Alert: If you haven't watched the previous seasons of HoC, this review will contain spoilers that you may want to avoid.
"Watch out for each other and watch each other, to keep us all safe and sound," says Claire Underwood in a chilling message addressing the nation. Thus begins the first episode of season 5, aptly titled 'Homecoming of Terror'.
The Underwoods' problems are far from over, even though a full year has gone by between Seasons 4 and 5. To recap, by the end of Season 4, Tom Hammerschmidt writes a Herald article detailing Frank Underwood's murky journey from being Congressional Whip to becoming POTUS, radicalised domestic terrorists execute an American citizen on national television and Conway steadily gains ground in an election that seems almost over for the Underwoods.
The Season 5 pilot is off to a promising start, befitting of its title, with Frank turning up the rhetoric in the House, for war against terror. It is quite a scene out there, as Frank derails the House agenda in order to push his own, much reminiscent of the Frank from seasons past, only louder, larger and more dramatic than ever before.
However, the episode does sag in between. Claire defends Frank about the Herald article in what seems to be a very defensive interview, while Hannah, the perfect wife and mother of that promising Republican candidate goofs up even though it turns out favourable for Conway. As Tom Yates puts the viewer to sleep with some unnecessary appearances and boring dialogues in his sleepy voice, Macallan and LeAnn have a heart to heart that leads nowhere. For a few minutes, it feels like the director owed one each to all the characters and hence had to figure out a dialogue or two for each of them. Except, except, for that one meeting on policy decision between Cathy Durant and the POTUS, which seems to have been picked straight off the real world.
As we get into the last 15 minutes of the episode, the set-up gets craftier and more intricate. Terror can be manufactured on home ground, especially when it is the necessary condition to regain and hold on to immeasurable power. Some of these scenes towards the end are unreal, and send a shiver down the spine, of how possible and probable it is to create stories that can be fed to people in order to dial up the fear in their hearts.
While there seems very little chance of a second innings for the POTUS, the stage is set for the Underwoods to fight this battle like none other they have fought before, using the considerable resources at their disposal. As Claire and Frank sign off, the viewer knows that this is going to be one riveting season of twists and turns, and perhaps, it isn't yet time for the deck of cards to come crashing down.
Overall, it is an episode worth watching, of a season worth the year long wait!