Claire Underwood

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Claire Underwood
House of Cards character
First appearance Season 1, "Chapter 1"
Created by Beau Willimon
Portrayed by Robin Wright
Information
Gender Female
Occupation

Non-profit executive, Lobbyist Second Lady of the United States (Season 2)

First Lady of the United States (Season 2)
Spouse(s) Frank Underwood
Nationality American
Source Elizabeth Urquhart

Claire Underwood is a fictional character from the Netflix web television web series House of Cards played by Robin Wright. She is the wife of the show's main protagonist Francis J. "Frank" Underwood. She is a lobbyist and runs an environmental nonprofit organization. Underwood made her first appearance in the series' pilot episode, "Chapter 1". The character is based on Elizabeth Urquhart, a character from House of Cards, the 1990 UK series from which the current series is derived.

The role has been critically acclaimed. Wright won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama for this role at the 71st Golden Globe Awards, becoming the first actress to win a Golden Globe Award for a web television online-only role in a series. She was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for this role at the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards.

Description[edit]

Wright almost declined the role and when she first began the portrayal, she almost gave up the role. Eventually, she immersed herself in the contemporary Lady MacBeth role which is steeped in a wardrobe of Armani and Narciso Rodriguez.[1]

Season 1[edit]

Brian Stelter of The New York Times described her as Underwood's conniving wife[2] and described the Underwoods as "the scheming husband and wife at the center of 'House of Cards'".[3] She is a woman "who will stop at nothing to conquer everything".[4] She and Frank scheme nightly over a cigarette.[5] Frank says of Claire: "I love that woman, I love her more than sharks love blood."[5] Hank Stuever of The Washington Post describes her as an "ice-queen wife".[6] The Independent's Sarah Hughes echoes this description, saying she is so dedicated to the couple's schemes that it is clear she will execute them herself if Frank wavers.[7]

While Frank is Machiavellian, Claire presents a woman urging on her husband's assertion of power in the image of Lady Macbeth.[8][9] She encourages his vices while noting her disapproval of his weaknesses, saying "My husband doesn’t apologize...even to me."[9] This gives a credibility to their symbiosis.[10] Unlike Elizabeth Urquhart, Claire's counterpart from the original BBC version of House of Cards, Claire has her own storylines.[11] She is a lobbyist who runs an environmental group while serving as Underwood's primary accomplice.[5] Her extramarital affair with an artist friend provides her only escape from a "calculated life".[5] Willimon notes that, "What's extraordinary about Frank and Claire is there is deep love and mutual respect, but the way they achieve this is by operating on a completely different set of rules than the rest of us typically do."[12]

Nancy deWolf Smith of The Wall Street Journal describes Claire as "a short-haired blonde who manages to be masculine and demasculinizing at the same time." Smith describes their relationship as pivotal to the show: "Benign though they may seem — and their harmless air is what makes the Underwoods so effective as political plotters — this is a power couple with the same malignant chemistry as pairs of serial killers, where each needs the other in order to become lethal".[13]

Season 2[edit]

According to Drew Grant of The New York Observer, Claire's season-long storyline was similar to the real life efforts of United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's to legislate an end to military sexual assault.[14] Based upon the 4-episode preview, Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times says that in season 2 Claire "is still ruthlessly pursuing her own agenda as well as her husband’s. She remains an enigma even as she reveals more and more disturbing secrets from her past."[15] When Gillian, a pregnant former employee, returns from season 1 to fight for health care, Claire states "I am willing to let your child wither and die inside you, if that’s what’s required,...Am I really the sort of enemy you want to make?"[16][17] Claire remains composed and stylish with or without her husband and plays the press with aplomb.[16] However, a skeleton from her college days appears: During a nationally televised interview, she admits that she was raped in college, and that her rapist is now a high-ranking general.[18]

Claire and Frank continue to share intimacy by smoking together at the window in their Washington townhouse as they scheme to "impose their will on Washington".[19] Upon viewing a four episode preview of season 2, Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter says the series "...sells husband and wife power-at-all-costs couple Frank (Spacey) and Claire (Robin Wright) Underwood as a little too oily and reptilian for anyone's good."[20] Los Angeles Times critic Mary McNamara makes the case that House of Cards is a love story on many levels but most importantly between Frank and Claire.[21]

Claire cries upon encountering her rapist, General Dalton McGinnis, in what seemed like a grasp for sympathy according to Time journalist Eliana Dockterman. No sooner than you can give her sympathy, Claire has turned her rape into a "means of leverage". She uses the political momentum from her interview to lobby for support for legislation and then converts the focus on that issue into political support that becomes critical to the Underwoods' ascension to the Oval Office. Also, over the course of the season, Claire "intentionally ruined the lives of her ex-lover, the First Lady and a fellow rape victim".[22] She also threatens the well-being of a pregnant former employee.[23] In the finale, returns with her Lady Macbethian encouragement "Cut out his heart and put it in his fucking hands."[24]

Reception[edit]

Wright's performance is described as "nuanced and compelling".[4] Claire has "chilly poise" but the "coolly regal doyenne" softens over the course of the first season according to New Republic's Laura Bennet.[5] Wright plays the role with "an almost terrifying froideur".[7][11] As a couple Frank and Claire are said to "reverberate with tension and wit".[11] Michael Dobbs compares the compelling nature of the relationship between Frank and Claire favorably to the original characters in House of Cards and likens them to Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.[7] He is not alone.[4] In season 2, she remains "equally steely".[25] Despite suggestions to the contrary, Wright insists that the character is not based on Hillary Clinton.[26]

