I'll admit, I was really frustrated with the incoherent trainwreck that was season 5 (and it's time again for my seasonal gripe "It's called house of CARDS, why didn't they wrap this all up in four 13-episode seasons?!"). I didn't even realize this was coming back this fall until I saw it on Netflix when I launched it Friday night.
That said, I gave it a chance and I'm... intrigued? I've watched two episodes, but got stoned while watching the second so don't really remember much beyond the first episode. :) What I've seen so far has my attention... but I'm also wary. There's a term I use (coined?) for Coen Brothers and similar movies, "mythological decoupage", where they take existing myths or stories, fracture them, and reassemble the pieces (such as the Greek myths referenced in "O Brother Where Art Thou"). It can be both fascinating and frustrating, similar to how the great Blues Traveler song "Hook" makes you think there's meaning where it's referencing "familiar heroes from long ago to confuse the issue". Maybe it's a staggering work of heartbreaking genius... or maybe they just threw a lot of cool images up and left it to you to invent some overarching motif. It's not exactly an unheard-of cop-out for screenwriters. :)
I think I see a little of that going on here, so far. Unavoidably of course, from the very start of this season the show is steeped in references to the current political climate. But will it be satisfying at the end? Will there be some meaning, or message, or conclusion- or just an adolescent, South Parkean spaghetti-fling of not-so-subtle allusions, masquerading as deep and insightful?
Some episode-specific thoughts:
First, big shout out to the props and costume/makeup department. That scene where we see Claire in the Oval Office at the beginning, she has a swoop of blond hair that is so clearly reminiscent of The Traitor's absurd coif... and right there in the background is Campbell Scott, now somehow crisply silver-haired in an unmistakable Pence impression. It was an arresting visual rhyme, and the first episode has a lot of those. That camera angle in the crisp blue jacket when she's giving her speech to the soldiers looks like the kind of thing screencapped and posted as the banner on one of the white supremacist/nazi Reddits.
The Shepherds seem to be stand-ins for the real-life evil billionaire siblings Eric "War Crimes" Prince and Betsy "The Killing of the American Mind" DeVos. I guess Richard E. Grant and Sandra Bernhard were unavailable... :)
The app thing first hinted at in previous seasons as an Underwood ploy, but now being used by the Shepherds, is an obvious allusion to Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, and Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekkah.
Claire is understandably hated by the public (her husband stole an election, and died before he could be impeached so now she's, somehow, both halves of the First Couple)... but it's a show that like so many Hollywood productions spent 5 seasons telling us about these evil "Demon-rat" politicians, Bill Underwood and Hillary Hale Underwood. So is Claire still the Hillary stand-in of the previous seasons, or is she a clone of The Traitor, or some hybrid, or...?
So I'm not crazy, right? Frank was very much alive and well at the end of the last season, and this thing about him dying was retconned in because of external factors, but presented as if we were supposed to remember it that way. Appropriate in the age of disinformation and the menace of unreality, I guess. But I'm assuming we're supposed to think that Claire had him killed.
What is with the incompetence of the security and staff, anyway? I'm probably blurring in some of the second episode, but the way people grab and and confront Claire, it's like there's no more secret service at all. I mean, after a .50 cal hits her window, they take her to a small-town fire station?
That entire sequence with the bird in the walls was so obviously a Lady Macbeth riff, I was shocked that an actual bird came out of the wall.
I've got no problems with Robin Wright being the star of the show- I don't miss the plot-armor of Francis' Kingpin-like machinations. And I guess I'll stick around for at least a couple more episodes, but I'm not sure what are we supposed to think of Claire. She still seems psychopathic, yet not unlike Frank has some good ideas. She's also done waaaay too many wicked things to somehow get a redemption arc in the final season by standing up to the "American oligarchs"- even if it's a cause I wholly support in principle.
I'm just hoping the final episode doesn't have Claire fleeing on a boat to become a lumberjack in the Pacific Northwest.