House of Cards Season Three Review: Obviously, Spoilers

This is a review/opinion piece/rant of/about the entire third season of House of Cards. If you’re only mid-way through or haven’t started, you are warned: spoilers.

Seriously. Spoilers.

So Frank and Claire are done. (See, I told you there’d be spoilers). The real question is: are they done in the same way we all thought Doug was done at the end of last season?

If House of Cards is following, at least in the overall arc, its British predecessor, Frank is going to continue to succeed in his ambitions until he… hits a point where he can’t go up any more. I’d think it’s pretty clear that we should assume Frank will find a way to win the election and get a full term in office. However, beyond that, it’s difficult to imagine Frank somehow amending the Constitution to keep power beyond his term limits.

The future of the show notwithstanding, let’s briefly talk about this season. The benefit of “binge watching” House of Cards is that you get drawn into the narrative and can suspend disbelief in parts where taking your time on the show would cause you to doubt some of the leaps of faith the show asks you to take. This is an example of fridge logic to some degree. For example, Doug Stamper gets hired to be Chief of Staff at the White House during one of the most contentious Iowa caucuses in history, but somehow gets a free pass to head out to find and kill Rachel. Look, even if you say Doug hadn’t officially come into the job as Chief of Staff, you’d think his value to the President would take a bit of precedence over getting rid of the inexplicably important Rachel.

If you can tell me exactly what was going on with the Jordan Valley plan, you get a gold star. Frankly, the whole situation seemed forced in order to have some foreign policy crisis without an actual war. Petrov is Putin. Got it. For a show about machinations and back room sleaze, the heavy handedness is painfully blunt.

Claire’s appointment, then recess appointment, as UN Ambassador was nonsense. It was a shoddy plot device to shoe-horn Claire in early in the season. That’s all we’re going to say about that.

Thankfully the foreign policy questions evaporate mid-season and only seem to have been in the show in order to provide fuel for Heather Dunbar’s quips during the campaign. Of all of the characters outside of Frank, Heather was the most interesting. As the season progressed, she went from being a defender of the Constitution to threatening a sitting President with making his wife’s abortion records public.

Speaking of the Underwood’s private lives, the introduction of Tom Yates was interesting if you suspend your disbelief as to why he was hired in the first place. I get that Frank wants a propaganda best seller about the America Works program. Somehow a written description of an iPad game convinces Frank that he should have a full novelization of his jobs program. Regardless of the clunky way Tom gets into the story, his presence becomes intertwined with the decay of the Underwoods’ marriage. Tom’s character is interesting because the audience is left unsure as to exactly what Tom’s history really is and whether he actually has the Underwoods’ best interest at heart. It seems that by the end of the season, we have a clearer picture about Tom’s past, but it still is an open question as to whether he has been sabotaging the President’s marriage in order to get a better story.

The odd quasi-romantic scene between Frank and Tom was one of the only explicitly out of character moments for Frank during the season. While we all know Frank plays both sides, his sexual appetites have been consistently parasitic: Frank gets something he wants out of the relationship. This is clearly demonstrated in the fierce loyalty shown by Meechum and his significant distrust for Tom.

Jackie Sharp has remained a consistently conniving character. Originally seen as a potential rival for Frank’s level of political intrigue, she shows herself to be miscalculating. Frank, in Jackie’s position, would never have made the same mistakes that Jackie made in throwing her support behind Dunbar for nothing in return. However, I appreciate that she has remained politically conniving and an unknown quantity in the show.

Remy Danton’s character confused me this season. His introduction of Chief of Staff seemed so unlikely given Remy’s previous predisposition towards wanting money instead of prestige. I suppose we are to believe that his history with Frank was sufficient to get him back on board. However, for someone like Frank who values loyalty in those closest to him, it seems like an unlikely play given Remy’s history of treachery. Obviously this sentiment is born out to be true as Remy casually resigns as Chief of Staff later in the season. I’m still not entirely sure why Remy and Sharp are still having an affair, but I suppose it’s DC and this season was all about destructive relationships.

Notable Deaths This Season

Rachel: She needed to go. Like Anakin killing younglings, hopefully this puts Doug firmly on the dark side.

Eight Russians: The FSB might have blown them up or maybe it was a convoluted way to get Claire out as UN ambassador (but but but… wouldn’t the Russians want an inept ambassador? Oh, suspension of disbelief. Got it.) Somehow this is an excuse to get Russians out of the Jordan Valley which is something we want… after episodes trying to get commitment.

One Navy Seal: Political pawn for that reporter lady to try to play gotcha with Frank.

The Underwood Marriage: Frank and Claire are done. For now.

Other Awesomeness:

The music: The score is absolutely epic. I hope they keep ramping up the ominous opera as they did all season.

The staging: There’s division all over the season. It’s great.

The darkness: From night falling in the credits to cold filters, House of Cards is an amazingly dark show.

Overall: The show is great to binge. Suspend your disbelief and enjoy it. 7/10.

 

Matt McDaniel

Attorney and Political Commentator

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