The 'Double Indemnity' Scene In 'House of Cards' Is A Perfect Metaphor For The Underwoods
It's easy to forget that Frank and Claire Underwood aren't just cold-blooded schemers and murderers. They may act like they're smarter than the rest of the human race, but that doesn't make them immune to the charms of a classic movie. In a scene from the third episode of Season 5 that's equal parts charming and sinister, the Underwoods reenact a scene from Double Indemnity while watching the film as part of an Election Day tradition. While the scene is light-hearted and even goofy at times, the Underwoods' film of choice is a telling look into their worldview.
Released in 1944, Double Indemnity follows an insurance salesman (Fred MacMurray) who gets caught up in a murder plot. A housewife, played by Barbara Stanwyck, seeks to murder her husband. She hopes to take out a life insurance policy on him first, however, because if her husband's death is the result of an accident it will trigger "double indemnity" — allowing her to be paid twice as much than if he was killed under different circumstances. This initial scheme eventually spins out of control, resulting in multiple deaths and very little money for those who were hoping to get rich quick. In a lot of ways, it's probably a movie the Underwoods shouldn't be trying to emulate in any way.
SPOILERS FOR EPISODE 4 OF HOUSE OF CARDS SEASON 5. The Underwoods get themselves into a situation very similar to the plot of Double Indemnity, but instead of life insurance they're trying to scheme, it's the presidential election. Frank and Claire effectively sabotage the election that they were certainly going to lose, hoping that in the confusion and uncertainty they can somehow pull out a win for themselves. However, it's a major gamble because much like in the classic noir, it needs to look like an accident.
If anyone finds out Frank, Claire, and the Underwood administration intentionally sabotaged the election, it's lights out for the couple. Special attention should also be paid to the fact that by the end of the film, MacMurray's character ends up killing the housewife who talked him into the harebrained double indemnity scheme in the first place. While there's been plenty of death so far in House of Cards, there's never been a question that Frank or Claire were possibly at risk of losing their life. Is this foreshadowing that either Frank or Claire will die by the other's hand before the end of the series?
During their private screening of the film, Frank and Claire recollect the first time they kissed. As Frank tells it, Double Indemnity was playing in his living room at the time — meaning that the film has been at the core of their relationship from the very beginning. It's a relatable moment for these two characters, who so often seem larger than life, allowing them to find enjoyment in a piece of Hollywood fluff instead of focusing on the election or manipulating others.
It turns out Claire and Frank are just people after all, which makes their evil actions all the more terrifying.