House of Cards has returned for its fifth season. The diabolical Frank Underwood and his cunning wife Claire are leading the nation into an era of terror. It seems fitting since the show is returning during one of the most politically divisive periods in America’s history. Heck, it’s not just the United States; the entire globe is experiencing upheaval and fear in a capacity that is frightening. But, that’s exactly why we need a show like House of Cards right now.
“We can work with fear.”
Times of crisis and uncertainty often breed powerful art. You can look at The Handmaid’s Tale for another great recent example. Human beings crave narrative to help them better understand the complexities of reality. Fiction offers a unique outlet for this in that it can serve as both an escape from and a reflection of the world we live in.
House of Cards has always been the best of both worlds. This new season is diving headfirst into a tumultuous election that will surely dredge up memories of the momentous 2016 presidential election, but it will also offer viewers a respite from the constant onslaught of divisive opinions and news that has sprung out of the new presidency. We often look towards stories in order to help us make sense of the indecipherable chaos of our daily lives. And our daily lives are often filled with tales of horror and despair. That’s why we value something like House of Cards or even Game of Thrones: they make the nonsensical evils of the world make some sort of sense.
“We make the terror.”
We love villains. From Darth Vader to Hannibal Lecter to the Devil himself, humanity has a fascination with the darker side of our psyches. Frank Underwood is every awful idea you’ve ever had about the people running America turned up to eleven. That makes him inherently compelling. And with the new season granting Claire and him more power, they have ascended to the level of supervillains.
That only makes them more irresistible. We need larger-than-life villains to be the shadow of all that we see as good. The terror that they create and bring with their schemes gives us something to look down upon. However, at the same time, we admire their drive and commitment to who they are. That’s true of any horror villain and the Underwoods are right up there.
Season 5 is giving us the Underwoods at their most diabolical. They are unstoppable monsters with no desire to become any less inhuman. We should revel in their horribleness. It’s a lot easier to digest than what’s going on outside your window.