(NOTE: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE PAST SEASONS OF HOUSE OF CARDS AND SEASON 3. IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED YET, PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK, OR JUST GO TO THE LINK BELOW THIS NOTE FOR THE NON-SPOILER REVIEW)
It’s nearly been a week since Netflix released Season 3 of House of Cards, their flagship program for the past couple of years. House of Cards could possibly be the most important television show right now. Not for its storylines of power and corruption in Washington, but rather how the show has helped shaped the current television landscape as we know it. We’ve had dark and gritty television shows since the The Sopranos began airing on HBO in 1999, but thanks to House of Cards, streaming content has become a worthy successor to cable and television (and is arguably winning that battle). This is primarily due to Netflix, and their release strategy of every episode of a season being released on the same day. It’s ruffled feathers with traditionalists who prefer to watch television on a weekly basis, but is a welcoming call to a generation of people who like watching television when they want and how they want. As millions have watched this new season of House of Cards, millions are discussing it and debating it, unlike most television nowadays. So I’ll add my two cents into what I really think, and yes, there are many SPOILERS in this review. You’ve been warned.
As many critics have mentioned, this new season is wildly entertaining. I was never bored during the 13 episode run, and the acting was just terrific and on par all the time. However, its starting to feel that House of Cards may be loosing a little bit of its charm and fun that the first two seasons had. Gone is the scheming of Frank and Claire Underwood to become the most powerful people in the country because they’ve already accomplished it. Last night, before I began writing this very review, I read a really interesting article in Rolling Stone about the takeaways of this new season, and the writer wrote about how she felt that the Season 2 finale, which was Frank finally getting the presidency and knocking on the Presidential desk in the Oval Office, would’ve made for a terrific Series Finale rather than a Season Finale. Yes, we still weren’t sure what happened to Doug and the girl, but ending the show on that would’ve been perfect. Frank Underwood is now the most powerful man on the planet. Knock-knock, end of show.
But of course, that wasn’t the case. And from watching this new season, being President isn’t that much fun to the Underwood’s. Frank is proposing this new program called AmericaWorks, and in order to begin this bill, he must cut funding to FEMA and get rid of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (fun fact: LBJ established Medicare and Medicaid during his presidency, and the character of Frank Underwood is said to have been inspired by LBJ). This (shockingly) is controversial for several reasons, one being that there is a massive hurricane that’s forming off the east coast that could be catastrophic, and nearly the entire country (as well as Washington and the Democratic Party) is against Underwood on AmericaWorks. As entertaining as this season was, I started to lose any believability in the show once I started to hear how Underwood was going to go through with this program and what he would have to cut. At that point when he does start doing that, the show is practically a fantasy and not the semi-realistic and entertaining program that we once knew and loved in the past couple of seasons. House of Cards is just really entertaining now, but nothing more than that.
There is also a storyline involving the Middle East and Russia, with a Vladimir Putin-esque President that Underwood must work with in order for their to be peace in that region, and his character involves some of the stranger parts of the season. There’s an episode early on when Underwood invites the Russian President to the White House, and Pussy Riot (the actual Pussy Riot group) is invited to the dinner, and that’s not even the strangest part of the evening. The President tries to woo Claire with everyone watching, and it begins to go downhill from there. There is also a storyline that I found to get stale pretty quickly, and it was the storyline involving Frank hiring Thomas Yates, famous writer played by Paul Sparks, to write a book about AmericaWorks. This could be interesting, right? Underwood gets this guy under his thumb, and manipulates the hell out of. Instead, this character is used to uncover one of the most interesting and arguably the worst part of this season, and that this season is a study of the marriage between Frank and Claire.
It begins to unravel possibly when Claire expresses interest in being an Ambassador to the United Nations, which Frank is reluctant to because of her lack of experience and the nepotism that people will point toward. After a disastrous nomination hearing, she’s able to become an Ambassador, but ruffles some feathers in Russia, which the Russian President demands that Frank made her resign in order to strengthen relations between them. This begins to get icy between the two even more than it already was throughout the season, and by seasons end Claire has had enough and leaves, and that’s where we end Season 3. Yes, it’s a cliffhanger, but it’s not a very good one. I’m not really losing sleep wondering what will happen in the next season (I presume there will be next season, although Netflix has yet to confirm it). While yes, this was a very entertaining season and I will definitely be watching the next season the first opportunity I get, the show is starting to lose its touch a little bit. Gone is the excitement of the first two seasons and we’re now border-lining on soap opera style storytelling, akin to Scandal (and most us don’t really want that).
Even though I seemed to give a positive review to this new season in my post last weekend, I’ve had more and more time to think about it as a whole, and I was entertained, but there is better television on right now. I’m still a fan, but I hoping that Beau Willimon and company will be able to make a more cohesive and structured season next year. Luckily, Netflix’s new show, Bloodline, looks really good and I hear good things, so that’s nice to know that there will be a new Netflix drama on the horizon.
Thank you for reading. I’d love to hear back from you about what you thought of this new season. If you don’t mind me digressing for a second, I’ve started to do a short podcast that you can find on SoundCloud. It’s titled the “Movie Talk With Jake Salinas Podcast”, and it’s not too great, but it’s definitely a start. If your curious, I’d really appreciate it if you gave the first couple of podcasts a listen and hear your feedback. Negative or positive, it doesn’t matter. I’ll use your feedback to make the podcast even better in the infant stage its in.
Podcast link: https://soundcloud.com/jakesalinas-1