Subtle, visual symbolism has become one of the great hallmarks of House of Cards. The Netflix series, now in its fifth season, has proven itself to be a dab hand at using imagery to further the story of Frank and Claire Underwood's rise to power. Whether it was a video game, an old set of army men from Frank's childhood, his exercise machine, or a song, it's always something. This latest season is proving rife with meaningful imagery. In the third episode of Season 5, Frank and Claire are watching a movie on House of Cards. It's a small thing, but it speaks to their complicated relationship in the most beautiful, understated, yet slightly sinister way. Warning: spoilers ahead for House of Cards Season 5, Episode 3!
The movie is considered one of the original film noir classics, Double Indemnity. A film co-written and directed by the inimitable Billy Wilder, one of the few directors of his era (in my opinion) whose humor and humanity have truly stood the test of time. The 1944 movie hinges on the story of Phyliis, a seductive housewife who ensnares Walter, an insurance agent, in a plan to kill off her husband for the insurance money. "Double indemnity" refers to the clause in insurance policies that pays out if the death is ruled accidental. So, Frank? Maybe don't go into any dark alleyways with Tom Yates. Just sayin'.
The third episode of Season 5 of House of Cards finds our dear President Underwood fighting a cold the day before the election. Which doesn't seem like a big deal (after all, the guy was shot in the liver in Season 4 and lived to tell about it), but that was before writer Tom Yates came on the scene with his serious beard and his slow and easy sensibility. He and Claire shared some intimate moments in Season 4, like when he was with her as her mother died, and the two have become romantically entangled. Clearly, he was someone Claire needed. As Frank noted in the first episode of this season, when he gave Claire his blessing to keep Tom around: "He gives you something that I can't."
Apparently, Claire seems to be thinking the same thing. When Tom innocently notes that political opponent Will Conway is popular because he's modern, Claire stiffens. "Are you calling Francis old?" Suddenly, Frank's cold seems to feel like something more to her. A sign of decay. And she doesn't love it. Suddenly he seemed weaker, more fragile. Perhaps even an obstacle in the path of her own political agenda?
Who knows. See me? I'm a romantic. I like to think Claire would not ruthlessly kill Frank to get ahead. But... they are the Underwoods. Holding hands in the dark in front of the television, watching Double Indemnity. Acting it out together, knowing every phrase by heart.
Because those two... they know each other. Really know each other. And you can't ask for more than that.