House Of Cards' big moments are now the same moments that are killing the show


Towards the end of House Of Cards Season 5, a key character from several seasons previous is killed off, on-screen, by another major character. It is undoubtedly the season's biggest moment.

It is not, however, the season's best moment and it finishes off a second half of this year's offering that pales in comparison to the first.

Having replaced showrunner Beau Willimon with writers Frank Pugliese and Melissa James Gibson, the season starts off strongly by finding new ways to excel at political drama in the context of a real-life America run by a fish-finger with hair.

Instead of a focus on the evils of Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), the show increasingly folds itself into constitutional minutiae. As Underwood continues to battle Conway (Joel Kinnaman), the type of millennial who thinks he's a millennial but isn't, Pugliese and Gibson successfully establish interest and investment in the smallest and most obscure of legislative pen spasms. It's thrilling, and tense, and with all of the skeletons in the cupboard continuing to wave occasionally, the first six episodes breeze by.

They are helped by the Conway character. Kinnaman still looks miscast, soporifically 'brah', as he Snapchats his way to obscurity. But that too is something Pugliese and Gibson turn to their advantage. Investigating masculinity through Frank and Claire is now dead, but in Conway the writers find life, questioning the American fascination with armed services heroism, and a lot more besides. Conway's wholesome exterior, shown as a sham from early on, crumbles in such a fratboy all-star way that he may as well be wearing polo and chinos. Perhaps it's obvious. It still works, and for a good while it works in a committed and sophisticated manner.

And then things change.

Already missing characters the show had dedicated multiple seasons to (Meechum, Danton - wow, Mahershala Ali is a big miss - Sharp, Dunbar - wow, Elizabeth Marvel is a big miss), Conway is suddenly marginalised. Hell, with apologies for a mild spoiler: he downright disappears from the halfway point. And House Of Cards goes back into distraction mode.

Because the big events in House Of Cards aren't what make the show matter. They drive narrative, but they are not, in themselves, strong story. What happens over the last two episodes of House Of Cards will thrill on initial face value. But it has no substance and those who have been with the series since the start are starting to learn that. The key character death is perhaps a little surprising in its presentation but many will reflect, with rolled eyes, that it was inevitable.

How long the show will take to play that death out is anyone's guess. Five seasons in, the show is still fixated on two deaths from the first season and a further from third, to the point where they now are the Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) character. His blandness passed for obsequiousness for a while. Now it is obvious that he is just the vehicle for those events. A walking skeleton in a closet. On current course Claire and Frank are headed in the same direction. The show will not be able to sustain that.



By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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