As of right now, this final season of House of Cards is unraveling in the most simplistic, and often dull, way possible. Each of the first three episodes follows a very similar pattern: Claire is presented with a choice where her opinion differs from that of the Shepherds, a few subplots swirl around in all their convoluted glory, and then Claire comes to her decision, usually conceding to the Shepherds’ will. ‘Chapter 68’ is no different, as Claire begins the episode meeting with Judge Abruzzo. The Shepherds want him appointed, though Claire can’t stand him. Will she appoint him and once again cave to Bill’s demands, or will she find a way to get what she wants? It’s yet another bit of “uncertainty” that doesn’t seem to matter in the grand scheme of things.
In the meantime, ‘Chapter 68’ presents a number of new revelations, and the first comes after Claire’s meeting with Abruzzo. After she tells Mark Usher that she was “emasculated” by Bill guiding her hand while she signed the deregulation bill, she mentions that Bill Shepherd is sick. Initially I assumed she meant “sick” as in creepy and weird, but it turns out he’s sick as in his health is failing. This comes completely out of nowhere, but at least it adds some sort of wrinkle of conflict here, something beyond the back and forth power grabs from the Shepherds and Claire.
Bill being sick doesn’t stop him and his sister from being weirdly intimate with each other while discussing options for dealing with Claire; they’re so handsy. I still don’t completely understand their motivations—once Claire is out, what’s their plan? What do they ultimately want besides a vague sense of power?—but they’re clearly set on destroying the President. Bill mentions that Seth has proof that Claire has had three abortions in her lifetime, and that she lied to the American people about one of them, but Annette isn’t willing to use that against her rival just yet. She still thinks there are other ways to get to Claire. Why they don’t just play that hand and be done with it, I don’t know.
Part of the Shepherds’ strategy is gobbling up everything in sight, from newspapers to former members of the Underwood administration. Cathy Durant, somewhat recovered from Frank pushing her down the stairs in the White House, is set to take a job as part of a think tank that the Shepherds help fund. Claire meets with Durant to try and persuade her to decline the job, probably because of what Durant knows about the Underwoods; that’s information that the Shepherds would love. Claire comes away thinking she can’t control Durant, so she does the next best thing: asking Jane Davis to have her killed.
Durant knows she’s doomed. When she shows up at an empty restaurant for what she assumes is a friendly meeting, she runs away when she sees Jane alone at the table. She calls Jane from her car, angry that her former friend would betray her and side with Claire, but as Jane says, once these wheels are in motion there’s not much anyone can do. It’s such a strange storyline—Durant hardly seems like a threat, even saying she’s more than happy to “forget” her time in the White House—but the Underwoods have never been ones to allow loose ends to keep walking around. So, Durant ends up dead from an “embolism,” and that’s one more person Claire doesn’t have to worry about.
She tries to rope Doug into all of this, the way Frank used too, but nothing really works. She tried giving Doug Frank’s cuff links, and the previous episode made it look like he might actually side with the current President. “Chapter 68” confirms that they’re just too far apart, that Doug will never betray his loyalty to Frank, even after watching the video of LeAnn’s car crash, the one orchestrated by Frank. So, Claire says goodbye to him and the two-part ways, but you have to think Doug isn’t done with her just yet. Surely he’ll be coming after her sometime soon. (Recap continues on next page)