Spoilers ahead for House of Cards season six.
A high-five and hearty congrats to President Claire Underwood — oops, President Claire Hale — for that big surprise in the sixth episode of the final season of House of Cards. A pregnant POTUS? Even in a show known for its breakneck twists and turns, few saw that surprise coming.
Robin Wright delivers a delicious performance in “Chapter 71,” as Claire reveals to a stunned Doug (Michael Kelly) that she’s pregnant with an heir to the Underwood estate. “Francis and I have been blessed,” she says, placing Doug’s hand on her belly. It’s a shock of a twist, and it neatly solves the problem that’s been looming over Claire since Frank Underwood’s death: His will left everything to Doug, his most loyal subject … unless he had a descendant to inherit the loot instead. Claire’s pregnancy is the ticket to inherit everything that her late husband left behind.
But whose baby is it? Could Frank really be the father? How did that happen if he and Claire had been estranged for months before he died in the White House? And what about Tom Yates, who was literally poisoned to death while Claire had sex with him last season?
House of Cards showrunners Frank Pugliese and Melissa James Gibson were amused by Vulture’s confusion. But they assured us — and we asked all of the writers on the show as well — that it is indeed Frank’s baby.
Here’s how it all happened: In the second episode of season six, Claire visits a female physician at her home office. That woman is Dr. Larson, the same fertility doctor that Claire consulted in the season-one finale when she was considering trying to get pregnant. Knowing that, Dr. Larson’s mysteriously vague line to Claire — “For this to happen at this point in your life, the prognosis is not so good” — makes a lot more sense. It wasn’t a terminal illness! It was Claire asking if she could still become a mommy.
But again, how exactly is it Frank’s baby?
“The notion is that during that fertility process [in season two], Francis had some sperm frozen,” Gibson told Vulture.
Okay, but why would a woman who’s had three abortions want a baby now? Isn’t she a little busy running the free world? “It’s tactical,” explains Gibson, who conceived the idea for the pregnant president. “She’s using it to gain power. She’s weaponizing motherhood.”
The tactic certainly works: Claire’s pregnancy helps her create the image of a softer presence in charge of the country — a “baby-bump president” who leads with tough love instead of an iron fist. But House of Cards ends before Claire gives birth, so we’ll just have to take the doctor’s word that it’s a girl.