Warning: Spoilers Ahead Season 4 restores important parts of the House of Cards universe that Season 3 so carelessly shattered. This season, there are attempted assassinations, blackmail, badass vengeance, and actual gender equality. There’s even a narcissistic, blonde, GOP front-runner who calls his wife weak for questioning his douchebaggery. We get to watch a 2016 election where the NSA gets turned on the NRA–an election where First Lady, Claire Underwood can run for Vice President. This season even has Neve Campbell, Scream’s badass Final Girl as Claire’s campaign manager, Leann Harvey. Feminist AF. It’s 2016 and an emasculated Frank fights to win Claire back as Remy Danton struggles to keep his lover, Jackie Sharpe. The subversion of gender roles that made this show interesting in Season 1 is back with a vengeance. The POTUS is groveling at the feet of the First Lady while war veteran and badass feminist, Jackie remains in control of her relationship with Remy. It’s Remy who almost texts, “I miss you” then quickly deletes the phrase, careful not to get too emotionally invested. This is a nice role-reversal from the traditional trope where women are afraid be dominant or send a text after sex. Getting to see these intimate moments is what makes Season 4 so awesome. It hearkens back to Season 1 when the Underwoods were everyone’s favorite, sexually-liberated, Machiavellian couple. Before Frank wins Claire back, we watch him yell at White House aides for mistakes they didn’t make. With his strained tone and drained face, it becomes clear that Frank cannot function without Claire. And that’s just what he admits to his wife, that he was wrong, that it is he who needs her. Frank ultimately wins Claire back and puts her on the presidential ticket for 2016 as his Vice President. This is a refreshingly stark contrast to the sexist behavior we saw from Frank last season. To review, the only feminist in Season 3 was the prostitute who got offed in the desert. R.I.P. Rachael Posner The hooker’s death wasn’t the only problem with Season 3. That season sucked. Hard. It was boring, anti-feminist, and stripped Claire of her agency. Last season, Frank also went half Charlie Sheen and abused Claire physically and emotionally. (A full Charlie Sheen involves gun-shots, death threats, and a Malibu mansion). Are we supposed to be impressed that Frank only grabbed his partner’s face and didn’t try to throw her out of a moving car (like Chris Brown did to Rihanna)? Not only did Season 3 Frank put down Claire, he put down women. Frank took down Claire, Jackie, and had Rachael killed. He used women as means to an end, exploiting their failures for personal gain. “Without me—you are nothing” he screamed at Claire, last season, nearly choking her with force. “Francis,” Claire countered, “I’m leaving you.” And with that line, Season 3 gave Claire a mere 30 seconds of feminism in a show that used to feature gender equality. Even then, the power to end a relationship isn’t exactly the grandest of feminist movements. One brilliant writer explicated this female subjugation in, Does House of Cards S3 have a Claire Problem or a Woman Problem? Of Season 3, he writes, “Claire is essentially relegated to the role of cheerleader, suddenly powerless and adrift, and the series suffers along with her. The women of Season Three are degraded, sacrificed, and tossed away… I’m afraid that the writers’ Claire Problem is really a Woman Problem that House of Cards may not be able to fix.” Thankfully, Season 4 Frank reverts to his logical self, treating Claire like the equal she is. Claire and Frank live together but afford each other freedom and respect. Yes, Claire gets to have sex with the hot, bearded fiction writer from last season, but she also gets her well-deserved dignity back. This allows the Underwoods to rule as equals. Female sexuality in itself is not feminism, but Claire’s relationship with the writer shows Frank’s trust in her. Something I’ve always loved about Claire is her subversion of traditional female gender roles. Some have commented on the obvious short haircut and plainly-styled dresses as evidence of Claire’s feminism. Yet what feminism is truly about, is women being treated as equals, instead of being silenced, beaten, raped, or killed. Yes, Claire has short hair but that’s merely a surface-level style choice. Claire doesn’t give a fuck what anyone thinks. The dresses, the hair, it’s just a distraction. Who Claire really is deep down transcends photo ops and fashion choices. Her real feminism comes from her ability to interrogate a suspected terrorist in Gitmo, fight for women’s rights, and intimidate House of Card’s own Putin, Viktor Petrov. We get to see the power of equality in the Underwoods’ partnership as it is contrasted with fellow