Spoiler Alert: if you have yet to watch this season, skip all the way down to my conclusion and Nad Rating because I’ll be spoiling everything.
Last July, I binge-watched my way through two seasons of House of Cards in record time. I found Netflix’s first foray into scripted programming to be extremely impressive thanks to sharp writing and an outstanding cast. Now that season three is finally upon us, can the political drama possibly live up to the viewing public’s enormous expectations?
First and foremost, Frank and Claire Underwood are still as deliciously evil as ever. The compelling combo of Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright continued to deliver exceptional work this season, and watching them in a position of immense power is certainly the main reason to tune in. What’s most intriguing here is that although the Underwoods are finally on top of the world, their obstacles are never-ending, and the power couple almost always find themselves backed up into a corner. Whether it’s Russian President Petrov trying to turn the devious duo against one another (by going after Claire’s UN position), or the heated race for the democratic nomination against Dunbar, the Underwood’s manipulations never cease to engage and entertain. In addition, the politics at the center of the show are as engrossing as ever, and they weave a tight narrative that’s constantly twisting and turning.
Sadly, the season has one horrendously slow subplot that sucks the momentum out of the show every time it makes an appearance. Yes, I’m talking about the train-wreck that is Gavin/Max/Rachel/Lisa and everything in between. Michael Kelly tries his best to salvage the storyline with his excellent portrayal of Doug Stamper, but it’s not enough to make this tedious subplot any less painful. I genuinely found myself losing interest every time one of the above-mentioned characters showed up on my screen. When you’re dealing with a show that’s supposed to be as riveting as House of Cards, that’s just unacceptable.
Thankfully, this story arc doesn’t derail the entire narrative, and the season manages one heck of an accomplishment: it creates an unsettling divide between the Underwoods. The season finale ends with one powerful image: Claire strutting away from Frank as he calls out her name. If season four features these two venomous creatures waging an all-out war on one another, well… I think the show just might reach a whole other level of brilliance.
Bits & Bills
– Priceless (and preposterous) opening shot: Frank Underwood pissing on his father’s grave. Damn.
– Jaw-dropping moment: Claire returning from her run, taking off her depressed husband’s pants, and mounting him. Well, you know the rest. Can we say creepy?
– Absolutely loved Claire’s whole “the military is irrelevant” debacle.
– So what was the symbolism of Claire frying those eggs? Who knew cooking could be so intense!
– Further proof that Petrov is a sleaze-ball: forcefully kissing Claire in front of everyone during the White House dinner. Raise your hand if you were praying for Frank to shove him down those stairs.
– Uber bizarre scene: Claire inviting Alexi to the bathroom and doing her business in between their negotiations. Was she trying to make him uncomfortable so she could gain the upper hand? That’s how I saw it at least.
– I kind of want to live on Air Force One. Is that so wrong?
– So is Claire hotter as a blonde or a brunette? I can’t seem to make up my mind.
– How come Meechum didn’t do a single thing this year? Or were they all having threesomes off-screen?
– The debate between Frank, Dunbar and Jackie was spectacularly well-written and performed. Kudos show.
– I liked Jackie more than Heather Dunbar, and I was heartbroken when things didn’t work out between her and Remy in the end. I was surprisingly rooting for them, and I was glad they ditched Frank after he treated them both like crap.
– It was great to see Freddy again. I particularly liked him telling his grandson (?) to never even think about becoming President.
– After the whole journal thing, I definitely wouldn’t trust Doug if I were in Frank’s place.
– There was a nice little fake-out with Doug letting Rachel go then returning and sealing the deal. Can’t say I’ll miss that useless void of a character.
– The Tom Yates subplot kind of fizzled out in the end didn’t it? For a second there, I thought Frank was going to give him a handjob!
– Frank won the Iowa caucus. No surprise there.
– So what did America Works amount to in the end?
– Readers, chime in and let me know what you thought of Claire and Frank’s attempt at “rough” sex. How were we supposed to interpret that?
– During their final confrontation, I kept expecting Claire to blurt out that SHE wanted to be President. Isn’t that where we’re heading? I sure hope so.
(for my favorite quotes from the show’s first two seasons, be sure to check out the list I compiled last year).
Frank: I don’t want a version. I want a vision.
Frank: I’ve always said that power is more important than money. But when it comes to elections, money gives power … well, a run for its money.
Frank: It’s humiliating to have to beg from some kid who was on Facebook before his testicles descended.
Kate: When you write about presidents, people pay attention.
Frank: And that is the root of the problem: entitlements. Let me be clear. You are entitled to nothing.
Claire: To President Petrov… and his little pickle
Frank: What is the face of a coward? The back of his head as he runs from the battle.
Petrov: I came with nothing to ask.
Frank: Men like you don’t show up for dinner without an appetite.
Frank: I wouldn’t be here if I had a choice. But I have to do these sort things now. Makes me seem more human. and you have to be a little human when you’re the president.
Frank: You can’t turn a “no” to a “yes” without a “maybe” in between.
Frank: Do you kiss the wife of every president you meet?
Petrov: Oh. Not every president’s wife looks like yours.
Frank: (to the camera) I’d push him down the stairs and light his broken body on fire just to watch it burn, if it wouldn’t start a world war.
Claire: Once people imagine themselves in the Oval, there’s no turning back.
Priest: Using fear will get you nowhere. It’s not your job to determine what’s just. It’s not your place to choose the version of God you like best.
Frank: I spat in one eye, I might as well spit in the other.
Frank: But you wanna know what takes real courage? Keeping your mouth shut, no matter what you might be feeling. Holding it all together when the stakes are this high.
Claire: We’re murderers, Francis.
Frank; No, we’re not. We’re survivors.
Claire: If we can’t show some respect for one brave man and still accomplish what we set out to do, then I’m disappointed in both of us.
Frank: I should’ve never made you ambassador.
Claire: I should’ve never made you president.
Frank: (to the camera) What are you looking at?
Man: Sir, I know you have a million things on your mind, but I would just love to talk to you about how to modernize the food-processing industry in Iowa.
Frank: (to the camera) Please, slit my wrists with his butter knife.
Petrov: You’re ruthless. Like me. Sometimes we must be ruthless with those who hate us. And sometimes we must be ruthless with those we love.
Frank: I don’t see why Claire means so much to you.
Petrov: Because she means so much to you.
Frank: I get woken up in the middle of the night all the time. Some crisis somewhere in the world. Some… situation… in the Situation Room.
Frank: I wish I could do that sometimes. Escape myself.
Jackie: I’m not comfortable with the dynamic we’ve established.
Frank: What dynamic is that?
Jackie; The leash you have me on. How I’m supposed to roll over and do any trick you want. You’re taking me for granted.
Frank: What, am I supposed to be, uh… appreciative of your lackluster enthusiasm? How fortunate I am to have you “sort of” on my team? You’re not “happy” with our dynamic? Well, I’m not happy with your attitude.
Frank: (to Jackie) Do not be under any illusions. This is not a partnership of equals.
Frank: (to Dunbar) I swear to God I will put you in your fucking grave.
Frank: Are you talking about loyalty? The only brand of that I accept is unconditional.
Freddy: Don’t do no good callin’ a man out like that. It’s like… blamin’ a snake for having fangs.
Frank: She can go after me all she wants, but she goes after Claire, I’ll slit her fucking throat in broad daylight.
Although this season was let down by one especially dull subplot, the dirty politics and dark humor were still in full force. And hey, it’s always a pleasure to spend time with the treacherous Underwoods. Until next year people!