It is finally clear to me, what Claire wants and who she is. Emphasis on the latter. Anyone not having watched, but plans to watch Season 3 House of Cards (Netflix), please read at your own peril. Although, as far as events fold, it was a much more predictable season than the last. Still wonderful and fulfilling, but not quite. This season is about getting Frank Underwood really elected, and his preparation for the primaries (which he again deals with in an underhanded subversive manner, no surprise there!)
If you are continuing to read, please also read my previous entry post-last season, if you have time.
Since it is clear the season was predictable, I will only delve on and about Claire and some other women in cabinet, because this season was about the women: in politics, in life and in celebration- what there can be of it in politics anyway. But no one can leave the Russian President alone and neither will I.
In the season finale final scene, Claire leaves Francis, and just watching her telling him she was leaving him ( and not going to New Hampshire) has been worth my close allegiance to her character and in case anyone ever wants to leave a US president, that is literally the only way to do it, no questions asked and none pandered to, if asked. Period. No wait, there is another line that I will get to that shattered and rearranged my world for women in politics and on TV into something I will rather watch than a repeat episode of Sherlock (okay, I will watch that later, but still).
As I said previously, Claire has a conscience, she really does. She doesn’t lie, she still doesn’t and if she has ever seemed to manipulate or mangle the truth ( yes she has, many times and she even condoned the murder of Peter Russo, possibly thinking he was likely to OD on his own at some point), it has been to protect her husband’s political career to which she aligns their future and their possibility to make real contributions to this world and its future. That, is what she wants and believes in, not her marriage or her partnership with Francis, I was wrong there. The marriage was meant to ensure that they or she has a way to leave a legacy that impacts the world and yes, in a positive manner. This is where she differs from Francis Underwood, who also needs the marriage to achieve his goal to be really powerful. To leave a legacy, that may or may not be positive in the real sense but is certainly reverberating ( something like Reagan’s legacy), but hey, history books are full of them and Claire doesn’t care about making history. I think, she only cares about the future (even after she is dead)and that is not the same thing.
The Russian president Viktor Petrov, played ALARMINGLY well by Lars Mikkelsen, actually sent me into a agonizing spiral of awe towards him (and his alter ego, Putin). The understanding of foreign affairs, foreigner’s psyche- which so depends on understanding the culture and history of different regions and races, that he is portrayed to have, is admirable. The extent to which he can be offensive without being ‘officially’ or rather ‘politically’ offensive, like kissing the first lady on her lips after singing in an after-dinner-drinks-semi-formal (nothing can be casual in the White House between a Russian and an American president, or as such, in the White house at all). It was considered a gaffe, but not an insult (although, it was one but only Claire and Francis knew that it was and they couldn’t do a thing). That level of in-depth knowledge of a foreign culture (alright, American culture isn’t that hard) that intricacies are understood in taut social scenes, is what is expected of an international player and exceedingly hard to attain. I doubt most American presidents get even close (imagine George Bush II understanding Russian, Iraqi, Or even hispanic culture), even if I do appreciate that a lot of times their hands are tied ( the delusion of power with hands shackled, as Frank remarks in one episode). After all, Putin wages war he can potentially win. Viktor also understands what his countrymen want, and he gives them the spectacle with which they would consider him a strong leader as he underhandedly bargains for the real deals.The LGBT rights’ issue in Russia and their oppression, along with a nice cameo by the Pussy Riots was the focus of a couple of episodes and led to THE drastic show down, or should I call it face-off, between Francis and Claire. I don’t think it is unlikely that homosexuality is perceived as a sin by a large number of Russians, especially the religious. The nice touch is that Viktor claims that he himself does not care and loves his gay nephew like a son. He is a politician with big game in his mind and within his sight and to hell with the rest of the world. In that he is not so different from Frank.
Claire is also a politician and a diplomat. Even though it is more of a natural flair than an acquired skill in her case, in my mind that makes her innately prone to cynicism but she doesn’t entirely succumb to it. I think people who are naturally good at something still have the option of overruling what is expected of them in a situation in favor of their gut feelings. While people who acquire the skills following years of experience and endeavor are less likely to ignore their training. Towards her political goals she can make small sacrifices: that is why it seems that she doesn’t truly feel for what appeared to be her aims, previously, she has accepted muchly watered down versions of what she started out wanting, although in this season it is shown she really wanted the position of an U.N. ambassador. It is the scale that is important. Clean water project in an African nation, small; UN ambassador bigger; being first lady again- even bigger. However, being an ineffective one, with little to show for as her opinions get ignored or trampled upon by the President- her husband. Who she had anticipated influencing in the real world sense, is not what she had bargained her soul for.
Anyone that doubts that good politicians can have a conscience can take any example from history. Every one of them made bargains, all good ones believed in diplomacy and probably signed off deals where they perceived a larger good was at stake. take Gandhi, the partitioning of India. One can only hope that the best politicians and diplomats have this larger vision that protects the world and its weak. It maybe what Claire is. She certainly does not take kindly to Frank’s subversion of actual appreciation and recognition of a social activist for who he readily made her resign from her position, but would not give him real credit even after he dies and refuses special pardon ( and freedom from Russian prison). Frank tries to patronize her by saying he should never have made her the UN ambassador ( as she lacked the properly ornate background which would have got her nominated in usual circumstances) after she spits on the Russian president’s face, not literally, but even better! To that she retorts, being utterly disillusioned of what she thought the Presidency had been all about ‘And I should never have made you president’. Robin Wright at her best. Claire Underwood at her mightiest.
Will she stand against her husband and support another candidate? Like Jackie Sharp (another prolific politician and diplomat) who also refused to be cowered down by Frank’s condescending, priggish attitude towards her because he thought he could get away with, under the auspices of the potential ticket for Vice Presidency. She didn’t want to be under his thumb: ‘the dog that rolls over and does a trick’, to his bidding, and decides to support his opponent in the primaries: Heather Dunbar. Dunbar is the Solicitor general and far too moral and ethical for a politician, but also stupendously rich where she can afford to be all of that and still run campaigns. Despite being a good politician, Jackie chose to give away a good deal without any assurance of a cabinet position should Dunbar win. It is more important to be look at yourself in the mirror and not be ashamed. Jackie won’t be.
A very female dominated season and I am all for that. I wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton though, even if I could. Not a feminist, I am not, as I keep telling my friends. Although, I would vote for Dunbar, Jackie or of course Claire. Not Hillary. It is the difference in personality that I perceive, not just between reel and real. She and Claire may want the same thing. But I am only interested to see if Claire gets what she wants. Hillary likely will and then, I will be happy about the shackled power. Until next season!