Presidential hopeful, Will Conway. Will and his wife serve to show us just how great Claire has it as a woman in the Underwood cabinet. Will Conway, a traditionally attractive douchebag, denigrates, silences and chastises his wife at every turn. Conway makes it clear that women, much like purchased private data, are nothing more than campaign strategies. Will Conway is basically the lovechild of Donald Trump, the NSA, and Paul Ryan, trapped in the body of a CW heartthrob. It’s a fascinating choice by the writers and shows just how great of a partner Frank really is to Claire. Frank may be Machiavellian, but at least he sees women as actual human beings. Will Conway is the epitome of the family values contradiction. He streams his “life” to the public, showcasing his WASP-y family, (conveniently) leaving out the part where he threatens his wife. Will Conway is the candidate current Republicans probably wish they had. He’s repulsive, but at least he’s not racist, I guess? Then there’s the Underwoods—who never claim to have “family values” but actually do. Frank is pro-choice, pro-woman, and no longer relegates Claire to a status beneath his own. In this season, Frank is the Democratic feminist, pitted up against a conservative douchebag. This season it’s Conway attempting to slash entitlements, not Frank. It is this shift of power, that lets the Underwoods be the badasses they’ve always been. Will Conway and his wife are disgustingly open about their love for their children, politicizing kids for a few votes. This serves as a great contrast to the cold and calculating relationship the Underwoods have. While Will Conway wants to use his wife to take over the world, Frank wants to take over the world with his wife. This cold calculating really drives the season and makes it Shakespearean (when people lie and fuck each other over for power). We are able to see Claire as the strong, passionate politician she’s always been. Unlike last season, Claire’s character is truly revealed, especially when her mother falls seriously ill. While Leann (Neve Campbell) does Claire’s bidding, Claire faces the imminent loss of his mother. While Claire feels she has dealt with the death of her father, she has never truly processed her relationship with her mother (Ellen Burstyn). Throughout the season, Claire vacillates between ignoring her dying mother and struggling to patch up their relationship. At one point Claire is even faced with the decision whether to end her mother’s life who’s suffering from cancer. Frank expresses rightful concern for Claire’s sociopathic response to her mother’s ailing health. “When I look at my mother, I feel nothing,” Claire says, looking off despondently. Claire’s face doesn’t change. “It’s what she wanted,” is all she says, speaking to her role in her mother’s assisted suicide. But when her mother finally dies, Claire allows herself to feel. She cries softly, and even lets the writer, Thomas, hold her hand. Yet this is Claire Underwood and she’s not going to process those feelings. She changes the context of Tom’s hand, leading it upstairs to the bedroom. Did you think Claire was going to sit there and cry? Of course not. Claire Underwood is a brilliant mastermind with a penchant for repression. Instead of using her brilliance to deal with her mother’s death, she uses it to suppress her emotions. Why mourn the dead when you can fuck a writer? They awake in the morning, bathed in sunlight. Usually to Claire, Tom is more than sex. She shares a genuine connection with him reminiscent of her days with the painter. But Claire can’t afford any human connection right now. Her mother’s gone and she uses him to suppress the pain. In the morning light, she is faced with the reality of her mother’s absence. “I should get going” she says, avoiding any semblance of human emotion. Tom and Claire look outside, as her mother’s body is loaded into a hearse. Claire watches on, stoically, as if the hearse were nothing more than a plastic bag. Now that Claire is officially an orphan, she has even more motivation to bury herself in her career. I’m not arguing that sociopathic repression is a laudable feminist quality. But it’s a nice change, to see a woman deal with loss her own way, not the stereotypical Hollywood way with wine and ice cream. Claire watches her mother’s casket get hauled away and she doesn’t fall to the fetal position in a heap of tears. She doesn’t need a man to comfort her, she needs a seat in the White House. I think it’s that assertiveness that makes Claire such a badass feminist. Most of what Claire does in this season is not psychologically healthy, but it’s assertive. That assertiveness and confidence is what propels Claire’s Vice Presidential run as a populist movement. “Loss makes us reevaluate what we hold