On house of cards

Getting pumped up for HOC Season four. I’m re-watching all the episodes up to now, and I’m CONVINCED at this point that Frank is a homosexual who only has sexual relationships with women he can exploit for power. I also think he and Claire have (had) an unspoken understanding about the matter, which is why they’ve both been so cool about each other’s extramarital affairs.

Here’s where I’m probably reaching a bit, but I’m also fairly sure that Claire planned the whole Meechum 3-way business FOR Frank. Notice how she looks over her shoulder at Frank before leaving them together in the living room just before. They clearly love each other very much, but I’m pretty sure their marriage is more of a Will & Grace kind of arrangement than a sexual one. Thoughts?


No, no, no. Do not erase President Underwood’s bisexuality. (If Claire slept with the occasional woman, you wouldn’t call her a closeted lesbian. You’d call her bisexual. The same goes for Frank.) Claire Underwood is no beard. Trust me. If you’d ever been in an open relationship with a bisexual person, you would understand.

Frank and Claire are two highly intelligent, highly differentiated characters. Nothing about their relationship is unspoken. They share everything. Claire knows all the secrets, including every last detail about Frank’s bisexuality (which, honestly, is pretty low on the list of secrets when you consider all the conspiracy and murder.) They’re cool with each other’s extramarital affairs because their marriage is open to a certain degree. Other than the fact that they are both sociopaths, they have an incredibly healthy relationship. (In fact, it’s probably because they are both sociopaths that they have such a healthy relationship.)

I know it seems counterintuitive, but even the way Claire leaves Frank in the last episode is evidence of the strength of their marriage. Frank violated the terms of their relationship when he became consumed by the Office of the Presidency, and Claire was strong enough to enforce her boundaries.

That’s actually quite healthy of her, and I have no doubt that Frank will either see the error of his ways and capitulate, or he will implode. Either way, the key to remember is that nothing about their relationship is unspoken.


24 thoughts on “On house of cards

    • Brynn says:

      I mean, why would you be looking to either of those shows for an accurate depiction of reality in the first place? Expecting House of Cards to be a realistic portrayal of DC is like expecting Shakespeare’s Richard III to be an accurate representation of 15th century English Monarchy. Honestly, House of Cards and Veep have more in common with each other than either one has with reality.

      Although, I will say that comedy tends to borrow more from reality than drama does. That’s just the nature of the form.

  1. Plagarism says:

    I love your House of Cards analyses. Did I edit right?

    “Claire knows all the secrets, including every last detail about Frank’s bisexuality (which, honestly, is pretty low on the list of secrets when you consider all the conspiracy and murder). “

  2. definitely not batman says:

    Oh man I disliked season 3 so much. Once he became POTUS there was nothing left for Frank to do than fall, and they’ve prolonged it way too much. The season (and the series) should have ended with his whole shit being burned down by Rachel tbh

    • Brynn says:

      I have the feeling you’ll have changed your mind by the end, partly because I don’t really understand why you would want the show to end with its climax. The fall is incredibly important to the structure of tragedy, it’s what makes it a tragedy. It brings you down, maintains intrigue with dramatic reversals, but lets you rest as you make your way towards the conclusion in anticipation of the final dramatic action. Then, one last great effort to retain their position, some thrilling reversal, and a burst of energy that resolves in futility. Then they send you on your way with some satisfying conclusion, and you say, “Wow. That was fucking great.” Maybe you don’t like the form? That’s fair.

      The question to me is whether they’ll be folding acts IV and V into the fourth season, or they’re gonna drag out a fifth season. I worry that could be wearisome, but they’ve proven their talent as writers thusfar.

      • definitely not batman says:

        OK, I didn’t mean it LITERALLY ending with the climax. I was thinking more like what Breaking Bad did. “Ozymandias” was the climax, and the last two episodes just wrapped it up. Season 3 of HOC was noticeably and annoyingly slower than the first two, they used filler storylines in order to prolong it and slow down the inevitable resolution. It only got back on track in the last two or three episodes. It seemed so deliberate it grated my brain. I get the feeling they just did that in order to keep milking the cash cow and tie into this year’s elections. Now that they’ve announced a fifth season, and with Willimon stepping down as showrunner, I’m beginning to think I was right. It’s probably gonna get more convoluted, more watered down, and the road to the conclusion is going to be an agonizing crawl.

        /forever the optimist
        //it’s past 1AM where I am and I have a lot of feelings

        • Brynn says:

          Ugh, yea, I hadn’t seen that news until now. That does not bode well in my mind, either. What Willimon did with HoC, to adhere so closely to the style of Shakespearean tragedy – five-act structure, soliloquy’s, departure from our contemporary desires for subtext – it’s so damn daring and ambitious.

          At the time, I thought the weird pace of season 3 had more to do with the challenge of turning Shakespeare into a tv series than with production issues. Since you mention it, however, I could believe production compounded the issues.

          It makes me wonder if the reason he left was because they decided to extend the show. I could imagine him wanting to conclude the whole thing with season 4. If they were disregarding his better judgement, the vision that (I believe) made HoC what it is, it’s a damn good reason for a writer of that caliber to leave.

