House of Cards Season 5 (Television Review) – Brilliant Television

House of Cards is a political drama television series created by Beau Willimon. The first episode was released in 2013 and, since then, the show has gone from strength to strength and the fifth season was recently released on Netflix. This fifth season sees the return of Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright as Frank Underwood and Claire Underwood respectively along with Michael Kelly, Paul Sparks, Jayne Atkinson, Derek Cecil, Neve Campbell, Lars Mikkelsen, Joel Kinnaman, Boris McGiver, Campbell Scott and Patricia Clarkson.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Season 5 of House of Cards

House of Cards is one of my favourite television shows. It exudes class and a big reason why this TV show is so good is because of Kevin Spacey. He has created a character in Frank Underwood that is so manipulative, Machiavellian and ruthless that you cannot help being captivated by his sheer presence and the arcs he has been a part of in House of Cards. While Spacey has and always will be the consistent highlight of House of Cards, he has a great supporting cast around him. Robin Wright and Michael Kelly have also been brilliant in this TV show.

I have loved every season of House of Cards. While some are better than others, they are always great seasons of television to watch. Consequently, this meant my expectations going into this fifth season were high, especially as this season would clearly be a commentary on Donald Trump and the 2016 election. Moreover, I was looking forward to seeing the effects of the finale of Season 4 and to see the continuation of Underwood’s own election campaign against Will Conway (Joel Kinnaman).

Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey as Claire Underwood and Frank Underwood in Season 5 of House of Cards

My Thoughts on Season 5 of House of Cards

Unsurprisingly, House of Cards delivers yet again. Right from the beginning, we are welcomed back to the show with an opening scene that just epitomised Frank Underwood. It laid a great foundation for what this season would focus on which was the push for a Declaration of War against ICO and a move towards totalitarian rule. I also liked how this season focused on relevant issues at this time such as cyber-terrorism and voter suppression.

Indeed, they would turn out to be pivotal tools used in the election campaign between Frank Underwood and Will Conway. Speaking of Will Conway, it was interesting to dig deeper into his character in terms of scars from his military history and how the pressure of the campaign had a significant toll on his ability to be in charge and control. He eventually became marginalised, lost to Frank Underwood and had the embarrassment of being offered the role of Transportation Secretary. In the end, Conway could not cope with the ruthless nature of Frank Underwood and politics in general. Secretary Durant (Jayne Atkinson) was also victim to Underwood’s ruthlessness.

Another element of this season that I really enjoyed was the return of Lars Mikkelsen as Viktor Petrov. Petrov is the President of Russia and the main reason why I liked his return was because I suddenly realised that I was watching the live-action version of Grand Admiral Thrawn. If you are confused, Mikkelsen voices Thrawn in Star Wars Rebels and I loved how it suddenly clicked for me that he plays great characters in two of my favourite shows. Moreover, Petrov continued to be a great adversary (and he was rocking a great beard!).

Joel Kinnaman and Dominique McElligott as Will Conway and Hannah Conway in Season 5 of House of Cards

Possible Impeachment

Another arc that continued over into this season was the investigation into Frank Underwood that is being led by Tom Hammerschmidt (Boris McGiver) at The Washington Herald. When you look at the wider picture, this is the biggest threat to Frank’s quest for power as Hammerschmidt is getting closer to uncovering the true reason why Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara) died. Interestingly, the nature of how Frank received his liver transplant in Season 4 of House of Cards was also nearly exposed. This could have threatened Frank’s reign as President of the United States which was under immediate threat by possible impeachment.

The threat of impeachment forced Frank to initiate a type of “Big Brother” surveillance in The White House to provide him with an edge when it seemed like everything and everyone was against him. It seems that Frank was not lying when he said that democracy was overrated! I must give a lot of credit to Kevin Spacey in portraying this character in such a way that, even though we know he is evil, we cannot help but root for him. His acting is second-to-none.

Furthermore, his relationship with Claire Underwood is always captivating when they are both working together and against each other. After seeing this season of House of Cards, it seems that they will be at odds for the foreseeable future and I loved how this was subtly set up throughout this season. Claire always seemed liked she wanted more and perhaps her relationship with Frank has run its course.

Patricia Clarkson as Jane Davis in Season 5 of House of Cards

New Characters

Indeed, new characters such as Mark Usher (Campbell Scott) and Jane Davis (Patricia Clarkson) seem to be pivotal in how this split between Frank and Claire came to be. I liked both characters, especially Mark Usher and I look forward to seeing how they progress in the next season of House of Cards.

One character who will most definitely not be in the next season of House of Cards is Tom Yates (Paul Sparks). Yates was murdered by Claire and I was glad that their relationship came to an end. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the relationship they had as it humanised Claire. But, it had run its course. LeAnn Harvey (Neve Campbell) was another victim and I believe that this will have a big impact on Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly).

