House of Cards, Netflix’s high-voltage look at the dark side of Washington, D.C. politics, released its full second season last Friday. The show is packed with drama, intrigue, and the more-than-occasional sex scene, and Kevin Spacey plays protagonist Francis Underwood to power-hungry perfection. But having finished the second season (like you didn’t finish by Sunday night too), one nagging question remained: Is the Rachel Posner character Jewish or what? (Medium-grade spoilers ahead.)
We meet Posner early on in Season 1, when she’s hired as a prostitute by Congressman Peter Russo. He gets a DUI while she’s in the car, and she’s instantly swept up into the web of secrecy and deception that Underwood and Co. excel at. Later in the season she’s used to draw out Russo’s demons, and I won’t tell you what happens but it is AWFUL.
She sticks around into Season 2, when Doug Stamper, Underwood’s chief of staff and lead henchman, is tasked with keeping her far from prying journalists, who if they found her could connect her to the DUI cover-up and everything that followed with Russo. Stamper moves Posner to an isolated apartment in Maryland, demanding she have nothing to do with anyone, and not contact anyone from her previous life. He also becomes completely infatuated with her, because this is House of Cards. Everything changes, though, when a stranger named Lisa starts up a conversation with her on the bus home from her mind-numbing job at a call center. She starts going to Lisa’s church, and is drawn in by the music and, most of all, by the community. (Also by Lisa, but that’s another story entirely.)
So there’s a character with the seriously Jewish-sounding name Rachel Posner on a show that otherwise features almost zero Jewish characters—a show whose every word and sentence is painstaking selected (even the episode descriptions). They have to have at least thought about it, especially when some of the characters pronounce her name as Pahz-ner and others Po-zner. So what’s the deal?
When Stamper finds out she’s been defying his orders and going to church, she tells him excitedly that she’s learned the story of her name, the Biblical story of Rachel. Even with the most cursory of Hebrew school attendance, she probably would have found out about her namesake matriarch a little sooner. There’s also that whole going-to-church thing, though she does seem pretty uncomfortable there at first—which may more plausibly be because she’s worried about Stamper finding out she’s there at all than because she’s worried about her new friends finding out she’s Jewish.
Verdict: I’m going with no, but with a show like this one there’s always room for a little conspiring, right?