The Allure of House of Cards: The Game

As of writing this, I am about halfway through Season 1 of House of Cards. Don't spoil the show for me, and the only spoiler in this post is something a character said, which is not a major plot twist or even a mystery. 

Blues and blacks and muted colours appear on the screen as the introduction plays, showcasing a city that is unflinchingly cold. Monuments and landmarks are part of a montage of the institution of power. There are no people.

There is no humanity in Francis Underwood's face. It is smug, grey, and unflinchingly cold. He commands every room he enters, with his soft, lilting words. There is no need to raise his voice.

There is a simple truth about people like Francis Underwood in the world. To play their game is to lose it. They make the rules, and reconstruct the world into their image. There is a widespread belief that power is the ability to tear people down.

A leader stands alone.

Trust is a mirage.

In a world of anarchy, people choose to relinquish their freedom; they choose to be sheep rather than to live among wolves. There was a video about a philosopher that said that religion and morality were nothing but barriers weak people put on themselves because they were too afraid to seek what they truly wanted.

Claire says her husband offered her freedom. Freedom from boredom. Freedom from the monotonous typical. Freedom to live an exciting life, doing what she wants. Francis Underwood is repulsive. He loses the second people realize they are not required to play his game. Francis wins because he exposes the sins of others, and uses it against them as they hide away from their actions. He loses the second people accept weakness and take responsibility for actions.

The arena is politics, not exactly the bastion of accountability. That is why he so often wins Michael Walzer wrote about the tragic hero that is the politician; filled with vivid beliefs and dreams, forced to compromise and taint herself to win. The only way the politician redeems herself is through suffering. Francis does not suffer.

Claire, unlike Francis, shows signs of humanity. She is Francis' confidante, yet infinitely more fascinating. Francis is blind to any moral lines, but Claire sees and responds to them. She is charitable and kind, which makes her acts of cruelty much more potent. Francis lusts for power. What does Claire desire? What enables her to straddle moral boundaries, and be equally as likely to do something terribly manipulative as terribly considerate?

Claire Underwood's husband is easy to decipher. She is the one conflicted between power lust and morality. She is human, and her story is salient.


  1. Such an interesting post. Like you, we too were drawn in by Claire. We actually haven't seen all the episodes, but we did recently watch all of Season 3. It will be so interesting to see what you think of her and Frank when you're done.

    1. I don't think I'm going to finish. I got incredibly bored in Season 2, and it's tough because even Claire's storyline became less fascinating now that she seemed to have made a certain 'choice'.



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