Review: House of Cards (Season 3 Retrospective)

(SPOILERS AHEAD!) To say that the season finale was hurried and rushed would be a massive understatement. Amidst this labored season, we’ve seen incumbent Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey)  grapple with the vacillating responsibilities and priorities of Commander and Chief with equal parts aplomb (the America Works Initiative was brilliant) and tactlessness. Always next to the throne has been Claire (Robin Wright) who has been belittled and disrespected all season for her inexperience as ambassador and her ineptitude with a peacekeeping mission in the Jordan Valley.

Wright has been phenomenally poised as Claire who rarely bristles under pressure. She is always pret-a-porter for public appearances and she never outwardly quarrels with Frank. Suddenly, in the haphazard season 3 climax, Frank uncharacteristically attacks Claire with viciousness for the sake of ruthlessness and it feels synthetic. Frank is always defending Claire and when a potential scandal arises about Claire’s false abortion, he is stalwart that he will “slit throats” if she is threatened in any manner.

The closure with the Rachel (Rachel Brosnahan) and Doug (Michael Kelly) saga is also lackluster. We knew that Doug was adamant about locating Rachel but the stakes were substantially low. She was a nonentity by this point and she wasn’t angling to expose Frank’s transgressions. Why execute her in such a blithe plot contortion?

One of the cardinal problems for House of Cards lately has been that no opponent has gone for the jugular like Frank. Frank always gerrymanders a situation to his favor even going so far as to illustrate the hypocrisy of his looming running mate during a debate. For instance, when Heather Dunbar (Elizabeth Dunbar) leverages a journal against Frank, it is transparent that she is bluffing.

My suggestion for next season are ironclad: construct a stronger, more cunning Republican presidential candidate for Frank to tussle with, reintroduce us to Lucas Goodwin (Sebastian Arcelus) who has a personal vendetta against Frank, completely extract any extraneous remnants of sexual politics (and Frank’s latent homosexuality) and put Frank’s life in mortal danger where he must use his silver tongue to either free himself or die trying. If showrunner Beau Willimon incorporates these factors into next season, I will be the first one with my radar attuned to Netflix.

Overall Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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