What's new in season 5 of 'House of Cards'

Netflix show returns amid real drama unfolding in Washington, D.C.

ByABC News
May 30, 2017, 1:25 PM

— -- If season 5 of "House of Cards" feels different, it's because much has changed -- and not just on the show.

Netflix's premier series returns today amid a very different political landscape. What once felt like an escapist political show now may feel to some a little too close to the real political drama unfolding in Washington, D.C.

Robin Wright, who plays first lady and vice-presidential candidate Claire Underwood, joked at Cannes recently that "Trump has stolen all of our ideas for season 6."

As for the current season, Kevin Spacey, who plays her husband, President Frank Underwood, thinks the show foresaw where events in Washington were headed.

"At some point between when we shot the season and before it dropped, three, four, five things happened in the real world, and we go, 'Everyone's going to assume we stole it from the headlines,'" he told Stephen Colbert last week. "I think we've never been more relevant."

The show has managed to stay relevant even after losing its original showrunner, Beau Willimon, who announced last season that it would be his last.

The new showrunners, Frank Pugliese and Melissa James Gibson, who joined the series in its third season as senior writers, have hardly skipped a beat.

"It’s been pretty organic," Pugliese told ABC News. "We've always been part of the process of constructing the season. Now we're sort of doing the same thing."

"It’s building on the groundwork that was laid and continuing to expand it," Gibson added.

Season 5 was, of course, written well before the 2016 presidential election took place, but there was still plenty in the ether for the creators to play with.

"We did respond to stuff in the air and in the air for a while -- nationalism and populism goes back to season 3," said Frank Pugliese, one of the show's creators. "We tapped into it. We also had pretty great consultants whose job it is to be predictive of what might happen."

One of the main comparisons that's bound to be made is how the Underwoods are playing on fear and attacking the media to distract the public from their own shady dealings. When a hostage crisis erupts at the end of season 4, Claire, who had become an equal partner to Frank as his running mate, seizes on an opportunity.

"I'm done trying to win over people's hearts," she says, suggesting to Frank that they intentionally start a war. "We can work with fear."

"The Underwoods up the ante every year of how far they will go and push the envelope," Gibson said. "Season 4 ended with the promise of chaos and terror. And the construct of season 5 is how the new battleground can be in the mind of the American public. It’s relevant for where we are."

Politics aside, what drives the show is the relationship between Frank and Claire, and that is what Gibson and Pugliese will continue to focus on.

"Even five seasons in, we still want to know what’s happening in their private, internal lives," Pugliese said.

"These two are a couple of survivors," Gibson added. "We will watch the relationship and their ambition battle to the finish."

"Every season we sort of wonder how this relationship will sustain itself," Pugliese said. "It's been great to explore. It's a marriage at the core of the show."

Season 5 of "House of Cards" hits Netflix today.