Review: 'House of Cards' really lives up to the series title in season 3

Posted Mar 3, 2015 by Can Tran
Frank and Claire Underwood learn that grabbing power is the "easiest" thing and that keeping their hands on the power is the hardest thing in season three to "House of Cards" as everything slowly crumbles around them.
Screengrab from the Netflix stream to  House of Cards  season 3.
Screengrab from the Netflix stream to "House of Cards" season 3.
Netflix released all 13 episodes to the third season of House of Cards on Friday, February 27th.
The beauty of shows like House of Cards is that all the episodes are released at once meaning you do not have to wait the next week. That allows you to binge watch all of the episodes in less than one week, but it also allows more funding to be used in production rather than marketing.
These shows have more flexibility than shows that you would see on ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, CW, FX, USA, TNT, HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, El Rey, Lifetime, A & E, Bravo, CBC, BBC, and many more notable networks.
Anyway, back to House of Cards season 3... I'll do the best I can without giving much let alone major spoilers.
About Season Three:
Frank and Claire, compared to the first two seasons of House of Cards, are playing defense more than they are playing offense.
The United States presidency is finally in Frank Underwood's hands, since he orchestrated the chain of events leading to Walker's impeachment, and he has true power. He still has plenty of opponents at home and abroad who make Raymond Tusk, portrayed by Gerald McRaney, look like a mere schoolyard bully.
In season one, Frank manipulated his way to power and eventually became VP at the end. But it forced Frank to be indebted to Tusk in season two.
Since Frank and Claire now have power, respectively as U.S. president and First Lady, the biggest battle is keeping it.
I should assume that most of you have watched the first two seasons already. If you did, then you should know that Frank manipulated his way to becoming U.S. President without any campaigning, but it leads to a big problem that plagues Frank through the season.
Season three begins with Frank having a low approval rating.
Frank is not being taken seriously by Congress, governors, and foreign leaders because he is a sitting U.S. president. His ambitious plans are in danger because the Democratic Party turned its back on him and the GOP is priming to go after him in 2016.
I enjoyed this season because Frank is dealing with a total political clusterf—k that stems from lack of support from the Democratic Party, an ambitious and controversial bill called “America Works” aka “AmWorks,” and a controversial peace initiative in the Middle East's Jordan Valley.
AmWorks and Jordan Valley become proverbial powder kegs that get bigger through the season.
Frank has no shortage of enemies in season three and the unexpected circumstances threaten the marriage when Claire becomes a potential opponent. His presidency, his legacy, and his ambitions live up to the House of Cards title.
He is a good person deep down, but is completely drunk on power.
AmWorks develops into the main domestic subplot and Jordan Valley develops into the main foreign subplot in season three. Frank has no shortage of opponents on the domestic and foreign fronts as he is trying to keep these two initiatives alive let alone ensure their successes.
I was intrigued and surprised by the interconnected subplots drawn from Russia's anti-LGBT laws (with a guest appearance by Pussy Riot), Israel & Palestine, FEMA's Hurricane Sandy response, Zimbabwe's corrupt government, Iran, US & Russia tensions, Wal-Mart's entry level wages, Wall Street, Social Security, and more.
These small subplots creative find ways to connect with the two major story plots of the season.
It is not House of Cards without a dark subplot, too.
Douglas Stamper, thought to have been killed at the end of season two, is revealed to be alive. He is not well and is coping with his near death experience. Stamper enlists the help of Gavin from season two to track down Rachel Posner.
Stamper proves to be more complex than Frank because he questions himself and what he has been doing with his life all this time. He is single, butdoes not have the desired freedom as his brother points out in one episode.
Frank is the main character, but he has to share the spotlight with the others.
My Thoughts On Season 3's Cast:
I will bluntly say that season three's cast was interesting because they all played a crucial role in season three. Most of season three ultimately belongs to Claire Underwood, Douglas Stamper, and Jackie Sharpe.
Claire ultimately takes a beating throughout the season as she becomes “weak” and “pitiful” since Frank became U.S. president. She is thinking about her own ambitions, but is forced to put them aside for the sake of Frank's chance of being reelected.
The marriage gets strained after Frank taps her to be temporary US Ambassador to the UN, which ultimately affects the outcome of the Jordan Valley peace mission. Claire's appointment becomes “ground zero” for everything flowing up s—t's creek in this season.
Douglas confronts his own inner demons and falls off the wagon again, but he is conflicted by his loyalty to Frank and wanting to track down Rachel. He struggles balancing the light and darkness in his heart, but he ultimately succumbs to the latter.
Jackie Sharpe, Frank's protege, doubts the benefits of being aligned with him.
Russian President Viktor Petrov, inspired by Vladimir Putin, is Frank's ultimate antagonist in season three. Frank is the US President and he needs to square off against a difficult opponent and Petrov fills that role nicely in more ways than one. The tension between Frank and Petrov becomes instrumental to the Jordan Valley plot and the marriage plot.
Petrov is Frank's strongest antagonist and Tusk couldn't hold a candle to him.
Remy Danton returns to work under Frank to be Stamper's replacement as Chief of Staff, but he finds it punishing than rewarding. Work is not easy when he still has feelings for Jackie, in a new relationship this season.
He finally understands why many people leave politics after they have been involved in it for so long.
Newcomer Thomas Yates, a book author and video game designer, becomes the X-factor in season three as Frank's biographer and confidant. He ultimately learns the ruthlessness of Frank's ambition, but I enjoyed the dynamic that they shared.
Yates comes off as a surrogate replacement for Claire when she is fulfilling her UN Ambassador duties.
Freddy Hayes from the first two seasons, who lost his rib restaurant, briefly returns in season three as a potential game changer in the season.
I enjoyed season three of House of Cards.
It is refreshing to see Frank fighting mostly defensive battles rather than offensive battles. Now he knows what it is like to truly fight and defend himself. His ambitions stir up controversy and increase the number of enemies out to take him down.
Everything about season three perfectly sets up for a fourth season if Netflix does pursue the idea.
I find it funny that House of Cards came out not along ago because I am currently reading and reviewing the Mortal Kombat X: Blood Ties comic series, which sets up the story for Mortal Kombat X, because I can find commonalities between the two.
Both stories are dark, gritty, and incredibly violent.
Frank reminds me of Reiko, Shao Kahn's former head general, in the Mortal Kombat series because the two of them have little to no principles. You have to be blind if you don't think Frank is unscrupulous as he proved it by killing Peter Russo in season one and Zoe Barnes in season two by his own hands.
Claire and Jackie remind me of Prince Goro from Mortal Kombat because they were either unappreciated or thrown under the bus.
Part of me fantasizes about a possible crossover between Netflix's House of Cards and Dengeki Bunko's Durarara!! because Frank Underwood and Izaya Orihara tend to think alike. They are two sides to the same coin because they have no principles, but the former does care about the country and the former is a misanthrope.
If Frank ever has a son, I would imagine him to be like Slaine Troyard from Aldnoah.Zero.
The whole AmWorks initiative, which contains flaws (revealed in the second half of the season), reminds me of the previous episode of Log Horizon 2. It parallels the problems in the Elder World MMORPG in Log Horizon due to the lack of skilled jobs, employment, and other services.
I see that Shiroe is the benevolent version of Frank Underwood.
Anyway, I give House of Cards season three an A+.