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House of Cards season finale recap: 'House of Cards' season 1 finale recap

Characters face endings and beginnings as the first season of Netflix’s experiment draws to a close

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House Of Cards 111
Patrick Harbron/Netflix

House of Cards (movie)

Current Status:
On Hiatus
Tommy Lee Jones, Kathleen Turner, Asha Menina
Michael Lessac

After the Shakespearean heights House of Cards has tried to hit throughout its first season, it’s curious to see the show’s maiden voyage conclude so anti-climactically — with a “dramatic” close-up on Frank’s phone and a muted shot of Frank pulling ahead of Claire on their late-night job. Get it? Because he’s in the running to become Vice President?

The season’s true climax, of course, came a few episodes earlier, when Frank straight-up murdered Peter Russo — and staged his death to look like a suicide. Though I was certain that Russo would be a goner before the season ended, I couldn’t have guessed that he’d die at Frank’s hands… and honestly, I’m not sure how crazy I am about this development. Wouldn’t Frank know not to commit such a heinous crime in a garage that must boast 24/7 security surveillance? Wouldn’t he think it more prudent to simply wait and let Peter drink himself to death? And wouldn’t knowing what his boss just did be a little too much, even for someone as inexplicably loyal as Doug?

Let’s put a pin in that for the moment and go back to the beginning of Chapter 11, which begins, fittingly enough, with everyone realizing that Russo’s campaign is utterly bankrupt. This means that there’s a hole in Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race, one that can only be filled at this late date by a sure thing: Vice President Matthews, who’s unhappy enough with his current job to consider Frank’s idea. (It’s so crazy, it just might work!)

Just a few string-pulling sessions later, Frank meets with Linda, who’s the first one to understand his true grand scheme: Underwood wants Matthews to go back to Pennsylvania so that he can secure the vice presidential seat for himself, then use his experience to spearhead his own presidential campaign in 2020. (Or possibly 2016, if he manages to tank the Walker industry from the inside.) After some quick calculating, Frank decides to come clean to Linda about his plan — and tell her that he thinks the two of them could make quite a team.

Meanwhile, poor Russo just falls further and further off the wagon. He drinks himself into a stupor, then manages to drive all the way to his ex-wife’s house. He calls his daughter, who says that he should leave; his son won’t even talk to him. Man, those kids are really going to regret this conversation in the morning.

NEXT: The decline and fall of poor Peter