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House of Cards Season Review

Jake Heinauer, Editor-In-Chief

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By now I have given you more than enough time to watch season three of House of Cards. It’s been over a month since season three has premiered, however I suspect that most of you didn’t watch the entire thirteen episode season in less than a week like I did. With that being said, if you have yet to finish the third installment of this award winning series I would suggest that you stop reading now because this article will be full of spoilers.

I suppose that I should start with my overall opinion of this season. Yes, it was thrilling. Yes, it was enthralling. Yes, I was ecstatic to see the Underwoods back in action. No, it was not as good as the first two seasons. Perhaps it’s because Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) is already the President, and the South Carolina Congressman’s initial chase for the executive office is over for both Frank and the viewers, or perhaps its because Frank didn’t murder someone, but I dont think its either of those things at all. But perhaps because Frank’s heart was once two sizes too small, but in office he has actually grown some emotions. The series stopped focusing on the tyrannical drive to power, and shifted to focus more so on the characters and their relationships.

Before I focus on the relationships between our beloved characters, it would be best to at least mention some of the new ones. House of Cards ups the ante with two new award winning writers in Kate Baldwin (Kim Dickens) and Tom Yates (Paul Sparks), Baldwin the White House Correspondent for the Wall Street Telegraph and Yates the award winning author of his novel Scorpio. Yet adding Baldwin came at a cost. We lost the telegraph reporter Ayla Sayaad (Mozan Marno), who replaced Zoe Barnes (Kate Barnes). Simple math dictates that Baldwin is our third journalist in three seasons. Really? Three Journalists in three seasons? It’s not that I don’t like Kate Baldwin, in fact I found her to be more interesting than Ayla Sayaad, but its the premise of the idea that House of Cards has not given us any sort of stability in our relationships with these journalists. That being said Sayaad’s character wasn’t as strong as either Barnes or Baldwin so I’ll allow this slight annoyance to pass for nothing other than simply a character improvement. However if Baldwin leaves anytime soon I’ll probably lose it.

Yates certainly added some substance to season 3 of House of Cards that just felt right. It offered an insight to Frank Underwood that wasn’t forced and allowed us to see possibly more than his wife, Claire (Robin Wright), knows. As for anyone reading a book about AmWorks (Underwood’s fictitious jobs program), I’m skeptical. But the fact that Frank discovered Yates through reading a review of a video game, was brilliant. To the naked eye, it may seem stupid, but Frank has always played video games. It offered a shred of the Frank Underwood we saw in seasons one and two. However it will be interesting to see what Yates does with his story, since towards the end of the season Frank cancelled the project.

This season was definitely about relationships, and if we’re going to talk about relationships, I have to start with Frank and Claire Underwood. For the first two seasons this relationship was strong, impenetrable almost. It was about benefitting their legacies and even cheating on each other if it moved them forward. This season saw Claire grow jealous of Frank’s power as President of the United States, and Claire began to only care about her individual legacy. I’m not sure if I like where their relationship went this season. Actually, I hate where it went this season. Originally the relationship grew stronger and they even renewed their vows in Gaffney, South Carolina. Frank even made a midnight appointment for Claire to be the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., and then took it away as part of a political deal to end the fictitious crisis with Russia in the Middle East. Then she focused on Frank’s campaign, and in the last five seconds of the season she decided she was leaving Frank.

What kind of writing was that? This is the opposite of the couple we saw in season one. Claire was once content with being in charge of the Clean Water Initiative while Frank was in Congress, then in season two she was content with being the Second Lady of the United States, then suddenly we’re supposed to believe that being an Ambassador and the First Lady of the United States isn’t enough for Claire? I don’t buy it and I honestly think it is poor writing. It wasn’t as well thought out and masterful as the writing has been in the past two seasons, and Claire’s move was compulsive, which is odd for either of the Underwoods. Yes, many of their political decisions are made in the very early hours of the morning and over a cigarette, but no move was ever compulsive. Every decision, move, power play or whatever you want to call it, was meticulously thought out by the Underwoods. Which I think hints at the real issue of this season, these Underwoods are only shades of what the Underwoods were originally.

The second most important relationship this season was between that of President Underwood and President Petrov (Lars Mikkelson), and ultimately the United States and Russia, and for the msot part I loved it. For most of the season the dealings between Petrov and Underwood felt icy, and we got to see Frank do what he does best; turn any given situation on its head and then scramble until he comes out on top. Peace in the Middle East was the goal of the United States and Frank practically had to bully President Petrov into even seriously negotiating any sort of plan. But Petrov’s do nothing policy in the Middle East wasn’t the only thing aggravating Frank, as Petrov made it very clear that he was very interested in the First Lady. He even made out with her in front of the President and many other powerful D.C. Adversaries. Which ultimately came out looking somewhat ridiculous. Without really being able to put it into words the dealing with the Russians felt like more of a placeholder in the season than a game changer– until Petrov bullied Frank into forcing Claire to resign as the American ambassador to the United Nations. After this happened the Russians place in season 3 began to make more sense. Anytime the Americans and the Russians dealt with each other, an extreme amount of pressure was put on the Underwood marriage. The ambassador’s position was taken away, and that was the end of things for Claire. This might have been the moment Claire realized Frank was much more interested in his career than in their collective legacy. (Although I’m still skeptical).

The primaries were far and away the best part of this season, for the reason being that we saw Frank on the defensive and offensive, wheeling and dealing. I was happy to see Frank dealing with domestic issue as he has in past seasons, because eventually dealing with the Russians felt exhausting for me as a viewer. Heather Dunbar (Elizabeth Marvel) is probably the only decent politician on House of Cards thus far, and for it I hate her. She serves a necessary place in the season and challenges Frank. What is there to say about Jackie Sharp (Molly Parker)? She left Frank and endorsed Dunbar even though she would get nothing in return. It seems unrealistic that a women as ambitious as her would do that, and so I have to say I hate her too.

 

Bold Predictions for Season 4

 

  • Claire announces her own Presidential bid, even though she already missed the Iowa caucus.
  • Frank orders the Secret Service to stop Claire from actually leaving the White House.
  • We get a fourth Journalist.
  • Tom Yates publishes his story even though Frank told him not to.
  • The writers of House of Cards realize that this season wasn’t as good, but fix it for the fourth season.
  • Frank wins the Presidency on his own accord (coupled with illegal doings), or dies. There is no between.

 

 

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