Season 5 of House of Cards ended with Claire Underwood, the new President of the United States, sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office, looking straight into the camera and proclaiming: “My turn”. Last fall, when the sexual assault and harassment accusations towards Kevin Spacey kept making headlines, the producers decided the show still must go on. They scrapped the footage already filmed for season six and got rid of Spacey and of Francis Underwood.
And I honestly won’t be missing him, not when we have a new badass sitting in the oval office.
The swan song season will start production (again) soon. The final eight episodes of House of Cards (instead of the usual 13) will be focused on Claire Underwood’s presidency.
The decision was met with enthusiasm by journalists and fans. Meredith Clark wrote in an NBCNews.com article that the character played by Robin Wright is finally getting “the respect and power she deserves”. The actress was in the spotlight in 2016 when she secured equal pay with Spacey, advocating with the creators that Claire was becoming more popular than Frank.
Claire’s popularity grew gradually. At first, all eyes were on Frank Underwood and, for the most part of the show, his inner musings, revealed to the audience by breaking the fourth wall, and power hungry acts were entertaining. In time, they became a nuisance, and the viewers turned to Claire for carefully chosen words, ruthlessness and thought-through actions.
[bctt tweet=”Politics and power are for Claire her way to reach freedom and enact revenge when needed. ” username=”wearethetempest”]
It can be argued that Claire could never have been ignored.
The creators of the show intended for Claire and Frank to be perceived as two sides of the same coin: both capable of anything – including murder -, ruthless, arrogant at times, never afraid to use other people and each other for their own gain of power. The end of season four marks the first time Claire breaks the fourth wall together with Frank while he utters the words: “We don’t submit to terror, we make the terror”. The plural of the pronoun marks, what seemed at that point, the unbreakable connection between the two spouses.
But Claire’s game is a couple of levels of sophistication above Frank’s and she has proven she can bring terror to her enemies in more damaging ways than Frank.
[bctt tweet=”Her greatest asset, as with most women, is being seriously underestimated.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Her greatest asset, as with most women, is being seriously underestimated. Claire comes from a privileged background, having been brought up in the elite community of Highland Park in Dallas County, Texas and her poise is wrongly understood for having good manners at all costs. The monochrome style of her clothes conflicts with the dynamic spectrum of her thoughts and creative, while sometimes vicious, solutions to her problems. Her movements are fluid, as in a carefully choreographed show. Her reactions are carefully controlled and she rarely lets go of her poker face. Her mother would impart with her that all-time annoying piece of advice shared with women everywhere: to smile more, while completely disregarding her feelings. Claire Underwood does smile, when the purpose suits her.
Politics and power are for Claire her way to reach freedom and enact revenge when needed.
The breakthrough moment for her character was in season two when, during an interview, she revealed that she had an abortion and she connected the act with being raped by General Dalton McGinnis. The two moments had actually taken place at separate times in her personal history: the abortion during Frank’s first political campaign (the couple agreed never to have children) and the sexual assault during her earlier years, when she and Dalton were colleagues at Phillips Academy. She takes the maneuver one step further and turns her pain into a bill. It’s never clear whether she actually cares about women not having to go through something as terrible as her own experience or she is demonstrating a high level of resourcefulness in being perceived on the side of good.
[bctt tweet=”The final eight episodes of House of Cards (instead of the usual 13) will be focused on Claire Underwood’s presidency.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Beyond the feminist celebration of having a woman in the White House – at least in a fictional show – and the redemption of having Frank Underwood killed off – most likely – Claire Underwood’s presidency will be entertaining. Many viewers have felt that she is actually pure evil, and that she has been conspiring to achieve this level of power from the moment she married Frank. Her intentions are harder to guess than Frank’s and not having things continuously mans/explained to the viewers will be a welcomed breath of fresh air. In episode 11 of season five, she turns to the camera and she admits that she has always been ambivalent about attention.
She might not care about us, but we will be certainly paying attention to her.