Awards and nominations[edit]

On July 18, 2013, Netflix earned the first Primetime Emmy Award nominations for original online only web television for the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards. Three of its web series, Arrested Development, Hemlock Grove, and House of Cards, earned nominations.[27] Among those nominations was Wright's portrayal of Claire Underwood for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series as well as Kevin Spacey's portrayal of Frank Underwood for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series and Jason Bateman's portrayal of Michael Bluth in Arrested Development for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, making these three roles the first three leading roles to be Primetime Emmy Award-nominated from a web television series.[27] The role has also earned Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama award at the 71st Golden Globe Awards on January 12, 2014.[28][29] In so doing she became the first actress to win a Golden Globe Award for an online-only web television series.[30]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Schilling, Mary Kaye (2014-05-14). "Our June/July Cover Star: Robin Wright". Town & Country. Retrieved 2014-05-27. 
  2. ^ Stelter, Brian (2013-01-18). "A Drama’s Streaming Premiere". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-07-22. 
  3. ^ Stelter, Brian (2013-07-18). "Netflix Does Well in 2013 Primetime Emmy Nominations". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-07-22. 
  4. ^ a b c Cornet, Roth (2013-01-31). "Netflix's Original Series House of Cards -- From David Fincher and Kevin Spacey -- May be the New Face of Television". IGN. Retrieved 2013-07-20. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Bennett, Laura (2013-02-05). "Kevin Spacey's Leading-Man Problem The star of the 13-hour "House of Cards" is as impenetrable as ever". New Republic. Retrieved 2013-07-22. 
  6. ^ Stuever, Hank (2013-01-31). "‘House of Cards’: Power corrupts (plus other non-breaking news)". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2013-09-10. 
  7. ^ a b c Hughes, Sarah (2013-01-30). "'Urquhart is deliciously diabolical': Kevin Spacey is back in a remake of House of Cards". The Independent. Retrieved 2013-07-21. 
  8. ^ "Ostrow: Kevin Spacey shines in "House of Cards" political drama on Netflix". The Denver Post. Retrieved February 11, 2013. 
  9. ^ a b Stanley, Alessandra (2013-01-31). "Political Animals That Slither: ‘House of Cards’ on Netflix Stars Kevin Spacey". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-09-10. 
  10. ^ Poniewozik, James (2013-01-31). "Review: House of Cards Sinks Its Sharp Teeth into Washington". Time. Retrieved 2013-09-10. 
  11. ^ a b c Lacob, Jace (2013-01-30). "David Fincher, Beau Willimon & Kate Mara On Netflix’s ‘House of Cards’". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2013-07-21. 
  12. ^ Oldenburg, Ann (2014-02-13). "'House of Cards' promises more 'plotting and scheming'". USA Today. Retrieved 2014-02-13. 
  13. ^ deWolf Smith, Nancy (2013-01-31). "Fantasies About Evil, Redux". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2013-09-10. 
  14. ^ Grant, Drew (2014-02-17). "The Anhedonia of Antiheroes: Why House of Cards’ Second Season Isn’t as Fun as It Should Be". The New York Observer. Retrieved 2014-02-28. 
  15. ^ Stanley, Alessandra (2013-02-13). "How Absolute Power Can Delight Absolutely: ‘House of Cards’ Returns, With More Dark Scheming". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  16. ^ a b Smith, Sara (2014-02-07). "Second season of ‘House of Cards’ is a vote for vice". The Kansas City Star. Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  17. ^ Valby, Karen (2014-02-05). "House Of Cards". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  18. ^ Barney, Chuck (2014-02-11). "Review: 'House of Cards' returns for more political dirty deeds". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 2014-02-11. 
  19. ^ Zurawik, David (2014-02-08). "Season 2 of 'House of Cards' packs theatrical power". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  20. ^ Goodman, Tim (2014-02-03). "House Of Cards: TV Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2014-02-10. 
  21. ^ McNamara, Mary (2014-02-14). "Review: 'House of Cards' plays new hand with brutal, clear resolve". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2014-02-28. 
  22. ^ Dockterman, Eliana (2014-02-17). "The 9 Most Shocking Moments from House of Cards Season 2". Time. Retrieved 2014-02-18. 
  23. ^ Deggans, Eric (2014-02-14). "Antihero Or Villain? In 'House Of Cards,' It's Hard To Tell". NPR. Retrieved 2014-02-28. 
  24. ^ Jeffries, Stuart (2014-03-05). "House of Cards recap, series two, episode 13 – 'Cut out your heart and put it in his hands'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-03-16. 
  25. ^ Lowry, Brian (2014-01-31). "TV Review: ‘House of Cards’ – Season Two". Variety. Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  26. ^ McCalmont, Lucy (2014-02-12). "Robin Wright: Claire Underwood not based on Hillary Clinton". Politico. Retrieved 2014-02-13. 
  27. ^ a b Stelter, Brian (2013-07-18). "Netflix Does Well in 2013 Primetime Emmy Nominations". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-07-18. 
  28. ^ Farley, Christopher John (2013-12-12). "Golden Globes Nominations 2014: ’12 Years a Slave,’ ‘American Hustle’ Lead Field". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2013-12-12. 
  29. ^ Zurawik, David (2013-12-12). "'House of Cards' star Robin Wright earns series' sole Golden Globes win". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2014-01-13. 
  30. ^ Hyman, Vicki (2014-01-12). "2014 Golden Globes: Robin Wright wins best actress for online-only 'House of Cards'". The Star-Ledger. NJ.com. Retrieved 2014-01-13.