house of cards and the fourth wall: on the end of the fourth season.
House of Cards specializes in surprises. While some plot twists are telegraphed, others are utterly unexpected. Zoe Barnes’ death, for instance. We all knew she had to go — she knew too much about Frank’s ascendance to power and was becoming too big a thorn in his side — but, even after Peter Russo’s death, it was impossible to predict that Frank would quite literally do away with her by pushing into the path of an oncoming train. In the latest season, the surprise comes in an entirely different fashion. Frank’s habit of breaking the fourth wall, one of the most talked-about aspects of the show, becomes Claire’s territory, too.
The weakest part of the preceding season was the dissolution of Frank and Claire’s relationship. As enticing as it might seem in theory to watch the show’s two most formidable characters square off against each other, the appeal of the Underwoods was that, despite their unconventional marriage, they were always a team. Additionally, Frank has never been the alpha of the pair, and we all know it. Just take a look at the social media commentary that’s accompanied the fourth season thus far. The only reaction I’ve come across to the scene in which Frank finally tells Claire, “I said you were nothing without me; it’s the other way around,” is agreement.
As such, it makes sense that Claire should finally be included in the show’s most powerful tool: addressing the audience. It also, however, becomes the biggest question mark going forward, more than the upcoming election or the war, because it fundamentally changes both how we’ll see Claire’s character and how the story will be told. Claire, thus far, has remained relatively remote to us thus far simply because she’s not a character who wears her emotions on her sleeve, and we haven’t had a window into her head the way we have Frank’s. Will it change things, to have more insight into her thoughts? And how will the show balance having two narrators? The wait between season is always excruciating, but even more so now that the stakes go beyond the story.