Previously on House of Cards, ‘Chapter 38’
After beating her whereabouts out of Gavin Orsay – who was found living on a houseboat in Venezuela – Doug has finally located Rachel. She’s working multiple jobs and living in a run-down apartment. She’s saving money to move somewhere quiet, up north, and even has a new identity: Cassie Lockhart. Doug shows up in Santa Fe with an outfit, a baseball cap, and a scowl that just screams “shady murderer.” He buys himself a decrepit, old van and heads into town for supplies, like jugs of bleach and a shovel. I have no doubt that some people were side-eyeing the hell out of his conspicuous ass. He studies Rachel’s schedule for a day or so before abducting her late one night in a parking lot.
Rachel awakens in the back of the van, tied up and gagged. She kicks and screams in an effort to break free, but eventually promises to keep quiet. She apologizes for hurting him, saying how relieved she was to find out that he wasn’t dead. Grasping at her last opportunity to appeal to him, she reveals her new identity as Cassie. “You don’t have to kill Rachel. She’s already dead.” Doug pulls into a desert clearing and digs her grave. Some part of him however, has been swayed by Rachel’s words and he takes a moment to speak with her.
In Doug’s mind, he only ever tried to keep Rachel safe and can’t understand why she ran from him that night. She was scared – duh – but again, it doesn’t matter anymore because Rachel’s gone, and Cassie just wants to be somewhere far away and invisible. Doug releases her and drives away, only to turn around a moment later. The last thing we see of Rachel is her face, as it’s being covered in the dirt from her grave.
For a moment there, I thought Rachel was free and I truly believed that she wouldn’t have posed any future threat. If nothing else has, her murder solidifies Doug’s loyalty to Frank. Though we saw Doug struggle this season with alcohol, his true addiction is to Frank Underwood. When I speculated that bad news was around the corner for him, this is not exactly what I meant but it’s still a dark note for his season’s arc to end on. As much as I enjoyed seeing this storyline play out, its presence was too heavy for a finale episode. The majority of Rachel’s scenes could have been inserted into previous episodes – after we discovered she was still alive. Where the focus on Doug in the premiere was almost essential, in the finale it overshadowed Claire and Frank, making their story feel like the B-plot.
Claire backpedals on her statement from the previous episode, about how she and Frank had been lying to one another for a long time. She says she shouldn’t have brought it up, but it’s clear there’s something brewing just below the surface in Claire, waiting to boil over. She can barely fake a smile now when she graces the stage on the campaign trail, no matter how many times Frank tells the public that he’s only going to win because of her. One evening in their hotel room, Claire demands that Frank have sex with her as she slaps him across the face. She wants it rough. For a moment he obliges, pushing her into the bed angrily. Claire wants him to look at her while he does it and this is what gives him pause. “That’s what I thought” she sighs. Instead of talking to her or trying to work things out, like a normal couple, Frank has a separate room arranged for her and tells her to fly back home the following day.
Hundreds of voices are chanting “Underwood! Underwood!” as Claire arrives home and Frank prepares for another campaign speech. The direction in this scene is incredible. Though the crowd was waiting for Frank, it’s Claire who we see on the screen and the chanting feels as if it’s meant for her. Claire’s absence is taking a toll on the campaign and Frank asks that she join him the next day in Iowa, for what will either be his victory or concession speech. She agrees, though rather indifferently.
Confined to the White House – she can’t even go for a run because it would highlight the fact that she’s not with Frank – Claire invites Tom Yates to speak with her. He may be the only third party with any insight into her marriage and she’s searching for answers. She wants to know what was said on the day she passed out while giving blood. Claire couldn’t remember using the word hatred when describing how she feels about her dangerously co-dependent marriage, and Yates tells her she looks lost. What truly resonates with Claire is when he says, “I’d rather imagine who you might be than who you actually are.” Claire postpones her flight to Iowa and ignores Frank’s calls.
Claire is enjoying the view from the President’s desk chair, when Frank arrives back home. He’s irritable with her for having to give his victory speech alone and demands that she accompany him to New Hampshire the following day. She finally explains what she meant by saying they had been lying to themselves all these years. She thought they were on a path together where they made each other stronger but in the end, Frank was the one gaining all the power. The Oval Office is his, after all. She’s sickened by the fact that she has no control over her life or career choices and by how much she needs Frank.
Frank thinks Claire is being selfish. She was well aware of the path they were on and now it’s not good enough. The White House isn’t good enough, nor is being the First Lady. Claire makes it perfectly clear to him that it’s actually Frank who isn’t enough and that really sets him off. He tells her that she’s nothing without him as he violently grabs her face. It’s time for her to shut up and do her job. This is by far the most volatile we’ve ever seen him. Claire won’t be getting on that plane to New Hampshire though, because she’s leaving Frank. Huzzah!
I knew that Claire would somehow be triumphant over Frank this season; all the signs were there. But, as with my Doug prediction, I wasn’t quite on point. It’s not exactly the win I was hoping for, but leaving Frank is a win, nonetheless. Claire was the only character to truly have any major growth. We did see a softer side to Frank when he tried to repair their marriage but by the end, he was as cold and callous as ever. Frank Underwood is nothing without Claire and I so look forward to seeing his fiery downfall next season.