You. Guys. We've got a new character to fawn over on House of Cards, and goodness, is her presence going to heat things up. Fair warning, spoilers ahead! Early on in the episode we find out that Claire's taken off for Texas, but because she's the Claire Underwood we all know and love, we know it's not just for a casual jaunt through her childhood stomping grounds. What we didn't know was that her mom would be waiting in Texas. So who is Elizabeth Hale on House of Cards? Claire's mom's appearance on the show is not just shocking, it's downright juicy. As an avid fan, I've only ever heard Claire mention her parents in passing, never stopping to pause to talk about them and surely never to mention her mom. Yet here she is, tucked away in Dallas, Texas, after all these years.
Claire's character is cold, calculating, manipulative, and conniving. I've never once in the course of their four-year story looked at Frank Underwood and felt that he was the brains of the entire Underwood operation. I've always given due credit to Claire's cold-blooded vision, but Season 4 has thrown me for a total loop (and we're only 50 minutes in). Not only are the Underwoods playing two different ball games, it's clear that they're out gunning for different things, and the arrival of Claire's mom in episode one only further complicates that for me.
In the scene where we meet Elizabeth Hale, Claire marches toward her mom's room only to stop and gather her nerve at the start of the hallway leading her there. The way the scene pans out, it looks like a long hallway that tapers off into two doors. Which one will Claire choose? There's a moment where it could go either way, but Claire knocks on the door only to have her call go unanswered. A man (their live-in caretaker? butler? home aide?) adds that Ms. Hale mentioned she'd be taking a nap, but when the cameras pan inside Hale's room, we know he's lying. Hale is dressed (impeccably, I might add) and seated at the edge of her bed. The look on her face reminds me of one we've come to know well: stoic, unforgiving, cold.
And there's this really telling scene where Claire and Elizabeth tip-toe around each other, each one checking on the other only when they think she isn't paying attention, or is asleep. In the cold, hard light of day (and a whole two days later), Claire and her mom finally cross paths. (Is the house really that big, or are the two just incredibly well-versed in avoiding each other?) There's obviously not much love lost between the two because neither look happy to see the other, but there's two incredibly really telling moments revealed in the scene: Elizabeth Hale is not a fan of Frank Underwood, and she knows that Claire isn't visiting just because she missed her; Claire is up to something. After revealing that she's in town to make her case for a possible seat in Congress and asking for her mom's opinion, Hale retorts, "You've always made your choices, regardless of what I think." Is it just me, or is Hale sub-tweeting Frank Underwood here too?
Minutes later (OK, maybe days, who knows), Frank shows up to woo Claire back to the White House — if by "woo," I mean make very many blatant threats to end Claire's political career, which, for the record, is exactly what I mean — and Hale delivers this A+ insult to her son-in-law:
You know, when she first got married, I thought she was going to wake up in a year or two. I had no idea it'd take her 30.
Honestly, the venom in their exchange shows how deep their hatred for each other runs, and I feel like I should hate myself for saying this, but I don't, because damn, I cannot wait to see how Hale's appearance shakes up Season 4.