House of Cards, Season 3 (Netflix, 2015)
Score: Still astounding.
***SPOILERS FOR SEASONS 1 & 2***
I said in my review of Seasons 1 & 2 that I expected the subsequent seasons to be about the fall of the Underwoods, after having seen their meteoric rise, and I was not disappointed.
Frank Underwood has reached the White House by means of deceit and mischief, and he’s very much enjoying it. But elections are six months away, and he needs to secure what he has achieved. Frank Underwood is not a very good leader, he is extremely good at stomping people, but not at keeping loyalty and accepting constructive criticism. Soon everyone in his cabinet and the media know that he likes to rule in the way of a tyrant and a despot, especially when it comes to AmericaWorks, his pet project that he will see succeed at literally any cost. One of the things he does to promote it is to hire a fiction writer to produce a book that looks like a novel but is subliminal propaganda. Obviously, the author is much more interested in other aspects of the story.
Claire Underwood, now the First Lady, wants to pursue her own career and ambitions as a UN ambassador for the United States. Meanwhile, Doug Stamper survived Rachel’s attack and is slowly recovering. He’s eager to return to work under the Underwoods, but he’s played down and rejected for still being in recovery. The upcoming caucus before the elections don’t make anything any easier. New themes and characters appear, including prominently the President of Russia, since the challenges of the Presidency are very different to those of the contender.
***SPOILERS FOR SEASON 3***The trick here is that the fall is not a steep slope down. It’s more of a delicate crumbling down. Underwood is presented with difficulties and he sort of resolves them, but with less margin each time. For the first time ever the cornerstone of the plot is questioned: the Underwood marriage. It undergoes different falling outs and peacemakings until it’s definitely stuck in a rut: the moment Claire realises Francis is nothing without her and she’s better off without him. The scene in the episode directed by Robin Wright where Claire goes to campaign to a new mother’s house was masterfully written and served both as foreshadowing and justification of what was going to happen later.
It makes me really wonder what’s going to happen next: is Claire really going to be better off? Is she going to get a lot of vulture suitors? Are they going to bash her for abandoning her poor husband and become a victim of good old misogyny?
Doug’s arc was pure genius. I never really knew where his heart lay until the very end, just as expected. It really broke my heart that he had to murder former Rachel in the end, but as much as he hated it he knew if he didn’t that was going to come and bite them in the ass later. I wonder if someone will find out about Peter Russo’s murder later in the show and it’s coming to bite them in the ass later anyway.***END SPOILERS***
So if you were wondering if you should keep watching this new season, yes, you definitely should.