In case you hadn't heard, "House of Cards"* season 4 will be available to binge on March 4. While it's been a minute since we last followed the macabre, Machiavellian plottings of Frank Underwood et al, there's no need to remember all the ancillary sub-plots about clean water and foreign heads of state and barbecue ribs before bingeing season 4. In fact, everything you need to know about the Underwood administration (for bingeing purposes) can be explained through these six bed scenes.
How's that? Well, the Underwoods' house of cards is built on power grabs. And it's when characters climb into bed — together or alone — that we most clearly see who's holding the reigns and who's, well, showing their cards. Plus, we only cared about a few of the plot lines.
Zoe Phones it in as a Daughter (Season one)
Zoe Barnes, a rising politics blogger with one tight, white dress and a generationally appropriate media job, strikes up an affair with Frank Underwood, the charming, sociopathic majority whip. Their relationship seems symbiotic, but it's not, and this scene makes that clear. Zoe presumably has some leverage in the situation: Once she gets Frank to open his mouth (literally, figuratively), she gets the scoops she needs to fuel her career and enough dirt to take down Frank's, right? Nah. Frank services her so she'll bend to his will. He doesn't feel paranoid about cheating because he doesn't feel anything about anything. And the "scoops" he gives Zoe amount to smear stories on politicians standing in his way. Here, as she talks to her dad on the phone, he wordlessly puppeteers the conversation.
Frank Makes Bedtime Murder Plans (Season two)
Here, Frank and Claire are still regular ol' political schemers in the town-house next door — he a dog-killing glad-hander, she a YSL sheath with a power haircut and uncertain motives (not to mention a penchant for angry morning jogs). They have affairs, which they discuss openly, and end their nights sharing a cigarette and a crisply made bed. Their union is unconventional, but it's a partnership with mutual understanding and benefits. And, at this point, nothing ruffles their feathers — or, what we're assuming are the lavish Egyptian-cotton sheets upon which they lay. Frank can calmly develop a plan to off Zoe (here, his iPad shows a map of the D.C. Metro), as Claire stands in the doorway. Power is putty in the hands of this chillingly amoral duo.
A Threesome for Meechum (Season two)
"We needed that," says Claire, the morning after she and Frank have a threesome with their bodyguard, Meechum, whom they trust above nearly anyone else in their lives. We don't see the actual three-way, only the seduction (which, to be fair, happens in the kitchen), but they presumably move to the bedroom.
At this point, viewers know that Frank is sexually fluid, but this scene reveals that Claire both knows and doesn't care that Frank bats for both teams. The Meech-some is a vital scene, both for its sexual provocation and for the way it highlights how little investment Claire and Frank have in defining who they are or how they act. Labeling Frank as bi-sexual misses the point because he's entirely unconcerned with labels. In fact; the show's emphasis on Frank's shifting sexual identity arguably supports the notion that he's a sociopath.
Not because fluid sexuality usually denotes sociopathy, but because Frank otherwise embodies anti-social personality disorder and sociopaths themselves have talked about their ambivalence towards developing fixed identities, sexual orientation included. Charles Manson, for example, told Rolling Stone he doesn't discriminate between men and women when it comes to sex. And M.E. Thomas, who runs the blog Sociopathworld, has also said that political parties and sexuality classifications don't make sense to her, because she doesn't have a sense of self rooted in associating with any specific way of being. Frank is consistently a shape-shifter, inside and outside the bedroom.
Stamper Spies on Rachel (Season three)
In season three, Doug Stamper resumes his role as Frank's henchman and becomes Chief of Staff. He also stalks Rachel Posner, a former prostitute whom Stamper uses as blackmail (on Frank's behalf) in season one. While subsequently tryng to escape from Stamper, Rachel nearly kills him. After he recovers, Stamper believes Rachel to be dead, but later learns otherwise. So, he tracks her down, discovers she's entered into a lesbian relationship and eventually runs her over with a van. While Stamper has no problem doing Frank's dirty work, he can't do it with the same level of Underwood-ian dispassion as his boss. His torturous obsession with Rachel clearly distinguishes him from Frank, who pushed Zoe to her death as though he were bending over to tie his shoe.
Claire in Her Bed (Season three)
Well, the Underwoods beat the odds and the legal framework designed to prevent political corruption. With help from Claire, Frank successfully finagles his way into the West Wing. Once they get there, however, Claire's commitment to Frank and his world domination wanes. As he shows increasing antipathy towards his Lady Macbeth, she questions their relationship as one of equals. While they once amiably shared physical space, they move into separate bedrooms in the White House, priming Claire to move out altogether.
Where's everyone now? The third season ends with Claire leaving Frank and the White House and Frank continuing to campaign for re-election.
*Remember "House of Cards"? It's that show about Frank Underwood, the morally indifferent South Carolina congressman-turned-POTUS who speaks directly to viewers in an Antebellum patois sweeter than sweet tea. And Frank has a wife, Claire, the fairest and iciest in all the Beltway, who seems to share her husband's rejection of sexual boundaries, zeal for power and indifference to pain and suffering — until she decides to jump ship. And Frank used to trade intel and bodily fluids with with Zoe Barnes, an ambitious Millennial reporter who lived in a dystopian Millennial dungeon and died when Frank put on a natty Fedora and pushed her in front of an oncoming train. And Zoe Barnes had a boyfriend named Lucas who's onto Frank and his blood-stained resume. And there's a bodyguard named Meechum, a billionaire financier named Raymond Tusk, and a political henchman who killed a prostitute named Rachel Posner — and a news-breaking, career-making education bill that wouldn't make anyone flinch in real life. There's also a lot of other navy suits, muted panoramic shots, suspicions, calculations and characters who killed or were killed.