House of Cards Season 5, Episode 9: The Live-Binge Review

A nervous Inauguration Day arrives.


As in previous years, I’m binge-reviewing the latest season of Netflix’s House of Cards, the TV show that helped popularize the idea of “binge watching” when it premiered in 2013. Don’t read farther than you’ve watched. (The whole series will appear here.)

Episode 9 (Chapter 61)

The yada, yada, yada continues. Frank and Claire won the Ohio revote and therefore the presidency—and all we need to know about it is what CNN’s commentators can briefly summarize. Van Jones definitely wasn’t bringing the fire the way he does when confronting Jeffrey Lord, but bless Gloria Borger: She sold the demise of Will Conway with the same sing-songy indignation she uses to talk Trump. “I think we need to take a moment to appreciate the Constitution,” she said in the opening segment. “It bent—but it never broke.”

Cards now would seem to enter a new phase for this season: the Underwood presidency. In flashes, like when Medicare got a mention and Frank gave a vague sense of policy goals for his first hundred days, it seemed like the plot might turn to actual governance. But it appears the drip-drip of hidden scandal, the tedium of political horse-trading, and the airless line delivery of the Underwoods’ boytoys—now including the strangely smiley Eric Rawlings—will continue to drive the action, if it can be called that.

The underlying assumption is that Frank and Claire have secured the White House through cunning and guile, but really—as previously mentioned—luck and coincidence played a huge role. Now, we’re seeing how dull Frank’s political instincts can be. Against Mark Usher’s advise, he offends Congressman Alex Romero, going so far as to advocate exactly the opposite of a Medicare expansion in his inaugural address with Romero sitting behind him. Then he’s dumbfounded when Romero, in retribution, starts the investigation of the presidency up again. The Underwoods had to know that the election wouldn’t banish the threat of impeachment or imprisonment from the revelations in Tom Hammerschmidt’s article. A bit more deference toward congressional firebrands would be wise.

Just as others can’t trust the Underwoods, they are beginning to question their trust of those around them. Claire has her eye on Doug, complimenting his handsome inaugural get-up and then springing on him the question of where he was during the ICO beheading last season (the answer: sitting with Lauren Moretti in her car, having a tender moment). And Frank has his eye on striped-socks-wearing Yates, whom he knows to have played tomcat with other White House staffers. “Tom, don’t cheat on my wife,” Frank snaps—a great line.

Other former allies are being slowly ground by the wheels of the train that the Underwoods have thrown them under. In a typically head-scratching turn, Aiden has been picked up by American agents—and whether Kim Dickey led them there, and whether that was LeAnn’s intention in talking to Dickey, and whether the Russians allowed him to be extracted, isn’t completely clear. But in any case it seems the White House is still considering the idea of letting LeAnn take the fall even after everything she’s done for them.

Tensions are once again simmering between the Underwoods too, as made clear in the episode-closing glance they give each other. Jane Davis seems to want to drive a wedge between the presidential spouses by bringing Claire in on her agenda, whatever that may be. Claire calls her overture “presumptuous,” and then she scolds Jane: “My husband is not managed by anybody.” She is, as it goes, correct in that, but we all know that there have been times when Claire has wished it otherwise.

Previously: Season 5, Episode 8

Next Up: Season 5, Episode 10