house of cards season 5 spoiler review 3

Claire and Stamper

With the real-life U.S. presidency going, well, the way it is (to hell in a handbasket), comparisons to Secretary of State and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton have been inevitable. Just what would the White House look like with a woman as Commander-in-Chief? What would it take for a woman to achieve the position? Does a successful candidate have the same strategy as someone like Claire, heartless and more than willing to bend the law to fit her own self-motivated interests? Do we expect our Chief, male or female, to already be this way, a vindictive ice queen?

I suspect (read: hope) we’ll see a lot more depictions of a woman POTUS on both the big and small screen (though the big screen is still light years behind). Now in its sixth season, Veep has been parodying the idea of a woman president, giving her the allegiance to be deeply flawed, inappropriate, and callous — like many of the men who have come before her. This is especially important because too often marginalized characters have an added pressure to be righteous, perfect, and strong. Selina Meyer is anything but.

But like Selina, Claire uses men to step on as she makes her way to the top. Claire, of course, is a lot savvier in her approach. As she devises her own team of toy soldiers to worship her and pin against each other, she slithers her way through Frank’s own team, namely Frank’s number one ace: Doug Stamper.

Let’s talk about Doug for a minute. Is there anyone else on the small screen right now that’s as smart, fiercely protective, and loyal as he is? I think not. He will lie for you, kill for you, take the heat for you, and quite literally do whatever it takes to keep your good name, while sacrificing his own pride and reputation. The “your” in this case is Frank, who we know has more than a few skeletons in the closet. After dutifully murdering Pennsylvania representative Peter Russo (Corey Stoll) in season one, Doug has covered up a number of Frank’s messes, including the death of journalist Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara), whose relationship with Frank culminated with her being pushed off a subway platform in front of an oncoming train.

Most of us have gotten past this particular less-than-legal ordeal (after all, there have been so many other crimes that have occurred since then). However, the incident reared its bloody head once again this season when Doug was called in to the office (I liken this scene to a high school principal’s office) where he sat down in front of Mr. and Mrs. Underwood and was told that he not only had to publicly take the fall for Zoe’s murder on behalf of Frank, but he also had to leave the White House.

It is Claire who gives Doug the latter part of the news. She is characteristically serene and pointed. I’m sure she got a special satisfaction out of telling Doug he had to leave the office to which he had literally sold his soul.  As dirty as things got, it seemed like Doug loved his job and the obscene power it gave him. He got off on it. And Claire feeds right into that in this scene. All he can do is walk away from the table. For anyone else, you’d assume that this gesture means he’s not accepting the deal. But for Doug, you know the deal is always on the table, and he’s always going to go through with it. It’s just that this time, he’s not coming back afterward.

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Claire and the Future

I admit, I was shocked when Doug was ousted. But later, when Claire said that she was building her own team, I realized that Doug’s departure was part of her move to assemble her own cabinet, her own pawns to use up and hoist onto the street when she was done, her own ride-or-dies that would hide her casualties. We already know that Jane Davis (Patricia Clarkson), Deputy Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade, is a contender, playing all sides at the unspoken demand of Claire. She, like Claire, has a pristine poker face and has mastered the art of keeping her enemies closer and, well, not really having any real friends in the traditional sense.  It will be interesting to see whether Claire ends up recruiting an all-women task force as the first woman president of the United States.

It’s safe to assume that Texas Democratic political strategist Leann Harvey (Neve Campbell) will not be among Claire’s Amazons (though Goodness knows she tried hard to be Claire’s Doug Stamper, but an unwise act of vulnerability took her swiftly out of the running). The last time we saw her, her car was smooshed up against a bridge.

There’s a common thread to Claire’s posse, a tidy group of smart, dedicated people who know their way around a political game of chess, dominated by men of power. Since Claire can’t very well clone herself, she knows she must plant versions of herself in and around the White House to secure her legacy. We all should be on alert.

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