Review: House of Cards Season 3, Episodes 1-3


Netflix released the third season of House of Cards this past Friday, February 27, and, like many others, I spent my weekend binge-watching the series. I’ve been really pleased with this season so far. The series itself has been highly acclaimed since its first season, and though in some ways it mirrors its British predecessor, Francis J. Underwood is a distinctly American monster.

As I make my way through the season, I’ll be blogging about it here at Sourcerer. There’ll be a four-part series this week, with the initial three reviews covering three episodes of the run and the final review covering the last four episodes. And as you might expect, below here, there are spoilers lurking about.

Episode 1

We pick up where we left off last season–Frank Underwood is the President of the United States of America. The season opens with a damning moment at Frank’s father’s grave, wherein Frank pees all over the grave. It’s not subtle at all, this POTUSmessage that the show us sending us about what Frank is willing to do. He is, quite literally, willing to piss on his (fore)father(s).

Well hell’s bells.

And—oh dear—of course some things aren’t going quite as planned. Even the mercurial genius that is Frank Underwood cannot control public opinion, and the public doesn’t like Frank’s methods.

And the show really threw me a bone in this episode–Doug Stamper is back! I was quite sad to think that he’d left the show, that we were losing his character, because there’s something about Doug that I really love. I’ve already lost Peter Russo, whose crash-and-burn I cringed to watch.

Stamper, though, is alive, even if he’s maybe not-quite-well. He wakes from a coma several months after Rachel left him for dead, and his recovery is a painful one to watch, the ringing ears and erratic mood swings and leg pains, all made more difficult by his avoidance of pain medication to keep his sobriety in check.

Naturally, Claire Underwood stops by the hospital to remind Doug of what he shouldn’t be remembering, or at least what he shouldn’t be remembering for the police. He’ll give the cops a fake story about a car-jacking. And when he does, of course they don’t quite buy it.

It’s clear that Doug is more than a little bit disenchanted with the Underwoods now, especially after Frank rather insincerely tells Doug (whose broken arm is in a duct-tape-and-wooden-spoon-splint because he was in such a hurry to be with the president) that he needs to concentrate on getting better. Doug starts himself on a dangerous path, developing some exquisite new torture for himself in the form of squirting alcohol from a syringe into his mouth. His medicine, I suppose.

Frank and Claire, who have begun sleeping in different bedrooms since moving into the White House, are scheming. Claire wants a political career, and she wants it now. She and Frank work toward appointing her as ambassador at the U.N.

I don’t think that’s going to go over well with the others.

Episode 2

Annnnd it doesn’t.

The mostly-Republican, mostly-male, mostly-white Senate committee doesn’t like the idea of FLOTUS also being the U.N. Ambassador. Especially not Frank Underwood’sFLOTUS wife. She is brash and has little political experience–nevermind how brash the men are or that her political experience has been poured into getting Frank elected and in running—then selling—the Clean Water Initiative.

The hearing goes awfully: Claire makes a misstep when she provides the soundbite that “troops are irrelevant” in regards to a Senate member’s badgering. It’s clear that her career will be damaged by the statement, but the question is how much.

And across town, Frank is having trouble with his own damaged career. He wants to redefine the party when he runs in 2016. The leadership wants him out, though. But Frank won’t be a “placeholder president.” He wants to actually be elected, to serve another 4, probably 8, years in the WH.

In the midst of all of this, it’s time to choose the eggs for the White House annual Easter Egg Roll. Claire gets this job, of course, and she has to do it while the votes are being tallied concerning her nomination as ambassador. She is defeated. And I’m never more in awe of Claire Underwood than when she is defeated. She squares her shoulders and addresses the press. She finishes choosing the Easter eggs. And maybe she falls apart, but it’s behind her door, and we don’t see, nor does Frank.

Frank, meanwhile, has come up with an ingenuous way to solve his problem. He’ll announce that he’s not going to run for re-election. He’s already told party leadership that he won’t seek the Democratic nomination. But he addresses the nation this time, cutting entitlements on the same night that he announces he’ll forgo re-election. Clever, clever.

Back at home, Claire urges Frank to appoint her as ambassador during recess. It’s not a totally unprecedented move, but it is an unusual and Machiavellian move. But Frank agrees to appoint her.

Episode 3

And oh, the troubles that is going to trouble.

The Russian president, Petrov, a Putin-like figure in both demeanor and appearance, makes a visit to the White House. Frank makes a pitch for a pact that would put Russian and the U.S. in the middle of the Middle East’s peace agreements.

And if we’re doubting Petrov’s connection to Putin, look no further than the appearance of Masha Alyokhina and Nady Toloknonnikova, members of Pussy Riot who it would seem are feuding with both Petrov and Putin now. When the two Petrovwomen are invited to a White House dinner with Petrov, the dinner naturally falls apart, but Petrov seems the most comfortable of anyone present.

The dinner party turns into a drunken mess after Petrov offers toast after toast with vodka in hand. There’s a moment where Claire is dancing with Petrov, and then he plants a large kiss square on her mouth. It’s a clear message, to Claire and to Frank, about what Petrov is capable of and what he sees Frank as incapable of.

Frank sends everyone home, but holds out hope for Petrov and pulls him aside for a cigar (or two) before leaving. But Petrov won’t budge, and now Frank is furious. He has no more time for diplomacy, and when the two meet again the next day, there is a frigidity between them.

Doug, meanwhile, has employed Gavin to help him find Rachel. And somehow, I don’t think things are going to go as well for Rachel when she’s found again, but I suppose we shall see.


Tune in tomorrow when I review episodes 4-6!