The Underwoods are losing support at the DNC, but a timely death and an aggressive move might give them what they need
Credit: Netflix

Who would’ve thought that the Democratic National Convention could be so exciting? Seriously, the two back-to-back episodes set almost entirely within the DNC is some of the best stuff House of Cards has ever done. It’s the perfect setting for the kind of campy, twisty, backstabbing-filled stories the show loves to tell.

After Cathy’s big play in the previous episode, things aren’t looking good for Frank. With the convention now open, Frank’s nomination as the presidential candidate is in serious jeopardy, as both Catherine Durant and Heather Dunbar, who had previously dropped out of the race, are in contention for the nomination. If we know anything about the Underwoods though, it’s that they work pretty damn well when their backs are up against the wall.

With support for everyone but Frank gaining, the president needs to make a move. His recent meeting with Conway and the threat of ICO presents the perfect opportunity. Frank decides to head back to Washington to hold a National Security meeting in order to deal with ICO’s advancements, and in doing so he halts the DNC voting process. That gives the Underwoods a few days to develop a new plan and make sure that Cathy doesn’t mess anything up this time.

Of course, Cathy isn’t going to just sit back and let her potential nomination slip away. When Frank confronts her on Air Force One about the call she made to Conway, she rips right back into Frank. She tells him how she’s watched him lie, cheat and steal, like the late Eddie Guerrero, and she’s sick of him breaking promises and using her as a pawn in his larger plan.

Normally, Frank could just ignore such threats to his power, but he doesn’t have a lot of time to fix things. Voters in California are starting to turn towards Dunbar, and Jackie Sharp is apparently on the phone campaigning against Frank, telling everyone how he’s a bully and runs his office with an iron fist.

That means that Frank needs to move quick, but Claire is starting to back down. Back at home, with Yates in tow, she sees her mother quickly succumbing to her illness. Yates has a remarkable chemistry with Elizabeth, making her laugh often, but it’s clear that she’s hanging on to the last moments of her life. As her home nurse says, it’s only a matter of weeks before she dies.

The whole thing exhausts Claire, so she proposes letting Cathy get her way to Frank. She says that if Cathy gets her nomination as VP, then Frank can turn his focus to winning the general election. Frank isn’t having any of that though. He tells Claire that if he were to die, like her mother is, the only thing that would make him happy would be knowing that she would be in a position to take over for him. It’s sweet, in that creepy, sinister Underwood kind of way.

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Meanwhile, Frank arrives in Washington and actually has to deal with this whole ICO thing because, you know, he’s the president and it’s kind of his job. Sure, he’d rather be talking to the camera or coming up with cool new ways to secretly murder people, but sometimes duty calls when you run a powerful nation. Still, Frank doesn’t seem to get much done with ICO. He hears out a few options and then asks for more time to consider them.

Really, he just wants to get back at Cathy, and he gets just the leverage he needs. Back in Dallas, Elizabeth tells Claire that she wants to die, and that she wants to die now so that she can help her daughter win the VP nomination. She knows that her death would induce a groundswell of support for her daughter, and she’s ready to go. With that, Claire, with Yates by her side, begins giving her mother doses of morphine until she passes out and dies.

It’s an emotional moment, but Claire has to turn back to politics immediately. She calls Frank and tells him that he needs to schedule the vote for tomorrow, that Yates has already started working on her speech, and that he needs to get Cathy on board with the plan no matter what. After she hangs up with Frank she finds comfort in Yates, spending the night with him and finding a physical and emotional connection.

With the death of Claire’s mother bolstering Frank’s plan, he gets aggressive with Cathy. He gets her alone in the Oval Office and just completely goes off. He starts telling her about his hallucinations before admitting that he had Peter Russo and Zoe Barnes killed. Then he picks up a letter opener and slinks up to Cathy…only to laugh it all off as a joke.

It’s threatening enough though that Cathy knows he’s serious, especially when his joking tone turns to his insistence on having Cathy’s support. It’s vicious, sinister stuff that we haven’t seen from Frank in some time. It works though, as Cathy agrees to keep her Secretary of State job and officially throw her support behind Claire and Frank.

That support leads to Claire and Frank making up the Democratic ticket in the 2016 election. Claire gives a stirring speech and the two take the stage to bask in yet another achievement. But how long can the momentum last? There are threats all around the Underwoods. Doug is losing his grip, staring at bottle of alcohol and lashing out at bathroom doors. And then there’s Tom, who’s really starting to put thing together. He’s figured out that the White House was fudging their travel reports, and that could lead to even more discoveries. He even tells Dunbar about it, asking her for any info she might have about Frank and weaknesses in his staff. She gives him one: Remy Danton.

Could disillusioned, blackmailed Remy be the one to help Tom take down the Underwoods? How will Dunbar play a role in Tom’s investigation? And will Yates’ affair with Claire become an issue later on? With only three episodes left in the season, answers are surely on the way.

Episode Recaps

House of Cards

Ballots, betrayal, and barbecue combine in Netflix’s original drama, which stars Kevin Spacey as cunning congressman Frank Underwood and Robin Wright as his equally ruthless Lady Macbeth. Based on a 1990 BBC serial of the same name.

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