Warning: This post contains multiple spoilers for the entire fifth season of House of Cards.
For a show that’s always sustained a thrill factor, House of Cards has quite a shocking fifth season.
The latest installment of Netflix’s first true binge-worthy series contains an onslaught of big moments that make Peter Russo’s death in the first season look like Sleeping Beauty. This season, even as their marriage was at a low point, Frank and Claire Underwood (Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright) campaigned on the same ticket for President and Vice President using various nefarious tactics to get ahead. He hurtled toward war. She continued to sleep with her speechwriter. He began playing with his figurines again.
If you’ve already strapped yourself in for the 13 latest episodes of White House drama and Frank’s questionable career advice, here is a recap of the season’s most dramatic developments.
1. Claire’s a murderer too now; please keep up.
Leave it to Claire to ruin fireside intimacy by poisoning someone to death. When she kills her bedroom buddy, Thomas Yates (Paul Sparks), the First Lady watches the author take his last breath in the show’s first mid-coitus murder.
He was definitely going to be fired after he showed her his incriminating tell-some book. Claire knows he’s learned too much about her rap sheet and has to go, forever. This move shows the lengths to which even she will go for power. As early as the first season, Claire was ready to be an accomplice to murder, sure. But killing Tom? That’s a new low.
2. There’s a new agenda for world domination.
Frank always said power was about location, location, location. Now Claire’s in and he’s out. Turns out, Frank wanted to give up the presidency so he could focus on chanting weird chants at a gigantic statue on an exclusive elites-only island. Access to power is more important to him than anything — even being the most powerful man in the world. The best strategy, he says in the finale, is to work from the outside with his partner in crime as POTUS.
If Claire ignoring her husband’s phone call in the final scene is any indication, this power dynamic switcheroo may not turn out to be all that Frank expected. But Claire’s very much ready for it, which is why she finally addresses the audience directly.
3. Rogue Frank was his own leak, fueling his own scandal all along.
Up until now, the reports of Underwood’s devious rise to America’s highest office haven’t gotten in his way because Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) has been so thorough. All checks out so far. But as it turns out, Frank orchestrated his own resignation by sending the leaks folded inside his least favorite things (birthday cards) to the Washington Herald’s Tom Hammerschmidt (Boris McGiver). A real twist, given everything he did to cover his tracks.
4. Best employee ever Doug Stamper is taking the fall for the world’s cruelest boss.
Frank throws Doug under the bus for that time the former donned a fedora to murder Zoe Barnes. The Doug who blackmailed countless people on the Hill to ensure Frank’s success. Dougie, who went to hell and back after a near-death experience, all for Frank. That man.
If nothing else, it was ruthlessly on brand of Frank to casually tell Doug, over a lovely seafood dinner, that he has to take the fall. Still, it takes Doug all of one moment to decide, “Yes sir, that’s exactly what I”ll do.” It’s partly because of his guilty conscience over killing sex worker Rachel Posner. Now, on the next season, Doug can go on a fun redemption journey by pretending to have whacked a totally different promising young gal. He deserved better. (So, of course, did they.)
5. Meanwhile, Frank’s ex-lover from college died on a river.
Frank never did accept his old main squeeze’s invite to the river in the first season. Several seasons later, Tim has dropped dead on one of those very same nature trips. The bond they shared was “special” — which we are led to believe means their relationship was more than just one of friendship. Out of all the ghosts that have continued to haunt Frank, Tim’s death is enough to throw him for a loop, but not one he can’t maneuver out of. Goodbye, Tim. The harmony of Frank’s singing best friends group will never be the same.
6. We checked in on Lisa, and she was having a real rough time.
As we continue this tour through other people you forgot about who have been personally victimized by the Underwoods, here’s a case study. Pre-Frank: Lisa, Rachel’s ex-lover, was a bright-eyed gal in a church group who started friendly conversations on buses. Post-Frank: Rachel’s gone, leaving her ex Lisa in despair, hooked on heroin and desperately trying to convince the media she has proof of Underwood’s corruption. Such is life for a casualty in Frank’s war path.
Even though the series plays out as Frank Rationalizes It All, the narrative doesn’t obfuscate its moral message: Frank kills, plain and simple.
7. Frank ordered the killing of a terrorist without a fair trial.
The show put a face on terror, one of the many horrors the Underwoods use to manipulate the public, and it isn’t pretty. Underwood tells the camera that the ICO terrorist, an American citizen, doesn’t deserve rights, then abuses his executive power to have him killed and sells the American people on the lie that he was found dead. Frank has never been above a kill before, but the terrorist didn’t pose a threat to his professional goals. That makes this particular kill a notable turning point on his spiral toward moral degeneration.
8. Leann Harvey and Doug Stamper K-I-S-S-I-N-G in the kitchen.
Leann Harvey (Neve Campbell) seduces Doug, and they celebrate the fact that their lives are bleak with some kitchen sex. It’s a soothing bright spot in Doug’s life, and for a moment, there’s a chance that these two workaholics could end up comforting each other. But she dies in a government conspiracy car crash instead.
9. Will Conway’s scary attempt to fly the plane.
Mid-flight on the campaign trail, Frank’s Republican rival (Joel Kinnaman) screams at actual pilots because they refuse to let him take over the controls. Things get pretty stressful in the cabin, but he finally sits down. Seriously, Conway, people can hear you on planes. Naturally, his flare-up was recorded and leaked, which ends up working to Frank’s advantage, like most things.
10. Frank gets it on with his personal trainer, who also impersonated his great-great-great granddad.
And it happened in the stairwell with the Petrov cigar stain where all the real stuff goes down! Underwood is a grave-pissing doer who exists in one mode: forward. But here he was hanging out with the man who won him over with a fake story at a Civil War cosplay event about Frank’s distant past. Maybe this romance was always coming, but Frank’s never had a one-on-one male sexual partner before — at least onscreen. (His rendezvous with Meecham included Claire.) In the end, the trainer wants to hit it and never quit it with Frank, to which Frank is like, “bye.”