As Frank’s Presidency continues to unravel, it becomes clear the snowballing scandals on HOUSE OF CARDS are not something he’ll easily be able to weather for the rest of his term. Could the cloud hanging over Frank taint Claire’s chance at becoming President?
I’ve read a lot of reviews about how this season of House of Cards is not very good based on how crazy the actual administration in power is, but I think that’s a load of crap and a cop out. Of course Trump’s scandals make it hard to suspend your disbelief if you’re focusing too much on reality, but on the flip side, Frank and Claire’s actions seem like legitimate possibilities because of how out of hand the American political system has gotten in the last twelve months. I’d argue the possible illegitimate and traitorous actions of our current President make House of Cards hit home even harder at the end of the day, and of course you can always just turn off the constant political dialogue of our present reality, sink into your couch, and just enjoy the show as the pure entertainment it’s meant to be.
From my perspective this is a stronger season than the last one, with higher stakes and increased tension. Everything is unraveling in Frank’s administration, and his first legitimate term has only just begun. The election has been stolen, his power has been legitimized, but in order to pull off this electoral coup Frank has made a lot of enemies with a lot of evidence that can take him down. His inability to swallow his pride, or take one for the team if it means easing the path of his Presidency, will ultimately lead to his downfall. He and Claire used to turn to each other for advice, but now he’s shut her out, and completely disregards her counsel. The fact that she’s been acting President means nothing to him, and at times in meetings he belittles her achievements, instead tossing off promises of when it’s her time to run four to eight years down the line. Part of the reason he acts this way is because he realizes she’s fallen in love with Tom, which Frank sees as both a weakness and a liability.
Hammerschmidt is on the receiving end of leaked documents, which only bolster his investigation against the President and Doug Stamper. It’s hard to tell who’s leaking these things to Hammerschmidt, because it could literally be anyone. Cathy Durant hates Frank’s guts, and he’s used and/or blackmailed her into submission in the past, so she’s definitely a suspect. After Aidan’s apparent suicide (murder) he data dumps incriminating evidence to LeeAnn, who could be the leaker as well. Claire has broken up with Tom and banished him from her life, but soon realizes he’s written a huge novel with real facts of their time together that could be incredibly embarrassing and damaging. The other notable suspect is Seth Grayson, who has a personal hatred for Doug. Between the Hammerschmidt investigation, congressional investigations, and the leaks, Frank’s chances of holding on to the Presidency are slipping away. The real question is how long will he fight to keep his position, and will any of this damage Claire’s chances of becoming President?
There’s a lot of work involved with covering up the Underwood’s tracks, and for the first time Claire gets her hands really dirty as well. As Cathy appears to be leaving the administration and testifying before Congress, Frank knows she’s going to spill some ugly truths about what he’s been up to, so he pushes her down the stairs nearly killing her, so she can’t testify. Frank and Claire know the heat is on about Doug’s roll in Rachel Prosner’s disappearance, Frank’s murder of Zoe Barnes, and his bumping Frank up on the donor list to receive a kidney before the person actually first in line. They convince Doug to take the fall for Zoe’s murder, and in return he’ll receive a Presidential pardon. Being the good soldier he is, he goes right along with it. A problem is LeeAnn and the information Aidan sent her. She knows too much, and Claire uses her to get access to it, and then kicks her to the curb again. In order to keep her quiet, a “car accident” is arranged that permanently silences her. The most astonishing incident of all, is Claire poisoning Tom, and having sex with him one last time as she watches the life go out of his eyes. She’s now a murderer with blood on her hands just like Frank. The only people who know of the Underwood’s murderous deeds are Doug Stamper, and Mark Usher, who cleans up Claire’s mess. Clearly this will come home to haunt them both eventually.
The biggest surprise in the season, especially given how intensely Frank seemingly fights to keep his Presidency, is his resignation from office announced which is during a congressional investigation’s opening statements. It not only sets the country reeling, but Claire had no idea he was about to do it. According to him this was his plan all along, he’d tank his own Presidency in order to make her President. In exchange for a full pardon from her, he’ll use his guile to control things from the private sector while she is the head of the public sector. It’s a bold move, and given the way he’s treated Claire that’s a lot of trust, especially since he’s been paranoid about her motives all season. Will she fall into line and give both Frank and Doug pardons to cover them from any lawsuits or jail time, or will she take her newfound power and claim independence?
It’s been an interesting season, with cracks in the mutually beneficial relationship of Frank and Claire turning into fissures. Now that she no longer needs him, she ducks his calls, postpones pardoning him, and takes the bold steps of going to war with Syria. It’s a new world, and one where she no longer needs to be under Frank’s wings. She can do what she likes. Will disassociating herself from her husband backfire on her? It’s hard to say, especially given how vindictive Frank is. What if she doesn’t pardon him and he ends up being prosecuted? Will he drag her down in the mud with him? The last words out of his mouth when she avoids his phone calls are, “if she doesn’t pardon me, I’ll kill her.” He means it, but she means it too when she says, “Now it’s my turn.” It’ll be interesting to see what happens next season, especially given how the roles have reversed. Frank is first spouse, but what if he’s unwelcome in the White House?
Season 5, Episodes 9-13 (S05E09-13)
House of Cards Streams on Netflix
For six months out of the year Jeff is holed up in his home with nothing to do but shovel snow, watch television, write, and dream of warmer climates.
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Jeff Iblings | Contributor