Doug Stamper is one of my favourite characters in House of Cards and he has shown unquestionable loyalty to Frank Underwood. For me, this loyalty could now be called into question. If being forced to take the fall for Zoe Barnes’ death was not enough, Doug may finally realise that, after the supposed death of LeAnn, Underwood has no boundaries in terms of who he must sacrifice to stay in power.

Kevin Spacey and Michael Kelly as Frank Underwood and Doug Stamper in Season 5 of House of Cards

My Only Criticism

There was a lot of stuff going on in Season 5 of House of Cards and, yet again, it was captivating television. The only criticism I would levy at this season was that there was no shocking moment. In Season 1, we had the “suicide” of Peter Russo. In Season 2, we had Zoe Barnes’ “suicide” and, in Season 4, we had the assassination attempt on Frank Underwood. A moment such as these ones was lacking in this season of House of Cards.

Still, the acting and the cinematography was stellar as always. Additionally, the arcs that the characters were a part of in this season progressed the story to a point where, for me, we are reaching the end-game of House of Cards. I feel as though Frank Underwood is slowly losing his grip on the situation, despite feeling like he is the puppet-master of everything (In fact, he effectively stated this in the final episode of this season). Season 6 of House of Cards cannot come quicker. If you have not caught up or even watched House of Cards, I urge you to do so as soon as you can because it is gripping television.

Wonder Woman (Film Review) – The DCEU Delivers

Wonder Woman is a superhero film directed by Patty Jenkins and it is based on the DC Comics character of the same name. The film stars Chris PineRobin WrightDanny HustonDavid Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Ewen Bremner, Elena Anaya and Gal Gadot. Gadot stars as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince and the story is set during World War I (WW1). Diana, with the help of American pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), leaves the island of Themyscira and embarks on a mission to end WW1 and defeat Ares, the God of War.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Wonder Woman

Honestly, I had little interest in Wonder Woman after the disappointment of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. In fact, because those films were so underwhelming for me, I did not even bother to watch Suicide Squad. My desire to see Wonder Woman, therefore, was entirely dependent on the reaction it received from film fans, pundits and critics.

Happily, Wonder Woman was lauded with praise and is now considered by many to be the best film in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). Going into the film, I was excited but I was trying my best to keep my expectations grounded. Obviously, when a film gets praised as much as Wonder Woman has, you are in danger of getting over-hyped for the film.

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince in Wonder Woman

My Thoughts on Wonder Woman

The hype is real. For me, Wonder Woman is the best DCEU film that I have seen and the best DC film since The Dark Knight Rises. While the villains are not the strongest, the film is a huge step in the right direction for the DCEU and there is a lot to love in Wonder Woman. For one, Gal Gadot silenced her critics by giving a very commanding performance.

Gadot embodied the character of Wonder Woman/Diana Prince and the physical aspect of her performance impressed me. Additionally, the chemistry between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine was very good. The relationship between their respective characters was believable. You could connect to these characters and this gave Wonder Woman an emotional core. I also thought that Robin Wright was tremendous in the small role that she had in the film.

Patty Jenkins

I must give a lot of credit to Patty Jenkins for making this film as good as it was. The way she directed and shot Wonder Woman gave the film a unique feel to it. While Jenkins was clearly inspired by other superhero films such as Captain America: The First Avenger, she imprinted her own style and vision on the film and did a great job in the process.

Themyscira in Wonder Woman

Shockingly, the last feature film that she directed was Monster which came out in 2003! After seeing Wonder Woman, I do not understand how this could happen. Hopefully, Patty Jenkins will get the chance to direct more films and I also hope that her work in this film will break down the barriers which prevent more female directors from getting the chances they deserve as well.

The colour palette and the cinematography in Wonder Woman was beautiful too. This was particularly evident in the scenes that took place at the island of Themyscira and these scenes were some of my favourite in the film. I loved the lore of Themyscira and the impact that Gods such as Zeus and Ares had on both the island and mankind.

The score in Wonder Woman was another element of the film that I absolutely loved. It was composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams and, if you read my review of Hacksaw Ridge, you will know that I loved that score too. He has impressed me with his work in both films and I hope that trend continues in the future.

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince in No Man's Land in Wonder Woman

Overall, Wonder Woman delivered and, to some extent, it has renewed my faith in the DCEU which I thought would never happen after recent entries in this franchise. Good performances, interesting lore and the stellar job that Patty Jenkins did in directing Wonder Woman make it one of the best films that has come out this summer and even this year. More importantly, it is a very important and relevant film to see and you must see this film as soon as you can.