While Francis Underwood's motivation and moral limitations (or lack thereof) in House of Cards most of the time seem rather clear-cut, his wife Claire and her state of mind sometimes stay a bit more nebulous to me. For this reason I'm also unaware to which degree she actually knows about Francis' more straight-to-the-point ways of rising to power, that being his direct murdering of at least Peter Russo and Zoe Barnes.

While the story of Russo's suicide isn't very hard to believe, Zoe's accident/suicide should look much less believable for anyone aware of her involvement in Frank's case. When Claire sees the news of that on TV she doesn't make much of a motion. But while I don't have much recollection of the particular plot of season 1 at the moment, I don't think they ever actually talked about any of those deaths directly.

So is there any indication that Claire Underwood actually knows (or doesn't know) of her husband being a cold-blooded killer? Or maybe she just assumes it without his awareness? But it might also very well be that this has been deliberately left ambiguous as part of Claire's sometimes less clear state of mind.

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    He was never shown directly telling her or acknowledging that it was him. But they are both predator-smart partners-in-crime and she knows he was involved. She may not know he actually did the dirty work, but I don't think it would surprise her. She would not have asked for more, and he would not have told her the truth if she did.
    – lonstar
    Commented Sep 9, 2014 at 21:34

4 Answers 4


First episode of season two shows Claire looking at the news of Barnes' death. Her momentary pause and small hand gesture indicate that she has her own thoughts about the death, most likely concerning Frank's involvement. Does she discuss them with Frank? Unlikely. It reflects their mysterious relationship. She knows, he knows, but it isn't said explicitly. In fact, we rarely see them having any substantial discussions. Their most interesting scenes end up being powerful tableaus. I see them as superficial partners connected by a common goal, but an intimate and emotional connection isn't evident. Why superficial? Because their facade still continues even in their own homes. I doubt that Frank knows anything about Claire's breakdown.

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    Interesting answer. But I'm not sure I'd sign that "an intimate and emotional connection isn't evident". It might seem so superficially, but I think there were many little incidents that suggest a deeper relation than a mere convenience partnership. But I'd agree that the real nature of their relationship stays quite mysterious.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Sep 27, 2014 at 20:53
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    I agree with @NapoleonWilson. Frank and Claire's relationship might be complicated, but it is far from superficial. There are several incidents that hint at this interesting dynamic: Frank feeling lost without Claire when she goes on a tryst, Claire's conversation with Frank's ex-bodyguard, the infamous menage-a-trois ... etc. Commented Sep 28, 2014 at 7:07
  • @SystemDown The lack of intimacy makes their emotional relationship superficial. Claire's affair is proof of that. They might understand each other, but they don't know each other. That is what distinguishes, in my opinion, a partnership from an emotional relationship. I definitely agree that their is something more to their relationship, but the series rarely solidifies it. Perhaps season 3 will...
    – user29568
    Commented Sep 28, 2014 at 8:32

I'm limiting myself to what you've already seen up to this point. There are spoilery answer to your question, but I am avoiding those.

What we already know about Frank and Claire:

  • Their marriage is not based on love, but actual (professional) partnership. It's more a two-man-company than it is a marriage.
  • Frank did not feel threatened by Adam Galloway. Because Frank knows that what Claire seeks with Adam, Frank is not able to provide. There's no conflict, Claire just needs something more than what she has with Frank. As long as Adam is second to Frank, Frank does not care.
  • When Frank was having sex with Zoë, it was implied that Claire did not know about it. However, when Claire is finally shown to be aware of the affair, she does not care one bit. It's never explicitly stated whether Frank kept Claire in the loop or whether Claire simply pretended to always have been in the loop in front of Zoe, but one thing is very clear: Claire does not feel threatened in any way by Zoe. She doesn't even seem to think that Frank's thing with Zoe is meaningful. Which, to Frank, it isn't. It's simply part of the plan.

Frank and Claire are working together. They have a plan. They are not a happily married couple (in the traditional sense), nor are they (predominantly) individuals with their own agendas.

So it stands to reason that Claire follows Frank's lead. She understands the political benefit of killing Zoe, and since the political benefit is their only goal, why should she be upset?

Imagine that you and me are bank robbers. Suddenly, I find out that you've killed a cop. Now, there are two options:

  • I get upset at you, because killing a cop brings more heat on us. Why would you do that? (this is the reaction you are expecting from Claire)
  • I understand that you killed the cop because he was close to finding out who we were. You killed him to keep us safe (this is Claire's actual reaction)

Claire is pragmatic, just like Frank. Therefore, they will pick the latter option. If they were the kind of people who picked the former option, then they would not have been as successful as they have already proven to be.

Claire's involvement with Frank's dealings will be elaborated on more in future seasons. You'll see.


To shamelessly steal from Reddit:

Someone noticed that Frank is looking at a map of the DC Metro System, right before pushing Zoe in front of it, when Claire walks in and says "I know you'll do whatever you think is best."

Given the context she is almost certainly referring to Zoe's death, and given her lack of shock at the idea of murder it seems likely that she has been aware of Frank's past murder(s?).


The fact that Claire and Frank sometimes boast about being completely honest to each other (affairs and all) pushes me into thinking she is fully aware of Frank's deeds.

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