House of Cards season 4 finale puts season 5 on a surprising trajectory

Forget anti-gun and rape legislation, the Underwoods are going hyper conservative

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The Independent Culture

It was testament to House of Cards’ brilliance that the very final shot of season 4 made you gasp with a mere turn of a head.

Claire joined Frank in breaking the fourth wall with trademark elegance, acknowledging her husband and running mate’s monologue before staring down the camera lens herself.

Season 4 may have been tonally uneven and the final episode might have felt more like a mid-season finale, but it was a powerful moment nonetheless, cementing the couple’s insidious partnership and showing that Claire is now every bit as dangerous and conniving as Frank.

It will be interesting to see whether Claire’s super-narrative position outside of the fourth wall was just for effect or if it continues into season 5, presenting the tantalising possibility of Claire Underwood monologues.

As we binged our way into episodes 10 and 11 of the fourth season, it became clear that it was going to wrap-up before the election. The whole ICO thing felt a little tacked on and abrupt, but it’s clearly going to be a big part of s5, which I imagine will open with a war and end with an election.

“I’m done trying to win over people’s hearts,” Claire says after Frank’s confidence is knocked by Hammerschmidt’s exposé, suggesting they intentionally start a war because: “We can work with fear.”

I don’t know how I feel about this plot strand. The Underwoods were never going to win over voters using social media as Will Conway (or indeed Barack Obama) have, given their cold demeanour, but will a war really help? Outside of The White House, House of Cards’ political landscape closely mirrors our own, and in the current climate would a war really make a politician popular, however it was spun? Let's also not forget that Conway stands to score points off a war too thanks to his military background.

One of my favourite things about House of Cards is how the Underwoods manipulate and murder in secret but outwardly are liberal (in fact it’s the secret to the show's success and it wouldn’t have worked with a Republican president), so will this move to a more George W. Bush style of foreign policy (i.e starting wars instead of just inheriting them) undermine its intriguing core paradox?

We’ll find out in 2017, when the series returns under an as yet announced and incredibly crucial new showrunner.