house of cards season 5 spoiler review

(In our Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick…and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: season 5 of Netflix’s flagship series House of Cards.)

Can we take a minute to bow down to Robin Wright? The Oscar-nominated actress was last seen as Antiope on the big screen annihilating a bunch of angry male villains donning a big ole smile and golden warrior gear like a badass in Wonder Woman. Though she was only in the movie (which, in case you haven’t heard, is now the biggest blockbuster from a woman director ever) for a few memorable scenes, her presence encapsulates everything that movie represents: strength, femininity, and command.

The same can be said of Wright’s performance in season 5 of House of Cards, now streaming on Netflix.

Spoilers begin right here.

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Claire and Tom

As the sly, astoundingly cunning better half of the presidential powerhouse couple, Claire Underwood (Wright) has evolved far beyond her ruthless husband Frank’s (Kevin Spacey) main confidante to his most dangerous competitor and now president of the United States. And while Frank is likely patting himself on the back for devising a foolproof plan to maintain power in the White House, let the record show that it is Claire who has the power and she did it with her husband’s full consent and assistance.

Any woman could tell you that in order to keep an man like Frank content, all you have to do is plant your idea into his head and watch as he takes complete credit for it and come to you when he needs help executing the strategy. That’s precisely what Claire did. She got him hyped about something that was always her goal (assuming power over the White House), and made him think that even when she seized power, he would somehow still have his own. But if you’ve been paying attention to Claire at all throughout this series, you know that she, like Frank, doesn’t do anything that doesn’t ultimately serve her own purpose.

But their relationship works for them. They’re living in the White House, seducing their enemies and finding new and interesting ways to manipulate those who naively think they’re in their fold. They’re both self-motivated, wickedly smart, and even manage to maintain their own side pieces. Well, Frank’s extramarital affairs are more like revolving one night stands, while Claire’s appears to be just as frivolous until it becomes something more precious than even she anticipated. Her boy toy Tom is an award-winning writer originally hired by Frank to pen a book about his proposed job program, but he soon became something of a companion to Claire, and eventually her lover.

At first, their affair is a mere distraction from Claire’s normal routine of conniving and backstabbing. But it is Tom who catches feelings first (though Claire’s poker face is so powerful that she could have actually been smitten for a while and concealing it). And while other viewers might have gone all heart eyes about their relationship (it’s certainly the closest to a healthy pairing that we’ve ever seen Claire have, despite its coldness, distance, and lack of romance), I was worried. No, not because I thought Claire would lose sight of her end game (never that). It’s just that Tom was in love, and increasingly frustrated by it. He fell for a woman with whom a relationship would never work because 1) she’s married, 2) she’s married to the president of the United States, 3) she’s emotionally very unavailable, and 4) he was only just a plaything to her. And his biggest mistake was revealing this to her.

There was really only one way for Tom’s storyline to conclude: with his death. And Claire, always right on cue, didn’t disappoint. As we’ve learned by this point in the series, Claire is no stranger to doing whatever it takes to be rid of obstacles like Tom, including seeing to their deaths. Sure, one could argue that Claire also shared the same feelings for Tom. She even went as far as to hire a private detective to follow him to see with whom he was also spending his time (a move that also made Claire realize just how strongly she felt for Tom). Whether or not it was a reciprocated romance, Tom had become a liability. He had become too much of a needless preoccupation, and Claire doesn’t keep anyone around who doesn’t serve her ultimate purpose.

So once I became comfortable with the idea of Tom’s demise, I started wondering how he was going to meet his Maker. My assumption was that he could go in the same way that Claire’s many casualties have gone; at the hands of one of her minions (like Frank’s Chief of Staff and hardcore ride or die, Doug Stamper, who I’ll get to later). But no, Claire took care of this one. Why? Because she wanted to be the last person Tom saw before he died. And she wanted him to be at his happiest, making love to her. A narcissistic yet thoughtful act of charity bestowed upon her fateful beloved as only Claire can.

With Tom now out of the way, she can get back to screwing over other male counterparts foolish enough to cross her path on her ascent to her presidential throne.

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