This article contains information that could be considered too revealing according to our spoiler policy. Proceed with caution. You can't unsee it!Reason Netflix released the whole season the same day.
How Do You Prop Up A House Of Cards?
And other uncomfortable questions from 'Chapter 54.'
What the hell is going on now?
While the season premiere is all about the tactical use of fear to shock and awe the public, "Chapter 54" takes a quieter approach, showcasing the mechanisms used behind the scenes; in short, it's the episode in political back-channeling that Jared Kushner desperately needed to see back in December. As Frank and Doug go about setting the master plan into action, they woo their partners in crime through kickbacks, nothing ever being explicitly asked for or stated. Poor Seth is the sole exception, though he should know by now that Doug will make sure he's eaten alive by alligators imported from Gaffney before he's ever allowed to testify publicly about anything remotely Underwood-adjacent.
So why are Seth and Doug watching revenge porn together?
Between everything that went down with Raymond Tusk in Season 2 and Tom Hammerschmidt's late Season 4 exposé, it seems that Congress has finally gotten around to realizing that something is off and some sort of special committee has been convened to look into things; Remy and Jackie already have lawyers, and former Vice President Matthews is willing to testify. Doug and Seth are consulting with an outside fixer on the best ways to minimize the damage/blackmail people, with revenge porn starring the committee chairman's chief of staff being their most promising lead. To which: ban men, Frank Underwood literally killed a dog and committed treason, but sure, let's hang this whole thing on a woman getting off. This is starting to get a little too close to home.
What's up with Doug's swing state party?
Basically: it's a voter suppression party in disguise. Just like in the real world, the Democrats have a white people problem, so Frank has tasked Doug with pressuring the aids of swing state governors into accepting federal "help" to combat the "Election Day threat from ICO." The idea is that a show of federal force in key Republican counties will have an adverse effect on voter turnout. Considering that most white people are a bunch of scaredy-cats, it's far from being the most far-fetched plotline.
Why are we still dealing with Tom?
Is it that important to Claire that she have a boy toy? He's kind of dumb, a huge liability, and not even that great a writer. For someone so focused on getting out of Frank's shadow, it's weird that Claire's tying herself to yet another man, but then again, she is someone who needs someone to need her. In a way, it's understandable, but she's far more scary as Lady MacBeth than she is when she's taking her pet out for a walk.
What's going on with Leann and Macallan?
Some pretty shady stuff, that's what. Now working at the NSA, Macallan gets spooked when he sees internal auditors working on his floor, leading to a meet with Frank himself. In order to cover up his tracks from last season -- remember those extremely well-targeted robocalls? -- he basically needs to allow hackers to poke around inside the federal cybertrafficiking center. In other words: he has to provoke a national cyberattack targeting Washington. To absolutely no one's surprise, Frank's totally down with this, except for one thing: he wants the attack to last longer than it has to, so that he can leverage the chaos as "evidence" of ICO's intentions. It all sounds vaguely harmless, and the idea of a "flash blood warning" on Halloween is some straight-up hilarity, but consider this: it's basically the President of the United States ordering a #Bridgegate in order to hide the fact that he's participating in illegal data practices. Not so far from the truth that it's unimaginable, but this single action is probably Frank's largest "f the public" move in the series to date.
Does Conway's rant make him look crazy or sane?
It's unknown whether the fake news phenomena has crossed worlds, but there's something unsettling about the final scene of the episode, where Governor Conway is heard having a mini-breakdown while correctly exclaiming the truth about the earlier hacking. "This is him!" "War is real!" "This is what happens when you throw around a term like 'war,' all hell breaks loose!" Conway's correct, of course, but will the public see anything other than an opponent desperate to win? Considering the smugness with which Frank and Claire were watching, they're betting no.