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

HouseofCards

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.

Love

Tune in tomorrow when I review episodes 4-6!

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24 thoughts on “Review: House of Cards Season 3, Episodes 1-3

  1. I haven’t watched this show yet. I’m waiting until I have a chunk of time because I know if I start I won’t want to stop. Damn you Netflix and your quality programing! I demand you give me my life back!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. While it’s always exciting to see a woman in a political position (even if it’s make believe), I really just don’t think Claire is experienced enough for her appointment. Just not a good idea. I’m betting she’s going to make some pretty big mistakes soon! (I’m not much farther along than you are.) -t

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree. And this is part of why I like Dunbar so, so much. And Jackie. And Cathy. They all provide really good contrasts to Claire, and they’re badass women characters.

      We’re got 4 episodes left in the season, and I can’t wait to see how it ends!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Stupid computer dropped the Internet while I was writing a really long comment and WordPress ate the comment instead of saving it in the browser. I cannot recreate it.

      So I will just say, excited to actually catch up on this, and intrigued by the fact that y’all are not looking at this whole appointment of the First Lady to the UN as a bridge too far and suspending your disbelief on account of it.

      Good that the narrative is holding together. It seems a worthy story.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well no—and part of it is clever writing. If she were super-good at her job, it might be a bit too much. But she’s not, and the show is pretty clear about that, and that it’s because she is inexperienced and Frank is blind where she’s concerned.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m back … so,
    #1 – I got the feeling Frank pissing on the grave was waaay more personal. I can’t remember back to the previous seasons, but wasn’t his Pa an asshole of the first order?
    Douggie’s biggest mistake was even thinking he would get anything from Frank while a certain someone was still a loose cannon. I’m betting he’ll have to come up with the goods (ie a corpse) in order to be invited in from the rain. (I’ve only just finished watching episode 3, so what do I know!)
    And while we’re on the subject of Douggie, that shit with the hooker and the syringe was pure psycho scary. He may be street smart and politically savvy, but I never thought he was playing with the whole deck.

    #2 – Halfway through this episode the hair on the back of my neck started to rise. One does not thwart the Underwoods without dire consequences. Robyn Wright and Kevin Spacey play these scenes with so much understatement and such malice that the most staid of us viewers start to squirm … and we’re on the other side of the fourth wall!

    #3 – How did they pour Claire Underwood into that exquisite gown? A purely aesthetic and rhetorical question, you understand. 😀
    I loved the moments with the black Easter egg. Talk about your symbolism!
    Of course Frank is going to be in the race for the big chair! In the meantime he has given himself carte blanche to eviscerate every tin-pot dictator, literal and figurative, that gets in his way.

    I love this show more than sharks love blood.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ok, let’s see:

      1–I think that’s part of it, certainly. It’s why Frank would commit the action. But on a story-telling structural level, the writing is *doing something* by opening the season that way, something more than remind us that Frank had a shitty childhood.

      On Doug—I think he wanted to get back to work because he has no other reason to exist, no other reason to be. And I think the syringe of alcohol is about the use of whiskey as medicine, is a symbolic gesture. And the prostitute is just icing on the cake, so to speak, another layer of self-medication.

      I think Frank was probably slightly sincere in his comment, and is certainly sincere in his desire to help Doug. It’s not an accident that he tells us that he thinks of Doug as his son–but we do have to think about what we know about Frank’s concept of father and son! lol

      2–They are both evil, but still both quite human, which is why (at least for me) the characters work.

      3–Yes. And I think this might’ve been the episode (or one of them anyway) that saw me comment on almost everything Claire wears. Her wardrobe/costume consultants and stylists are *amazing*.

      The Easter egg sybolism was nice, and it was a good way to signal how far into the year we are at this point in the show. I enjoyed that Frank accidentally kept the black one.

      Like

  4. Pingback: Review: House of Cards Season 3, Episodes 4-6 | Sourcerer

  5. Pingback: Review: House of Cards Season 3 Episodes 7-9 | Sourcerer

  6. Reblogged this on Human Interest and commented:
    You did an amazing job with this review! I just finished the third episode so I’ll read and reblog these reviews as I go 🙂

    Like

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