I thought season 5 did finally live up to the show's name -- but for the wrong reasons. Francis is still going strong, but the writers' web is starting to collapse and not make any sense anymore. House of Cards is supposed to be about Frank ruthlessly controlling everything to meet his own ends, but this year in particular felt like Frank was the one being controlled by outside forces.
It started with the election. They basically wrote themselves into a corner last year with a candidate who was far more appealing than Frank and an election scenario that Frank could never win, so what did they do? They revealed that Conway has secretly been nuts this whole time! That's quite a deus ex machina way to save Frank -- so much so that they even felt the need to do some lampshade hanging when Frank got the recording of Conway's breakdown on the plane.
"I don't like it Claire, this recording came to us too easily! Oh well. Let's use it!" Sorry, but that's not enough, writers. Frank is supposed to destroy his opponents, not bumble around until he gets saved by random chance and the carelessness of his adversaries, e.g. with Brockhart just happening to unknowingly utter a quotable quote into a hot mic that was bad enough to discredit him, too. Frank uses the recordings to destroy his campaign opponents and secures the White House again without any consequences.
Then, after barely surviving a brutal campaign that took two thirds of the season to win, what does he do? He reveals that he's discovered the true meaning of
Christmas power and that he's been sabotaging his own presidency with leaks so that he could get Claire into the White House, instead! Wait, what? Talk about a contrived and nonsensical way to make Claire President.
Even if Claire hadn't gotten into the White House in such a bizarre way, her prospects don't look too bright, considering how dumb she was this season. First she confesses her and Frank's murders to Thom, who then threatens her with extortion to keep quiet about their secrets. Claire then naturally takes the Underwood problem-solving approach of murdering him to keep him quiet, but does she call on somebody loyal like Doug for help? No! She murders Thom in the house of a slimy Washington strategist who immediately turns around and blackmails her in order to get himself into the Vice President's office. Great work, Claire! Clearly you are capable of upholding Frank's legacy of expertly executed schemes.
Speaking of Usher, the addition of both him and Davis made little sense, either. Frank deliberately takes Davis aside near the end of the season and reveals that he knew she was trying to sabotage him at every turn... so why didn't you kick her out of the administration ten episodes ago, Frank? Allowing a Republican strategist like Usher to have such sway in a Democratic White House made little sense, either, but the addition of these two characters I think best illustrates how far this show has fallen. Frank and Claire used to be the master manipulators pulling the strings in Washington, but now they're the ones who are apparently being manipulated by other players who are more in tune with the capital than they are, and they're either too lazy or too blind to do anything about it.
The Underwoods' massive scheme for government domination may still be standing, but the structure of the show is crumbling around them at an accelerating pace.