It may be too soon, but given that it seems you may have cancelled House of Cards (or at least won’t continue with the involvement of Kevin Spacey for reasons I won’t go into) I thought I’d suggest a plot for a Frank-free final season.
Here’s a synopsis:
Opening scene: A grand but private funeral on a windswept day. It’s for Francis. A framed photo of him sits on an easel — steely faced, the photo has become slightly wrinkled and warped in the dank atmosphere.
Claire Underwood, former VP, is now acting President.
There’s a wide ranging inquiry into Francis’s apparent murder.
We assume Claire finished Francis off, but…did she?
Cover up upon cover up is hastily arranged, and just as quickly unpicked.
The vultures circle.
A few episodes in and we are now convinced Claire did not kill Francis – but someone far more calculating did, and that person is busy framing Claire for it. (Possibly that shifty woman from the end of the last season). Somehow, she now knows all about Claire and Frank’s misdeeds/murders. Anyway, let’s call this person, ‘The Shady Lady’.
Much ‘palace intrigue’ ensues as well as a few domestic and international crises which have to be managed. Mid-season fodder.
Claire is gradually sidelined within the White House as the accusations that she killed Frank start to take root. It looks like she’ll go down for it. She’s politically exposed like never before.
As usual, she gives the appearance of being in control. She looks steely, stoic and in control. However, she is taken by surprise by her own feelings of overwhelming loneliness, grief and a near-total exhaustion. Claire is wrestling with emotions of which she didn’t think herself capable. Is the game worth it? What does it look and feel like to ‘win’ at all this?
In the ensuing weeks, ‘dark forces’ are at work, seemingly orchestrated by The Shady Lady.
Claire is impeached and in short order is put on trial.
The trial is in full flow. Claire is passive. Almost zen. It’s clear that the judge is in the pocket of The Shady Lady. Claire has been outmanoeuvred.
The public is befuddled by fake news and doesn’t know what to think. Polls indicate that only a fraction of them want to see Claire (a former First Lady, former VP and former President) rot in jail.
Behind the scenes, The Shady Lady brokers a deal whereby Claire would be given a full pardon in return for Claire agreeing (a) to keep her mouth shut and (b) to live in exile. To sweeten the deal, Claire will be given a $750k-per-year stipend and will be allowed to keep her personal savings and what’s left of her business interests. Not much to write home about, but Claire has no one to write home to and it’s preferable to spending life behind bars. Out of options, Claire agrees.
The trial continues.
During the trial, despite the fact we have thus far been convinced of Claire’s innocence, we discover that Claire and The Shady Lady were, in fact, co-conspirators in Frank’s murder.
We realise that The Shady Lady has been playing Claire like a fiddle — quite an achievement — and has managed to take full advantage of Claire’s vulnerability.
The deal with The Shady Lady is in place. Claire doesn’t speak in her own defence. The trial concludes. Claire is found… GUILTY!
(She goes the prison. How does she look so damn stylish in orange prison overalls?! Never mind.)
A month passes.
Claire is looking much less polished and is doubting everything. Just when Claire is sliding towards her ‘rock bottom’, contemplating a life behind bars, finally, the pardon comes through.
Meanwhile, The Shady Lady has almost finished maneuvering her stooge into the Oval Office. She’s a peerless Puppet Master. A genius.
She is laying the ground work for her own inevitable ascension to the Presidency at the next elections — allowing a decent amount of distance between her and all the unpleasantness of the Underwood era.
4 months later
Claire is living in exile in China. She is living like royalty in Beijing. She is even making public appearances at high society functions, carefully overseen by the Chinese government.
At one glitzy affair, she gives an after-dinner speech at which there are reporters from all over the world.
She does the unimaginable.
For the first time, she not only publicly acknowledges her own part in the recent high crimes, she implicates The Shady Lady, her stooge (The President) and their entire circle. No one can contain this now.
It breaches the secret terms of her pardon, but she can’t be extradited so continues to live her comfortable new life in Beijing – looking over her shoulder.
1 week later
The political climate in America is toxic.
The US is in turmoil, as Claire attends yet another high society event in China (though is not invited to give any speeches, and is even more carefully and conspicuously shadowed by Chinese security services, who are always lurking a few feet away). Claire smiles and nods warmly to various high powered guests. Her eyes and jewellery sparkle. She is peacocking, and is in her element.
The following day, an unidentifiable male guest leaves her bed. Claire is unwell and stays between the expensive grey silk sheets. It’s not like her, but no matter, she has no plans this morning.
Later the same day she is found dead by her housekeeper. Lying on the floor. A single trickle of thick, dark blood tracks from her nose. Several bottles of pills lie scattered near by.
It looks like suicide. Or overindulgence in illegal substances at (or after) last night’s party.
But the scene is too contrived.
No. She has been murdered.
But who was behind Claire’s assassination? The Chinese, the Americans, or an individual with a grudge?
We never find out.