‘House of Cards’: The Rise and Fall of Claire Underwood

And just like that, another 10 hours and 55 minutes of House of Cards devoured whole.

Predictably, House of Cards’third season was the usual dizzying storm of behind-the-curtains conniving and strategizing that assured the continued social and political ascension of the mighty Underwoods.

Unpredictably, all the scheming and strong-arming didn’t work in the favor of Claire Underwood.

In the first two seasons of the popular Netflix political drama, Claire Underwood played a director’s role in the concert of conceit and deceit that is House of Cards.

Ms. Underwood’s commanding beauty and ruthless negotiating were first revealed in Season One of House of Cards. A stern businesswoman who didn’t hesitate to axe half her staff to ensure her husband’s Secretary of State nomination, Claire’s cutthroat boardroom tactics reeled us in from the very beginning of House of Cards.

“Your job is to remain immovable,” House of Cardsexecutive producer told Robin Wright, who plays Claire Underwood. “It’s everyone else’s job to orbit you.”

And then, as Claire dabbled unapologetically in polygamy, and stood unfazed by reports of Zoe Barnes being thrown in front of a subway (despite knowing it was at the hands of her husband), our fascination grew stronger.

Claire Underwood’s ruthlessness graduated to sociopathy in the second season of House of Cards when she demonstrated her apathetic attitude at the prospect of her employee’s unborn child dying in her wound.

“I am willing to let that baby wither and die inside of you if that’s what’s required.”

Oh, and then she had a threesome. And became First Lady. Bad**s.

But in the third and latest season of House of Cards, Ms. Underwood’s statuesque poise became compromised as she encountered a number of moral conundrums. And in the wake of season three, millions of fans are lamenting the loss of what the Irish Independent called “TV’s greatest ever female character.”

The first crack appeared in the Ms. Underwood’s otherwise flawless façade when she was forced to beg her husband for a coveted UN position. Then, when a gay rights activist hung himself in protest of Russia’s heinous anti-gay laws, Claire Underwood did what Claire Underwood should never do: she showed human emotion.

And so a puddle began to form at the feet of House of Cards‘ unmeltable ice queen. As it became obvious to Claire that the power and status to which she was so congenitally addicted would always be dictated not by herself, but by her husband, the great matriarch realized her proverbial mortality.

Does Claire Underwood’s character degradation signal a failure on the part of the show’s writers to maintain the allure of one of the show’s most fascinating figures? Or was the construction and piecemeal dismantling of the First Lady a deliberate commentary on the fate that awaits those who allow themselves to become intoxicated by power?

I guess we’ll have to wait for the next season for the answer.

In the meantime, maybe we should listen to The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf and consider what our infatuation with House of Cards says about us:

“America is in deep trouble if the prevailing reaction to a ruthless, self-serving, power-hungry sociopath is to assess her political effectiveness.”

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