Season 2 of Netflix’s acclaimed political drama House of Cards ended with a bang…literally. Fans awaited eagerly for the third installment to come in and put everything else on hold until they could finish watching the epic rise of one of the most charismatic and corrupt fictional politicians to date. Be forewarned, this review is full of SPOILERS so if you have not finished the season, just scroll through quickly to the bottom for the rating and know you have chosen a quality television show to watch.
Let’s take a look at Season 3 of House of Cards.
What this season is characterized by is the de-fanging of Frank, so to speak. He has so many plates spinning all at once that he’s too busy to scheme and plot very much. This isn’t a bad thing, as this is ultimately the beginning of his fall from grace, but it’ll be a hell of a ride seeing if he can get re-elected. The season follows Frank’s first year in office, from trying to make peace in the Middle East, destroy social security and Medicare to create a jobs program, and trying to win re-election.
The biggest issue with this season is that the climb to power is always more interesting than achieving and defending it. Now that Frank is president, there is really no where to go but down and that affects the tone, and quality of the show. That’s not to say that the show stops being thrilling and intelligent, but it has lost some of the grit and teeth it had in the first two. What saves it is the parallel re-empowering of Claire and Doug, who both begin at low points and manage to build themselves into two super powerful players at the end. Frank’s house of cards may be falling, but these two are holding full decks now.
The slow but assured dissolution of Frank and Claire’s marriage is a big theme this season, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the next season’s tagline is “a house divided.” Power is an all consuming force, and as Frank says, there’s only one chair in the Oval Office. Claire has always been a great character in her own right but it’s great to see her making her own demands and struggling with Frank’s greed and power. Other season highlights include finally ending the Rachel Posner saga (and yes, you will see it coming) and the insanity that is Viktor Petrov, the Russian president who is a mirror to Frank’s paranoia and greed. The campaign trail itself if very interesting, but it doesn’t have the same punch as the action from the last two seasons.
The acting is, as expected, on point. Really it is Robin Wright and Michael Kelly really pulling out all the stops for their characters’ intense story arcs. Kevin Spacey is always a delight with his shit-eatign grin and over-the-top Southern accent. Lars Mikkelsen (who also played Magnussen in season 3 of Sherlock) is also a delight, coming off as condescending and fierce with very simple gestures and phrases.
The dialogue does have a few shining moments, most come from the novel-writing framing device towards the second half. However, there is definitely not enough Frank soliloquying to the audience for my taste. In terms of the secondary story threads, most of them are good, like the Remy and Jackie affair we all saw coming, though the Alzheimer’s having Supreme Court Justice never quite seemed to pan out. The cinematography is as strong as it ever was, only heightened by good direction, like we’ve come to expect from this show.
As it stands, the this season of House of Cards is the weakest season in a fantastic show, which means that on its own it stands head and shoulders above most other series but is less impressive when compared the other two seasons. If you like more typical political dramas, this could very well be your favorite season, but if you’re waiting for Frank to push another person into a train, don’t hold your breathe. Besides, he’s got secret service to do that kind of dirty work for him now.
– Great acting.
– Strong plotlines.
– Fantastic character development.
– Not as strong as other seasons.
– Some dialogue/plot lines could be better.