The makers of the series have shown the behind-the-door scenes from elections, poll hacking, an impeachment threat, the might of secret service units, and the involvement of foreign hands in domestic politics. In the thick of these events, the political skills of Claire Underwood have largely remained hidden, as those skills ended up helping Frank.
Claire was initially assumed as a loyal wife. She helped Frank take on Marty Spinella in a teacher’s strike. She even refrained from taking the 1,50,000 USD as funds for her NGO as the lobbyist Remy Dalton turned out to be Frank’s rival.
Later episodes exposed a slight discrepancy in her motives. When Frank asked for her help in the matter of Peter Russo’s political prospects, she declined but later agreed to help on the condition that he would help her in her career. When their agreement doesn’t yield benefits for Claire, she plotted the downplay of the Watershed Bill — which Frank desperately wanted for improving Russo’s image. After the political plot played by Claire, Frank was initially shaken. This small setback too eventually ended up becoming hugely beneficial for Frank, making him the Vice-President of USA.
Other incidents, such as her sudden public support for queer-rights activist Michael Corrigan in Russia, or her plan of getting a congressional ticket from Dallas follow a similar pattern. Her congressional bid was unsuccessful but she triumphed in convincing her husband that he needs her by his side.
Even when Claire demanded that Frank would have to make her his running mate to keep her by his side, her ruthlessness ended up in a success for Frank. Firstly, it created a political wave of a couple entering a power venture together. Secondly, her bid helped Frank to become president as it was Claire who ordered the re-election only in two states where Frank stopped voting because of terror attacks. It would be naive to say that Frank would have retained the White House if Claire wouldn’t have made her vice-presidential bid.
From earlier seasons we know that perhaps William Conway, the Republican presidential contender, would have taken on Frank with an anti-incumbency factor. Perhaps Garret Walker would have retained his presidential office rather than losing it to Frank. If it wasn’t for Claire by his side, Frank would have never taken on them.
After the sexual abuse allegations against Kevin Spacey, it was evident that Robin Wright is going to play a solo role. Perhaps a section of viewers may dislike this development, but Claire is equally ruthless as Frank. When Frank killed the Slugline journalist Zoe Barnes, he threw her in front of a train. Frank’s cruelty was compared with that of Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones when she decimates her 9 stepsons. If anyone thinks they will miss this mode of Frank, it is doubtful Claire is going to be any less ruthless. When Claire killed Thomas Yates, she not only poisoned him but also had sex with him to ensure the poison spreads in his body as quick as possible. We would have to compare this to the type of cruelty shown by Ramsay Bolton while castrating Theon Greyjoy.
We enjoyed the power tussle between Claire and Frank and their ruthlessness. Frank’s monologues also won’t be a part of next season. But the Underwoodism is not over yet. Beyond Claire’s vague intentions, which remained overshadowed by their role in helping Frank, we can finally expect to know her better in her turn as she is ‘just getting started’. Her intentions are finally going to be clear.
Robin Wright has already filled in the shoes of director Beau Willmion. It shouldn’t be surprising to see Claire replace Frank.
The author is a part of the Youth Ki Awaaz Writers’ Training Program.