Is House of Cards REALLY About Claire Underwood?
WE MAKE THE TERROR
What I love most about House of Cards is the ruthless strategy and unapologetic thirst for power. For four seasons now, we’ve watched Frank and Claire Underwood defeat any and all opponents on their way to the White House. Front and center is Frank (Kevin Spacey). He is intimidating, relentless and able to adjust whenever an outcome may not go his way.
He destroyed Zoe Barnes. He steamrolled President Walker. He eliminated Peter Russo. He out maneuvered Heather Dunbar. He manipulated Catherine Durant. Let’s not forget the bridges he’s burned with Remi Danton, Jackie Sharp, Raymond Tusk and Freddy Hayes.
Through it all, Claire has been there to guide and support him. Together they’ve seized an enormous amount of power amidst and endless chain of corruption, lies, sex and violence. All in the name of unlimited power. By the end of season 4, the Underwoods sunk to new lows using fear and war to manipulate the American people.
Claire: I’m done trying to win people’s hearts.
Frank: Let’s attack people’s hearts.
Claire: We can work with fear.
Frank: Yes we can.
That short conversation is the very thing I find fascinating about House of Cards. Just when you think the cards are stacked against the Underwoods, they prove just how far they willing to go for power. The price for that power? James Miller. It was a gruesome way to conclude an entertaining season but it’s the final shot that stuck with me.
For the entire duration of the show, Frank has always talked to us. The audience. At the end of season 4, Claire looks at us for the first time. Will she talk to us in season 5? The very notion got me thinking about the grand plan for this amazing show:
WHAT IF THIS IS CLAIRE'S STORY?
What if the entirety of House of Cards charts Claire’s rise to power? If it’s true, she plays one hell of a long game. When we first met Claire she was running a charitable foundation. Over the years, she’s manipulated many including her husband into larger roles reaching as high as U.S Ambassador.
Her first true power move came at the end of Season 3. Leaving Frank was the perfect way to kick start her own ambitious plans for the White House. It was never about their marriage nor was it about her campaign for office in Texas. What if every move she made was carefully orchestrated to convince Frank to allow her to be his running mate. If it worked she would be one step closer to the Presidency.
As the season progressed we are reminded again and again that the Underwoods are strong together. But they also prove you don’t have to be in love to be strong together. Frank may have strayed for passionate reasons but he lacks the capacity for intimacy. Claire has always found intimacy elsewhere. First with Adam Galloway and now with Tom Yates. What if Frank is still around because she needs him to reach her goals.
What if the time has come for Claire to make her move and become President of the United States? Stick with me. She respects Frank but she doesn’t truly love him does she? She said it herself. She felt nothing when Frank was shot. Her own dying mother constantly mentioned Claire’s dedication to winning at all costs. What if she’s been using Frank? He may be the centerpiece of the story but what if he is just be another pawn?
Imagine the final season of House of Cards. Claire finally has every piece of puzzle in place and unleashes a devastating plan that eliminates Frank from office (assuming they win the election… They will.) The moment he realizes he’s lost everything including his wife, she will be there to remind him of all the little details he missed along the way. A twist ending. Frank dies and Claire is left to run the country as she ‘mourns’. Evil behind the scenes yet inspirational in front of a clueless nation.
This season brought us more understanding of the strong relationship Claire had with her father. The final scene of this hypothetical House of Cards ending? Claire’s last conversation with her father. He asks her want she wants:
“I want to be the President of the United States.”
… I suppose that ending might frustrate some given the way Season 4 ended. Claire is just as ruthless and despicable as Frank. Doesn’t she deserve to be taken down? Perhaps a mere glimpse of the finish line causes Claire to slip up. Perhaps sitting in the oval office and knocking twice on the lavish desk is enough for her. Enough to satisfy her thirst for power before the metaphorical roof comes crashing down…
Or the showrunners will go another way… Who knows such things right?