In Review

House of Cards season 5: Can the series stay relevant?

With Donald Trump in the White House, critics wonder how Frank Underwood can hope to compete

Netflix's hit political drama House of Cards returns for its fifth series at the end of the month, but can the show that revels in the darker side of politics keep up with real world events?

It has followed the sinister rise of the Machiavellian Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) from party whip to vice president and then president.

However, this will be its first airing since Donald Trump won the Republican nomination and went on to become the US's real commander-in-chief.

And "how the show will respond" to that will be the biggest question going into season five, says Ryan Bort in Newsweek. The answer, he adds, "is to turn Kevin Spacey's Frank Underwood into a Democratic version of Trump".

A new trailer for the House of Cards shows people outside the White House holding "Never Underwood" placards, echoing the "Never Trump" rallying cry for those opposed to the US billionaire's bid for presidency.Meanwhile, Underwood says: "The American people don't know what's best for them. I do," while he is seen abusing his new role and declaring his intention to hold on to power indefinitely with the support of his wife Claire (Robin Wright) and henchman Doug (Michael Kelly).

It finishes with the ominous catchphrase: "One nation, Underwood".

However, commentators wonder if the drama can continue to capture the imaginations of viewers jaded by recent political upheavals.

Last year, Lili Loofbourow in The Guardian said House of Cards had always been "fun and dark", but its parallels with current events had become "uncharacteristically weak".

The once "venomous riff on the evils of American politics" suddenly seemed "not just retro, but naive", she wrote, and compared to the horrifying realities of Isis, the fictional terrorists in House of Cards seemed like "a sad joke".

Comedian Hasan Minhaj, who took part in this year's White House Correspondents’ Dinner, echoed these sentiments when he joked the real presidency was so stressful he watched House of Cards “just to relax.”

He added: "Oh, man, a congressman pushed a journalist in front of a moving train? That’s quaint," in reference to an earlier scene from the show.

Christopher Hooton in The Independent argues Trump poses "an existential threat" to House of Cards' raison d'etre.

It continues to be "a smart, barbed and menacing as ever", he says, reviewing the first episode, and has responded to "the bullish new real world president", with Underwood's ruthless character "ratcheted up".

But he hopes the series can continue to "up the stakes when it comes to its protagonist". With the end in sight, he says, viewers need to get a sense of how this presidency "is going to wrap up".

House of Cards season five is released on Netflix on 30 May.

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