House of Cards has always pulled from the headlines. The political Netflix series, starring Kevin Spacey and RobinWright, thrives on mirroring the more conniving side of U.S. statecraft, combing through American history to find story lines that feed and shape its White House narrative. The new season debuted Tuesday morning, at a time when the country’s current president, Donald Trump, is besieged by allegations of obstructing justice and colluding with Russia, among other claims. Numerous moments in this latest installment of House of Cards reflected this moment in history perhaps a little too well. From Senate investigations to startling political tactics, here’s all the times this season might have hit too close to home.
1. Everything is a “distraction”
In Episode 1, Washington Herald editor Tom Hammerschmidt dismisses one of Frank Underwood’s political tactics as merely a “distraction” to the underlying issues at play. In most circumstances, that would be a fairly benign thing to say, but it’s a pointed choice of words that’s hard to ignore in an age when Trump’s critics have urged people not to get “distracted” by the president’s tweets or outlandish comments, and his Trump’s supporters have argued that all the chaotic “distraction” is actually part of his master plan.
Of course, the season ends with Underwood revealing that a large amount of the chaos that takes place actually is part of his master plan—but that’s a rather Machiavellian feat that Trump himself will likely not achieve.
2. All the executive orders!
Presidents throwing their weight around with executive orders is nothing new, but the incessant signing of new orders (some of them incendiary and arguably unconstitutional) is now a hallmark of Trump’s first 100 days. There are shades of his bullishness in Episode 2, when Frank Underwood declares an executive order for protecting “voting centers” and enforcing strict border restrictions, invoking “Section Blah Blah of the Blah Blah Act and Section Blah Blah of Title Blah Blah, Paragraph Bullshit Bullshit.”
The episode is bookended with Underwood secretly manufacturing a fake hack by terrorist group I.C.O., using it to prod the government to make a declaration of war. Hacks, terrorist attacks, and war talks! Where have we heard this all before . . . ?
3. A suspicious election
No TV drama about a presidential election would be complete without absurd twists and turns. This season of HoC crafts a presidential race filled to the brim with scandal, illicit behavior, and shocking results, premiering just a few months after the U.S.’s own wild election in which Trump came out the victor over expected winner Hillary Clinton. In the show, Underwood prevails over projected winner Will Conway, who wins the popular vote, but, of course, Underwood wins the race by rigging the election in vital Electoral College states and engaging in voter suppression. In the real world, the Department of Justice and both houses of Congress are investigating potential Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and improper contact with members of Trump’s campaign, with new reports surfacing about their alleged collusion. (And voter suppression tactics figured in U.S. history long before Trump.)
The next episode shows how American citizens are reacting to the election, featuring a group of protesters banding together outside the White House and chanting “Not my president!” and holding signs that read “Never Underwood.” Both actions mimic the actual chants and signs seen during anti-Trump protests.
Later in the season, as Conway sinks deeper into a petulant downward spiral after losing the election, his adviser tries to cheer him up by saying, “You lost—but more than half the country still considers you their president.” Though Conway’s post-election temperament is miles away from Clinton’s reflective grace, it’s tough to imagine that people haven’t bolstered her spirits with the same kind of encouragement.
4. Acts of Russian aggression
House of Cards has already done a Russia-obsessed season, which would have been too on the nose had it premiered now. But it’s not done with Viktor Petrov, its version of Vladimir Putin, just yet. He turns up in the second half of the show as Russia approaches an American research facility stationed in Antarctica, poking around for oil. “It’s a brazen act of aggression,” Secretary of State Catherine Durant says in the episode. Her quote brings to mind actual acts of Russian aggression, such as recent reports of Russian fighter jets doing barrel rolls over U.S. planes, and flying close to a U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft.
This event also leads to a long line of backdoor negotiations with Russia, which might make some folks in the current administration (cough, Jared Kushner, cough) a bit uncomfortable.
5. A president under investigation
In Episode 9, scorned Congressman Romero decides to relaunch the committee investigating Underwood’s potentially impeachable offenses. With the Trump administration under its own investigation—and talk of impeachment fluttering around, just as they do for Underwood—it’s hard not to compare the two.
The investigation in the show also leads to the questioning of F.B.I. deputy director Nathan Green, who’s deeply entangled in the Underwood administration and has done a number of illegal things. Hey, does anyone remember if there’s anything crazy going on with the real world F.B.I. right now?
6. A gas attack in Syria
Episode 10 features a devastating gas attack in Syria, which the Underwoods try to use to their political advantage. The attack eerily mirrors the recent chemical attack in Syria, which was one of the worst in the country’s history. Season 5 was already wrapped by the time the attack happened, so the show didn’t directly pluck from the headlines for that. However, it’s still a surprising (and incredibly sad) example of how the show veers dangerously close to real life.
7. “Welcome to the death of the age of reason.”
Those are the intimidating words Underwood snarls to the camera in this season’s penultimate episode during his committee testimony. “There is no right or wrong, not anymore. There’s only being in and then being out,” he says. His words, sadly, invoke the current age of “alternative facts.” Underwood’s message rings particularly true when held up against Trump’s own behavior. The current president is prone to making outlandish, verifiably false or simply unfounded remarks in interviews and on Twitter, while also waging a war against the media (#FakeNews), leaving his team to scramble and smooth out his claims. Meanwhile, the rest of the country anxiously watches and waits for whatever fresh hell is coming next.