As the first program available only through Netflix’s streaming service, House of Cards is an experiment in delivering digital content in a way that maximizes profit. Netflix released the entire season at once on February 1. House of Cards is political theater centered on congressman and House majority whip Frank Underwood and his wife Claire (played by Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright). The show is based on a novel by Michael Dobbs and adapted for the American audience from a British drama.
Claire alone calls Frank “Francis.” I doubt that the American adapters of the series changed the wife’s name from Elizabeth to Claire to provide an allusion to another saint of Assisi, but after the flurry of comment on the pope’s choice of the name Francis—a signal of solidarity with the poor and the vulnerable—both names resonated with me.
If the witness of Francis and Clare was possible only in a world full of the grace of God, the story of Frank and Claire Underwood is plausible only in a world stripped bare of that grace. The plotting is blunt about this: Frank’s devotion to power at any cost is the devotion of a man bereft of God. Frank and Claire’s story is one of grasping for power, a story of corruption, conspiracy and coldness.