I remember ending the last blog post I did on the House of Cards in the hope of Claire Underwood becoming the President (or the series becomes worthless). For combinatoric reasons (#Metoo related complete exit of Spacey and the scope for a better story) that did happen in season 6 (or is it 5). However, to me, the resounding hollowness of the previous seasons just maintained their echoes. Despite quite a topical angle (autocratic, criminal-minded, unpopular and almost unqualified president) with a defiantly combative edge of feminism, sort of an oblique view on #Metoo used by people on the other end of the spectrum from the usual proponents: powerful women, but still quite on point if it only had been braised right! But that was not to be… I am so glad there are only eight episodes of over-the-topness to get through.
*** SPOILER ALERT***
I see this season doing real well with the right wingers, ultra right wings and MAGA supporters, after all: they will see what can happen once a white woman, openly feminist becomes president. She even uses her pregnancy to gain sympathy and gets rid of all her enemies under the guise of progress. And that is my problem with this season. What it should have been is a controlled rendition of an autocrat, more stewing for well done meat, depicting the current state of affairs since it is clearly inspired by it, in a way that despite it being a woman president, we could still see what personal ambition looks like, in the world’s biggest public office. How it doesn’t matter who, what color or sex the dictator is: and how to differentiate their spots from other ‘politicians’ with vested interests but not (entirely) criminal minds. They could have angled it to show that dictators will use whatever they can, even their own pregnancy, generally the most sacrosanct human states, to get what they want. What I got however was how manipulative women can be, and for that you can presumably just watch a season of Real housewives (am I right?). In my previous posts I had speculated that perhaps Claire Underwood has a conscious, and perhaps she sees herself as someone who can make real progress happen. Since personal ambition is usually fueled by the belief that one is deserving of a position, it was more natural for her tyranny to arise because she sees herself as most suited for the job. As being deserving of it, being more “Capable” than the others she see vying for the job. Her growth to a full blown tyrant was missing. We knew her ambitions and ruthless nature, but none of that vacuous. The worst was adding all kinds of subplots based on historical petty rivalry and dysfunctional role of the “deep state” using some multimillionaires was played out, poorly.Was I asking for too much and too predictable? I don’t know. But the corporate players that were brought in, instead of indulging more to Claire’s character, did not inspire any awe in me. It could have been done well, but wasn’t.
The pervasive problem of American shows is exactly this: maintaining only a superficial semblance to anything real. Not only were the Shepherds lukewarm, in season 6(or 5) it was Doug Stamper’s insistence on clearing the dead Francis’s name via a posthumous presidential pardon was just beyond explanation. Not to mention the family melodrama of the powerful Shepherd sibs, where the the sister’s son- initially shown to be a ruthless technocrat, on top of spying apps and clandestine deals, has an emotional collapse on account of being adopted. Okay, it wasn’t a real collapse, but it was still pretty silly.
As Claire went back to her maiden name (good call in the script) and is mind-gaming all her adversaries with virtually no help needed or provided, one after the other people drop dead to help her, possibly with divine intervention. No, she doesn’t kill her husband, or almost anyone directly in this season. We find Jane (her advisor)and Mark’s (now Vice President) characters being frustratingly moral, which also I can abide because after all, these two were never politicians and do understand that a global system needs to be maintained. If not of peace, then of some form of ‘stable catastrophe’ so that people can continue to make money. Jane helps Cathy (ex-Sec of State who was pushed down the stairs by Francis Underwood because she happened to be not quite so bent) escape, Mark seems to always be regretting his decisions of trying to control Claire, despite his loyalty to the Shepherds for whom he actually works. Annette Shepherd (quite a good performance by Diane Lane) being mostly controlled by emotions (some rivalry followed by anger-revenge), as far as I could tell anyway. As for her brother, he was one of the weakest links, in addition to the superbly vacant Doug Stamper storyline.. The performances are great, as usual. I am just so underwhelmed with the storyline! Psychotic or not, I just can’t buy Doug’s story.
Again Robin Wright can do anything. Her poise is enough to kill people, I tell you. But not one complain about being on stilettos all day, while pregnant? Not one bad hair day either. Who wrote this thing???
Ultimately in this season and the show, it is her innate glory that incites the loyalty of every one to keep watching, or killing (as it happens) that keeps the show going. Sadly, loyalty is not my strong point. And like the real feminists of Claire’s all female cabinet, I didn’t sell my logic to the highest bidder.
(the trial in the title was an afterthought, the trial was the show making an attempt to show the dark side of feminism, not a good attempt)