Emmy episode analysis: Rachel Brosnahan’s life and death struggle on ‘House of Cards’

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Can Rachel Brosnahan win the Emmy for Best Drama Guest Actress on her first (and last) nomination for “House of Cards?” On the Netflix political drama, Brosnahan plays Rachel Posner, a girl who gets in too deep with all the wrong people. The episode she submitted is this year’s season finale, “Chapter 39.”

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SYNOPSIS: The episode opens with Rachel waking up in a group home, where she’s been living under the radar after beating Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) unconscious and leaving him for dead in a Maryland forest. She finally saves up enough money and acquires the new identity of Cassie Lockhart. After living in fear and paranoia for a long time she seems to be feeling a sense of hope that she’ll be able to escape completely and live the rest of her life. Unfortunately, Stamper tracks her down to one of her jobs where he chloroforms her and throws her into the back of a beat up cargo van, intending to kill her.

As Doug drives Rachel out to the middle of the desert, she tries to get him to reconsider by saying she is sorry for what she did and that she was glad when she heard he was alive. She even shows him the documents of newly acquired identity. When he gets to the desert, Rachel screams as he grabs a shovel out of the back but he tells her that no one can hear her. He digs a grave and is about to pull her out of the van, but she forces him to reconsider, telling him that all she wants is to get away and live a quiet life. After much thought, he unties her and tells her to walk to a nearby town that’s several miles away. Doug drives solo for a little bit, then pulls over and quietly reconsiders what he just did. Rachel is seen walking down the road as the van comes into picture behind her. The very next shot is of Doug burying her body in the desert.

Can Brosnahan prevail on her first go-around at the Emmys? Let’s consider the pros and cons:


It’s an intense performance with a lot of screen time for Brosnahan. The fact that the episode opens on her makes the viewer take notice of her right away.

She definitely has a rooting factor for her character, where you know that all Rachel wants is to survive and because of the way she plays the role, you want Doug to change his mind about what he plans to do.

At the age of 25, Brosnahan is the youngest nominee in this category. She’s also the apple in a basket of oranges, as we like to say here, since all the other contenders are industry veterans and that could certainly give her an edge.


Being the youngest in this category could also be a detriment to her since she’s not as well-known, particularly when compared to such industry titans as Cicely Tyson and Diana Rigg.

“House of Cards” went down in nominations this year, netting 11 nods compared to last year’s 13. Could that mean academy members aren’t as fond of the show as they once were?

Also, no actor has yet to win for “House of Cards” and that could be a bad sign for Brosnahan.

Emmys 2015: Complete List of Episode Submissions

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