Season three of House of Cards has been much more of a slow burn. The writers have taken the time to plot out character arcs subtlety, culminating in this final episode. I’ll admit, this wasn’t my favorite season of the show. I felt less compelled to binge watch and while some plot lines and character arcs were executed well, just as many either went nowhere or left viewers cold. I’m hoping after the crazy cliffhanger that this finale leaves us on, we can look forward to a season four full of melodrama, action, and intrigue again.
Throughout the show, Claire has had somewhat of a slow awakening of sorts. At first, viewers thought she had it all: the perfect career, the perfect house, the perfect marriage, etc. The show has worked to shatter all those illusions one by one. Claire can’t even stomach herself for remaining in her relationship. It’s become nothing but a power struggle between her and Frank.
Still campaigning in Iowa, the episode begins with the couple retiring to bed after a long day of events. We get a real glimpse of just how much self-hatred Claire has amassed when the two are unwinding in their hotel room. She suddenly commands Frank to sleep with and choke her, to which he refuses. Claire tries to goad him into doing so, leaving Frank genuinely shocked. He tells her, “I think you should go back to Washington in the morning.”
Meanwhile, we shift gears and see Rachel for the first time in the flesh. She’s still in New Mexico working several odd jobs (under the table) such as stocking groceries at a supermarket and cleaning floors at a bar. It looks like she lives in a halfway house, and goes by “Lisa” instead of her real name. We see her sneak out the back door one night at one of her jobs to meet a guy. Rachel gives him a huge wad of cash and in return, he gives her a new identity. Birth certificates, a passport, ID… it’s all there. From now on, she’ll go by Cassie Lockheart.
Situations are never as perfect as they seem. Doug is on his way to New Mexico. He finds Gavin living on a boat in Venezuela and beats him until he hands over Rachel’s exact location. Once in New Mexico he purchases a scrappy white van, along with a container of bleach and a shovel at a hardware store. Doug means business, he wants to kill Rachel for good this time. He drives off across the state, making his way to her whereabouts.
While this pursuit is going on, Claire is back in Washington DC wallowing in her unhappiness. She requests Yates visits the White House. “Tell me what you see,” she asks after finally letting her guard down to him. “Somebody who’s lost,” he replies. The “unsplittable atom” of politics (as Yates described them) is fracturing. Frank keeps calling the house, but the First Lady continues to avoid his calls. The president wants her to fly back to Iowa and be by his side on the night of the Iowa caucus results. Alas, Claire never gets on the plane.
Back in New Mexico, Rachel is pulling double shifts at her jobs and scheming to finally get out and start her new life. As she’s leaving another late night shift at work, Doug comes up from behind. He puts a rag over her mouth, making Rachel pass out immediately. Doug hauls her into the van and drives off. Rachel comes to only to find herself tied up in the back of the vehicle. She begs and pleads for him to let her go. The night she knocked him unconscious was the night Rachel died, she claims. Cassie Lockheart, that’s who she is now. Things are different, people can change. Rachel prays and tells Doug she knows he’s a good person. After driving throughout the night, he pulls off the highway and into the middle of the desert. Doug gets out with the shovel and starts digging out a grave. We see him after, standing in the hole taking a moment to think.
For a few minutes, everything seems like it may work out. Doug opens the van and cuts the ropes tying Rachel’s hands and feet together. He gives her water and food for the twenty mile trek to the nearest town. She thanks him, and Doug gets back in the van where he drives off down the long highway road. But obviously, this is House of Cards, right? Nothing has a happy ending. Doug doesn’t get that far before he turns the vehicle around and to finish the job. The last glimpse we see of Rachel is part of the side of her face as Doug shovels dirt into her grave.
In Iowa, the caucus results have come in: Frank wins. We see Dunbar giving her concession speech to supporters, vowing to continue the fight onward in the primary. Frank’s staff urge him to give a victory speech, but the president insists on waiting for Claire. Finally, he learns that she never got on the plane to Iowa. Frank is forced to give his speech along, making up an excuse that Claire isn’t feeling well to avoid any questions from campaign supporters.
That night, Frank gets back to DC in the late hours of the night and walks into the Oval Office. He finds Claire there, sitting in the president’s chair. The two bicker back and forth with each other, and Claire finally speaks her mind. She hates that Frank is the one with all the power. The couple aren’t equals at all. The First Lady is nothing compared to the prestige and power of a president. Frank has had enough and grabs Claire by her face. “Without me, you are nothing,” he says. As he leaves, he tells Claire that she will be by his side as they go onward to New Hampshire.
The next morning, Frank is readying for the trip and next stage of his campaign. He calls to Claire, asking if she’s packed her things. We see her enter with a suitcase packed. “I’m leaving you,” she tells him. Claire walks out, leaving Frank behind.
What a cliffhanger, right? Where do you think season four will take us? Are Claire and Frank really over for good? Let us know your thoughts on the season below!