The latest entry in the tale of Frank Underwood changed the “House of Cards” formula, meaning more character building and less political “thrill” so to speak. Season three presented new trials and tribulations for everyone’s favorite TV politician. With Frank becoming the President of the United States at the end of season two we knew his rise to power, at least momentarily, was fully realized.
The season begins by telling us that Doug Stamper is still alive, despite having been bludgeoned by Rachel. This was a great shock to me as well as many other fans of the show. I thoroughly enjoyed the first episode, which primarily went through Doug’s recovery and rehabilitation. We learned more about the character, his family, and perhaps most importantly his deep loyalty to Frank. This set the tone for the season, which focused more on the characters and less on the plot, as opposed to the first two seasons. While many were critical of the show’s change of pace and formula, it was interesting to learn more about the characters and what drives them, and the first episode allowed more insight into the weirdness that is Doug Stamper.
While Doug is incapacitated, Frank has become the President. Sitting in The Oval Office, it is now up to Frank to build his legacy. This, however, is easier said than done. For perhaps the first time in the series, we began to see Frank truly struggle. Whether it is a mental chess match with the Russian President, or trying to get his America Works program off the ground, we see Frank struggle to get a foothold. In addition, we see Frank alienate many of his relationships, burning bridges left and right. Those whom Frank most expected to be loyal slowly begin to turn their collective backs on him, the biggest of whom is Claire, Frank’s wife and partner in crime.
The best part of season three was the slowly increasing divide between Frank and Claire. Their relationship felt far more developed than ever before. As the season progressed, Claire felt less and less like she was an equal partner with Frank. As many of you already know, the season ends with Claire telling Frank that she is leaving him. This is a huge blow to Frank, who is in the middle of a presidential campaign and needs Claire in order to win. In fact, it is made very well known that Claire is popular with the voters and is one of Frank’s biggest advantages against his opponent, Heather Dunbar.
Throughout the season Claire comes to the realization that her partnership with Francis is becoming less and less mutually beneficial. After being appointed a UN Ambassador by Francis, a heavily scrutinized decision, Claire began to gain a little bit of power, however this new role was short lived. Claire questioned whether or not Francis truly wanted her to have the job, and her role as UN Ambassador came to an end when Russian President and Vladimir Putin parallel, Viktor Petrov, told Francis to relieve Claire of her duty. This is really where the characters are divided. Claire now truly realizes that Francis is the one who gets to be President and wield the power that they both worked very hard to attain.
In Frank’s defense, what did Claire think would happen when he became President? Awful foresight aside, Claire eventually reaches the point where she leaves Francis, ending the season on a huge cliffhanger.
Season three has a chance to be very memorable. The newest season was a big change from “House of Cards'” normal routine, and was fairly successful in developing the characters. It kind of sounds like a copout but season three’s legacy will be very dependent on season four’s ability to bring some of the thrill of seasons one and two back, and build off of season three. With Claire leaving and Frank in the middle of a Primary race, I fully expect House of Cards’ next outing to be a little bit faster paced and thrilling.
Despite feeling that season three was a success, I can’t ignore some of the newest season’s issues.
The season was slow to start and took it’s time getting to a more enthralling place. In addition, I missed Frank in this season. There weren’t nearly enough of Frank’s asides to the camera, which to me were always funny and very blunt in establishing Frank’s thoughts on any given circumstance he was in. The newest season is missing that “House of Cards” dramatic quality that the first two seasons had, which is my biggest issue.
I’m looking forward to season four perhaps bottling up some of the thrill from seasons one and two, while maintaining the aspects of character development from season three. “House of Cards'” change of formula could be a very good thing, and I am still very much interested in the story of Frank Underwood.