“My turn.” With those two words, Claire Underwood officially cemented her status as the official new protagonist of Netflix’s House Of Cards — and that was before Kevin Spacey had even been written off the show. But how did she get there? This House Of Cards Season 5 recap will help refresh your memory and remind you of the twisted path that led Claire from wife of House Majority Whip to First Lady to Vice President to first female POTUS, long may she reign smash the patriarchy amen.
When the show’s fifth and penultimate season started, President Frank and VP Claire had just launched a war on terror — a war that they themselves engineered in order to distract the American people from Tom Hammerschmidt’s damaging report on their devious machinations and back-room dealings. For the first time, Claire looked directly into the camera alongside Frank as her husband ominously declared, “We make the terror.”
But how did the Underwoods go from that united front to a disgraced Frank out of office and Claire stepping behind his desk? Well, it involved a lot of manipulation, mayhem, and murderrrrr. Who helped Claire achieve her goal of becoming President, and who fell victim to her schemes along the way? Let’s recap…
The first thing the Underwoods had to make sure of was that Will Conway didn’t beat them in the 2016 election. With turnout looking worryingly low, they drummed up some fake terror threats in order to get the governors of a couple swing states to shut down the polls, resulting in a contested election. With that, the election moved from the polls to the Capitol, with the House deciding the next President and the Senate deciding the next VP. Claire defeats General Brockhart to become Vice — but with neither Frank nor Conway able to muster enough votes to win the House, Claire becomes Acting President until the race is decided.
When a truck carrying radioactive material goes missing, Acting President Claire is locked in an underground bunker, but Doug quickly uncovers that the entire thing was engineered by Brockhart as an attempted coup to remove the Underwoods from office.
The contested election puts Conway under severe strain, resulting in a breakdown when he screams at a pair of pilots for refusing to let him fly a plane. The Underwoods receive an audio recording of the incident, and use it to convince Conway’s campaign manager Mark Usher to abandon his flailing candidate. With Usher’s help, the Underwoods finally defeat Conway once and for all, and Frank resumes his duties as POTUS.
Aidan, the data scientist who Claire’s adviser LeAnn brought on board to help rig the election, was kidnapped and interrogated by the Russians. LeAnn convinces the Underwoods to help rescue Aidan; but they really just wanted him back to they could kill him before he could reveal any more of their secrets. They staged his death to look like a suicide, much to LeAnn’s dismay.
Former President Walker is expected to plead the fifth in front of a Congressional panel investigating Frank, but he instead divulges the truth about Frank’s backroom dealings with China, leading to calls for impeachment. In the midst of this controversy, Claire fully breaks the fourth wall for the first time, directly addressing the audience and acknowledging that she’s always known we’ve been there, but was ambivalent about our attention.
Earlier in the season, Claire confessed to her lover Tom that Frank had killed Zoe Barnes way back at the beginning of Season 2. But when she discovered that he had continued writing the manuscript of his book about Frank — including that explosive detail — she realized he couldn’t be trusted and needed to be taken care of. So she poisoned his whiskey and made love to him one last time before he died on the rug and she called Usher to take care of the body.
With someone leaking information about Frank’s misdeeds to the press, the President has no choice but to resign. But it turns out that Frank himself was the source of the leak, having determined that his presidency was beyond saving and that it was more important to maintain control over the White House with Claire at the helm. Claire named LeAnn her Chief of Staff under the condition that she turn over everything she knew about Aidan; but when she did, Claire promptly fired LeAnn… and the adviser’s car was soon thereafter found driven off the road, with LeAnn presumed dead.
Claire assumes the presidency with the understanding that she will make it one of her first actions to publicly pardon Frank and Doug. In order for the ruse to work, though, Frank will have to move out and make it seem like they’re estranged. As Frank, evicted from the White House, watches Claire’s first televised address, he’s horrified to realize she’s gone back on her word, refusing to issue his desired pardon.
And so Season 5 ended with Claire in the Oval Office and Frank about to go to war with his wife. How will those plans change with Kevin Spacey gone from the show? Find out when the sixth and final season is released on Netflix on Friday, Nov. 2.