dear” Claire opens up to a crowd on the campaign trail. She’s honest, open, and strong, and the crowd loves her. Unlike the GOP frontrunner’s wife, Mrs. Conway, Claire has independence. That self-advocacy and badassery is clear in one of my favorite Claire lines. Clearly uncomfortable with Claire’s modern ideas on a childless marriage, Mrs. Conway questions her. “Do you ever regret not having them [children]? Mrs. Conway asks with judgment. “Do you ever regret having them? Claire retorts. Damn. Sick burn, Claire. The Underwoods contrast to the “family values” Conways allows us to see both couples on a deeper level. Will Conway never lets his wife make a single decision while Frank champions for Claire at every turn. Although Claire has a Marco Rubio sized-political resume, she can run diplomatic circles around most men in Washington. Claire can negotiate with accused terrorists, out-lobby the fictional Putin, all while remaining fierce, cool, and collected. Frank and Claire no longer rule like a king a queen, with Claire constantly at Frank’s feet. Some argue it’s the shocking and brutal attempt on Frank’s life that allows Claire to put their relationship in perspective. Whether or not Claire was on the cusp of leaving Frank again, she’s here to stay after the shooting. Oh yeah, minor detail, remember the ginger Frank offed a few season back? And her deranged ex-boyfriend who got arrested for hacking his way to the truth? Yeah he gets out of jail, gets a gun, and dies in an assassination attempt on President Underwood. After the shooting, Claire rushes to Frank’s side and helps him through a brutal recovery process. After losing both her parents, maybe Claire can’t bear the thought of losing Frank again. This season proves that Frank and Claire have a deep respect for each other that goes beyond the White House. That deep respect and desire for success for one’s partner is something that transcends gender. Frank and Claire reinvent the modern relationship and it’s pretty damn cool. Yes, Frank killed a chick a few seasons back and grabbed Claire viciously last season. But this season he’s allowed himself to be vulnerable, and finally understands that power is not gendered. Power must be fought for with allies, and that’s exactly what Frank and Claire are to each other. Seeing Claire and Frank Underwood on the same level, irrespective of gender, gives me hope for female TV characters in the future. Instead of being portrayed as sex objects, waiting to be raped (Game of Thrones), women in House of Cards, get real thrones and real power. And with that real power comes real influence. “We can win with fear” is the new Underwood motto for the 2016 election. Claire decides she is, “done trying to win over people’s hearts.” Taking a page right out of the 2001 Bush/Cheney playbook, the Underwoods watch Americans get killed, then plan to ease the American people with the sophistry of words like “terror” and “freedom.” The final scene shows Frank and Claire looking out, perhaps at their future together. Frank and Claire Underwood 2016. Leann (Neve Campbell) is ready for the fight, back at the White House with Doug and Seth. Using the abduction of civilian James Miller by terrorists as a means to consolidate support, Claire and Frank let the extremists slice James’ throat. Luckily, they don’t show the three white men cutting the hostage’s throat, because this is Netflix, not the media’s coverage of ISIS. Claire Underwood has the support of her loving husband, the President of the United States, and a clear path to the Vice Presidency. All Frank and Claire have to do to win the election is politicize terrorist attacks. How hard could that be? Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response Hunt or be Hunted: House of Cards Season Five - Psycho Drive-In June 8, 2017 […] Season four restored important parts of the House of Cards universe that season three so hastily crushed. Last season, there were attempted assassinations, blackmail, badass vengeance, and actual gender equality. We were introduced to the hot, narcissistic, GOP front-runner who calls his wife weak for questioning his douchebaggery (Will Conway). We got to watch a 2016 election where the NSA went rogue and First Lady, Claire Underwood could run for Vice President. Last season even introduced Neve Campbell, Scream’s badass Final Girl as Claire’s campaign manager, Leanne Harvey. Thankfully, season four Frank reverted to his logical self, treating Claire like the equal she is. Claire and Frank lived together but afforded each other freedom and respect. Claire got to have sex with the semi-hot, bearded, fiction writer from season three, Thomas Yates (Paul Sparks, Boardwalk Empire), and her dignity was restored. […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.