          • Bruce says:

            Ooh, I have a question for you. Which of Shakespeare’s plays would you say is the most “House of Cards”-ish? (At first I googled this and then I realized I preferred an answer from the person who prompted the question in my mind)

          • Brynn says:

            I’d say Frank is the handsome equivalent of Richard III. His relationship to Zoe is deeply reminiscent of Richard and Lady Anne. His trajectory to power is also very similar. The way he manipulates and sabotages his way to the Presidency bears quite a few parallels to Richard III. As far as personality goes, they share their oratory skills, charm, lack of conscience, deeply entrenched insecurities from their youth, and a habit of dictating their evil plans to the audience.

            For Claire, the Lady Macbeth parallel is undeniable. She is the driving force behind Frank’s ascension just like Lady Macbeth pressured Macbeth to seize power. She nurses Frank when he comes back from his battles, she takes up the dirty work when he cracks. There is a real and (weirdly) loving relationship there, but they are both in it for personal gains. Just like Macbeth, Frank can’t operate without her support. But when she needs support, Frank doesn’t provide it. It’s a major factor in their downfall.

            There are many more connections to be made, but I think that’s the meat of it. I’d have to rewatch and reread to be able to point out much else.

          • Bruce says:

            It’s interesting to me that each character is so strongly built that you can give them their own Shakespearean play. Claire is Lady Macbeth all over.

            At first I was going to say that despite their similar silver-tongued natures, Richard III’s defining trait was his deformity, whereas Kevin Spacey was stamped pretty okay. But I do own a copy and I pulled it off the shelf and wow. Yeah, it’s strikingly obvious now.

          • Brynn says:

            House of Cards is subtle with it, but Frank Underwood has his own version of Richard’s humpback. Richard blamed his antagonism on his deformity, I had to look this quote up:

            Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
            Have no delight to pass away the time,
            Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
            And descant on mine own deformity:
            And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
            To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
            I am determined to prove a villain
            And hate the idle pleasures of these days.

            Frank carried with him a broken attitude about weakness that weaves together with his sexuality and southern heritage.

            I recall him telling the audience his father was an alcoholic, and he had once walked in on him with a shotgun in his mouth. His father asked him to pull the trigger. Frank regrets that he did not. And it’s impossible to forget that opening scene where he puts the dog out of its misery. These are the places that his resentment of weakness is made exceptionally clear.

            We are only given bits and pieces of Frank’s sexuality, and although coke is right about his bisexuality, I think we’re gonna find out he swings much closer to men than he does women. Regardless, it wasn’t something that he was allowed to explore openly because of the time period, his heritage, and his aspirations. Like Richard, he uses his sexuality to dominate, covering up his longing for a specific type of intimacy that he is too ‘broken’ to have.

            Then you throw in how much contempt he has for his birthplace and his accent… It all comes together in one big bag of self-resentment – his family, his heritage, his sexuality, his weakness – that runs as deeply Richard’s, if only with a bit more subtlety. Frank’s villainy is all about his obsession with and contempt for weakness.

          • Bruce says:

            Well holy shit. I can totally see how Frank would have the same level of self-resentment as Richard III. And now I’m reading Richard III in Frank Underwood’s voice.

    • VeryON says:

      I’m with you on this. It wasn’t just anticlimactic, it was somehow less interesting. It used to be all of them running out of a burning building…now it’s more like a fuse leading to a bomb. There is a tension, but it’s different.

      I was happy when Claire enforced her boundaries. That was cool, but it didn’t make for more than a clear end point. I think we were all loving the churning engine of their teamwork…and once that was gone, there was little left. So unless they get pulled back into each others furious orbit…this is gonna be a dull season.

    • The Coquette says:

      I feel like next season will justify last season’s existence. (And at this point in my life, I automatically assume everyone is bisexual. As a default setting, it makes life so much easier.)

      • Lin says:

        It is honestly strange to me that most people do not operate on this assumption, but then again, I’m heavily biased in favour of it.

  3. Bruce says:

    Whoa whoa whoa. I don’t think Claire left because she was strong, she left because she is choking at the most critical juncture in the history of the Underwoods’ power-grabbing. She pushes Frank to appoint her to an authoritative post in case he can’t hold on to the office. And she takes that post and embarrasses the president of the -other- most powerful country in the world and basically fails to win anything for Team Underwood. Now she refuses to go back quietly into the role of “political wife” and it’s jeopardizing everything they’ve worked for.

    …None of which is to say that Frank’s been holding HIS shit together so well.

    (Here’s the mandatory “I disagree with Coquette” boilerplate: I’ve read you a long time Coquette but blah blah this post is just yadda yadda and now I think you’re [projection of insecurities here])

    • The Coquette says:

      Alternate conspiracy theory: Claire didn’t choke. The Russian President used her as a pawn (on multiple occasions.) Being a typical Russian, he was playing chess eight moves ahead when Frank came to him to negotiate the withdrawal of troops, he knew that using that deal to force Claire out of the UN would eventually cause a rift in the Underwood marriage that would lead to their downfall. It was the Russian President all along!

      • Bruce says:

        You know, that seems completely likely to me. And it gives this layer to the show where it’s about a couple of pretty capable manipulators being outmatched by a real lifelong dictator. On the international stage, at not-Putin’s level, they’re just amateur hustlers trying to play a game at a level where they can’t even see the rules.

        Wait a minute, this isn’t Shakespeare. This is Midnight Cowboy. Holy shit, does one of them die? No, shhh, don’t tell me, don’t even tell me what happened in the original miniseries, I’ve purposefully avoided it. But one of them does don’t they? And the other is left to pitifully mourn their loss. Holy shit. No don’t tell me. Fuck.

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