, viewers are anxious to find parallels between the fictional political realm and the non-fiction world we are faced with on a daily basis.

As the show’s election premises were already underway before the Trump craze surprised the nation, there is, fortunately, no bombastic millionaire character thrown into the mix as was done on other political dramas like the hit show Scandal.

However, the Netflix adaption of the original British series has succeeded in making its content applicable to the real world by adopting themes relevant to the American political sphere.

After the Edward Snowden leaks changed the entire world by blowing the lid off of the NSA’s massive surveillance apparatus, the show adopted themes that resonated with current events. Likewise, Russia played an integral role in one of the season’s plots just as news networks were airing nonstop footage of Russian troops occupying Ukraine.

These reflective interpretations of reality have helped make the series both applicable and riveting. And while I am only one episode in thus far, this season appears to be going in the same direction by taking relevant and current themes and putting them on the small screen for viewers to devour.

This season, the show picks up mid-election as the dynamic Frank and Claire Underwood have decided to run for both President and Vice President respectively. But the Underwoods got an unexpected surprise last year when they were met with a series of obstacles right before wrapping up the fourth season.

As Frank and Claire face-off against the formidable young and handsome Republican candidate, with his camera-ready family always in tow, they are met not only by the threat of exposure of their past misdeeds but of the growing threat of domestic terrorism.

There is no greater political motivator for the voting populace than raw fear.

Season four ended on a chilling note, as a family is seen tied up by a terrorist and the father is beheaded on live television. While the rest of the senior White House officials look away in horror, the camera focuses on Claire and Frank, both staring unflinchingly at the barbaric display in front of them.

I Will Not Yield

Weeks ago, House of Cards released a Facebook Live video with a chilling message from First Lady and Vice Presidential Candidate Claire Underwood. Facing the camera in her usual stoic and fearless manner, Mrs. Underwood looks directly at the camera and essentially asks that if the American people see something, they say something. After all desperate times, call for desperate measures. Sound familiar?

This, of course, is a plotline that parallels real life, where the threat of Islamic terrorism is used to create widespread fear that often comes with political consequences.

As any seasoned politician will attest, there is no greater motivator for the voting populace than raw fear. Fear has always been used by political leaders in order to justify raising taxes or engaging in foreign conquests abroad.

Of course, as a true opportunist, President Underwood is far less concerned with the threat of ICO, the show’s version of ISIS, as he is with his reelection campaign. In order to manipulate the country into voting for him, President Underwood capitalizes on the people’s insecurities just as his own reputation hangs by a thread.

The Underwoods are skilled in never letting a good crisis go to waste. 

When season 4 ended, President Underwood was left vulnerable when his misdeeds as Vice President and House Whip were exposed by a ring of journalists who are seeking vindication for their friend and colleague Zoe Barnes, who lost her life after Frank pushed her in front of a DC Metro in season 2.

As many politicians throughout the ages have learned, there is no greater way to control your people than to make them believe that without you, their American way of life would be completely decimated. Which is exactly what President Underwood is seeking to accomplish.

Just as a young Congressman stands on the House floor beginning an impassioned speech about President Underwood’s potential criminal investigation due to his past criminal acts – the same acts that got him in the office in the first place – President Underwood disrupts Congress and completely changes the conversation to fear mongering and war. How dare Congress make this political when a televised beheading has just occurred!  

What America needs now is to put political differences aside and focus on our mutual enemy – radical Islamic terrorism.  

Of course, this is only because he is trying to win reelection by distracting from the facts. However, presidents are not allowed in Congressional meetings unless they have been formally invited. As his own actions are the topic of conversation he was obviously not invited but refuses to leave and instead takes the floor to make a declaration of war.

Do most Americans have any idea what is going on in our own country?

Disrupting Congress and creating a ruckus is more akin to British Parliament than American politics. Security comes to lead the President out. But in true Underwood form, Frank gets a look in his eye that signals a sense of opportunity as he looks into the camera, replants himself firmly and loudly declares, “I will not yield.”

We Need to Dial-Up the Terror

“Never let a good crisis go to waste,” Rahm Emanuel once said, and while this has been a practice of politicians since the first gang of thugs united to form the very first government on this earth, no one has mastered this art quite like the Underwoods.

In the wake of the beheading, the President and his stunning wife decide to amp up the fear in order to gain popular support among the voters. When it is discovered that the man responsible for the beheadings is a white, middle-class American, Claire takes on the role of female nurturer.

After the widow and daughter of the beheaded man attempt to distance themselves from any publicity used by the President for personal gain, Claire takes matters into her own hands.

Instead of using the grieving family as a chess piece in the Underwood’s political game, Claire seeks out the mother of the ICO member responsible for the beheadings and still at large in somewhere on American soil.

“Didn’t you know what was going on in your own home?” Claire Underwood asks.

This line is of particular interest because in both the non-fiction world and this televised version of reality, do most of us have any idea what is going on in our own country?

From Snowden revelations and former President Obama’s secret kill list, most Americans obviously do not know what is going on in their own homes and underneath their own noses. Yet, many still form opinions and actively vote without understanding the full picture.

Instead, people form their opinions based on appeals to emotion, be it fear or hope. And as the episode ends, the Underwoods remind the country that they “have everything to be afraid of.”

Now onto episode two!

  • Brittany is a writer for the Pacific Legal Foundation. She is a co-host of “The Way The World Works,” a Tuttle Twins podcast for families.