The most erotically charged moment of the final season of House of Cards arrives during a funeral in episode 4 — a very House of Cards sentence, indeed. The camera pans on the torsos of two of the season’s top-tier Bad Blonde Women, both wearing sleek black dresses. One blonde slides her hand behind the other’s palm and grips her hand. Of all the show's characters, only Jane Davis (Patricia Clarkson) has the audacity to hold President Claire Hale’s (Robin Wright) hand so brazenly.
That’s because until this point, Jane has had special access to the president. They live together! They communicate with the same kind of sly manipulations! At that moment in the show, Jane is caught in a triangle between Russia, the U.S., and Syria. But these international relations plot points are eclipsed by the more pressing question, which is: Who is Jane Davis, and however did she become so alluring? Here’s a sampling of the actions Jane Davis, Queen Enigma, does over the course of season 6: She speaks Russian, casually attempts an assassination, changes into “jammies” in front of the president, punches the vice president, and has an affair with a younger hunk. Clearly, she’s a boss. Her plotline, however? A bit less clear.
Jane Davis glided into House of Cards midway through season 5. She was the Deputy Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade. But more important than that string of nouns, she was Claire’s ally. Last season, Claire and Jane became close after they were caught in an ICO bomb scare. Conveniently, Jane was able to use her extensive connections with private contractors in the Middle East to find the terrorist group’s leader. Now that's ally material, indeed.
From then on, Jane becomes Claire's equivalent of a Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly), ever eager to plunge into the Underworlds’ network of dark and immoral maneuverings. It’s easier to describe who Jane is than what she does — and maybe that’s the point. Jane gives the impression that she’s handling many different shady business deals at the same time, all for our dear Claire.
Come season 6, it seems Jane is just as on board the Underwood/Hale train as ever. But does the Hale train want her? When she makes her debut appearance this season, she and Claire haven’t seen each other for three months. Their relationship is uncertain. “When you left three months ago, I wondered where you’d gone. And then I didn’t think of you at all,” Claire says, slightly snidely. Then, in a complete attitudinal 180, Claire asks her to move into the White House.
Claire, remember, is alone in the White House. There aren’t many people she can trust. Jane fills a vacancy, and serves a purpose. She's a ruthless seeker of useful fodder for revenge, more than willing to contribute to Claire's schemes — especially those against the Shepherd siblings. For example, Jane digs up information on Duncan Shepherd (Cody Fern), the son of Claire’s nemesis Annette Shepherd (Diane Lane). Jane is also a companion, of sorts, to a woman who seems to be above the need for human intimacy. Of all of Claire’s acquaintances, only Jane could say, “Come keep me company while I put my jammies on,” and expect Claire to obey her.
There is untapped erotic energy here, I'm telling you.
Jane’s safe until she begins to question the president’s authority (and sanity). In episode 4, Jane urges the president to back down in Syria. Instead, Claire goes rogue and makes a side deal with President Petrov, the Russian president, leaving Jane out of the maneuverings. “Congratulations, Claire. You’ve become a problem for everybody,” Jane later criticizes, the silhouette of her naked body poking through the door (their relationship is a charged one). Jane poetically insinuates that Claire is going to be assassinated if she continues on this course by dropping a plate.
After their final interaction as “friends,” Jane is off the Hale train — and right in danger. Jane, at last, becomes a victim of the Claire Touch. Her romantic tryst with a Nasser (Darwin Shaw), a lawyer for the terrorist group ICO, is interrupted by two guards who whisk her away to Saudi Arabia. Nasser seems to know the kidnapping is coming, indicating he and Claire may have a relationship. Jane is held captive in Saudi Arabia until she promises to tell Claire when, exactly, Congress's uprising against will come. This stay in Saudi Arabia ruins Jane's career. She’s no longer able to work with agencies because, as Claire says, “nobody knows what you said or didn’t say while in captivity.” Her credibility is destroyed.
Claire hurls one final career-ending bombshell at Jane. Claire knows that Jane helped Cathy Durant fake her own death. This betrayal lands Jane on the list of those who Claire must destroy. In episode 6, she becomes one of three causalities of the Hale administration, along with Cathy and Tom Hammerschmidt. She dies in a very obscure, Nordic-looking medical facility — like much of Jane's life, her death is well-coiffed and ultimately unknowable.
Ironically, Jane probably could have been a good ally to Claire in her administration. She had always been comfortable in morally ambiguous territory. But Claire spent the season pruning all connections to others. Her final act is killing Doug Stamper. She's free of the ghost of Frank Underwood, she's free of nemesis. But she's probably out of a job.
That said, let's not feel so bad for Jane. Jane always knew what she was getting into when she became buddies with Claire in that bunker. During a conversation with Mark Usher, she talks about the futility of ever escaping the Underwoods. "Out? What a quaint concept, when the only way out was never to get in in the first place." By the time she tries to help Mark (Campbell Scott) leave the administration, it's too late for them both. Theory: Maybe the Eagles were singing about the Underwood White House all along. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.