Hello. My name is Chuck and I am a House of Cards-aholic. No? A Space Case, then…? Nothing? Well, whatever it is I hear that the first step is admitting that you have a problem. I look forward to every new season and place the release date on my calendar religiously and binge watch like a champ. The first two seasons (especially season 2…holy cow!) were some of my all time favorite single seasons; could season three live up to the unreasonable bar I set? Hmmmm…
WARNING: FULL SPOILERS FOR ALL THREE SEASONS OF HOUSE OF CARDS!!! You have been warned!
House of Cards is a sweet, romantic tale of a politician and his adoring wife regarding and their honest, hard work to make it to the top…NAH! House of Cards is a brutal take on the underhandedness of the upper echelon of politics. Frank Underwood is a cunning, conniving political mastermind who has no problems using people (including his wife, Claire) to get his way. Frank has bribed, threatened and even killed to get to the Presidency. Peter Russo was axed in season one, but only after being a stepping stone to get Frank to the Vice President’s chair. Frank then got his hands extremely dirty when he pushed reporter Zoe Barnes in front of an oncoming subway train. Season three waited until the end of the season to clean a little house, but we’ll get into that later.
Let’s talk a little Doug Stamper, shall we? Doug is awesome! He has been Frank’s right hand man throughout the course of the show. I was super bummed last year when it looked like Doug was killed and left in the woods by part-time prostitute and full-time patsy Rachel Brosnahan. Well, a rock to the head won’t keep Doug down! I will say that Doug, as a character, is an extremely flawed human while being an effective political assassin. His addiction to drugs, alcohol and prostitutes doesn’t stop him from getting the job done. Doug’s journey to get physically healthy while at the same time getting back into Frank’s good graces is the best part of the show this year. Michael Kelly, who plays the troubled eventual Chief of Staff, nails it this year. His cold, calculated demeanor was there as always but his uphill climb to get his leg right was, at times, painful to watch; that’s only because he did such an amazing acting job. His struggle towards the end of the year with what to do with Rachel was a master stroke. When he let her go after her heartfelt plea…and then turned his van around and killed her anyway was the best scene of the show.
But let’s be real, shall we? The real draw here is Frank. Kevin Spacey IS Francis Underwood. The amount of immersion Spacey gets into this character is damn impressive. Frank, up unto season three, was brutally efficient in his rise to the Presidency of the United States. Season three, however, was a different story and one of my biggest gripes. Frank was honestly trying to run the country and do a good job; this brought about a change in his demeanor that I was not expecting: honesty. While this was a little off putting, the fact that Frank failed at almost everything that he did bothered me to no end. He got played by a minor up-and-coming Democratic nominee, he was taken to school by the Russian President and all of his policies, though noble, were ultimately failures. I like it when Frank isn’t getting his way but then uses his cunning and brutal nature to get what he wants…didn’t happen this year. Also, what happened to the fourth wall breaking? One of the charms of House of Cards is Frank looking at the camera and giving us the villain that we want. This was scaled way back this year and I missed it tremendously.
The biggest problem to me, however, was Claire. And it broke my heart. I love Claire throughout season one and two as she was nearly as ruthless as Frank. Using her sexuality (and let’s face it, Robin Wright is one of the hottest women on TV) or her husband’s position was nothing to her to get what she wanted. This year, Claire seemed as if she wanted more spotlight and an important position in the White House. She was ineffective in almost every endeavor that she pursued and blamed almost all of it on Frank (who was trying his best to help her succeed). Then, inexplicably, Claire performs a HARD turn and essentially abandons Frank in his time of need as he tries his best to retain the Presidency. This culminates in the final scene of the show as Claire leaves Frank as he tries to win the Massachusetts primary…what?!? This seemed a stretch that the writers of the show tried to get us to believe that after everything that Claire and Frank have done together to get them into the White House that she would just decide to leave? It’s a hard sell for sure.
Overall, I was fairly disappointed with this season. The aforementioned problems listed above notwithstanding, it felt as if this season was part one of two…which House of Cards hasn’t done previously. Seasons one and two felt self-contained while being a part of something bigger and more malicious; I didn’t get that feeling here. Now, of course, there are more than a few great moments here. The acting is above reproach, as always, and the writing (for the most part) is spectacular. Directing, cinematography and production values are all top notch as well and I expect that this season will get plenty of nominations and wins during award season. I am hoping and expecting that season four of House of Cards will not only achieve my expectations but obliterate them. Get Frank back to his scheming, winning ways. Get Claire back in the fold. Have a full season of Doug behind the scenes and doing work. In other words…get back to being bad!
Second Opinion from Andrew Boone, free4geeks.com Staff Writer
You remember how excited you would get on Christmas morning to open your presents? You could never sleep the night before and would toss and turn and ponder about what ‘ole Saint Nick had brought you. Christmas morning comes and you open your first gift and its a sweater… A plain, simple sweater that your great-grandmother bought you. Kind of a bummer, right? This is how how I felt after I had watched season 3 of “House of Cards”. Now don’t get me wrong, there were some fantastic moments. But those fantastic moments were not enough to stay afloat a midst the sea of mediocrity. This season just seemed to not reach the mark the previous two seasons had set. It never seemed to really have an overall mission for Frank Underwood to embark upon. The character development was just not the best and even the “big ending” moment felt rushed and forced. Maybe my expectations were too high, but when you have Kevin Spacey as your leading actor, I expect gold.