TV Review: “House of Cards” Season 3 – Not What We Expected

Written by Michelle Young March 09, 2015

house of cards

The excitement surrounding the February 27 release of the third installment of “House of Cards” was almost palpable. Viewers expect greatness from this Netflix original which for two seasons has revolved around the crazy ‘mustache-twirling’ antics of power hungry couple Frank (Kevin Spacey) and Claire Underwood (Robin Wright). So when season three decided to shift away from this and focus more on character development, many, including me, were left a little disappointed.

At the end of “House of Cards” season two, we were left with the powerful image of Frank Underwood behind his new desk as President of the United States. But at the beginning of season three, Frank is struggling. He realizes that gaining power is one thing, but keeping it is another. After numerous failed attempts to get America Works, Frank’s jobs plan, running and a disastrous visit form the Russian President Viktor Petrov (brilliantly played by Lars Mikkelsen), Frank comes to the conclusion that in order for him to leave a legacy as President, he needs to fight with fire. The rest of the season then revolves around Frank’s slow growing tyranny as he tries to squash his opposition.

“Love, that’s what you’re selling. Well, I don’t buy it.”

Claire Underwood’s journey this season is focused on the profound struggle of being the woman behind one of the most powerful men in the world. She continually fights to forge her own legacy separate from her husband. She tries to prove herself by becoming a UN diplomat, but she ultimately gets fired after a covert military operation she called for goes bad. In one of the season’s most powerful moments, Claire, lightheaded from donating blood, reveals just how unhappy she is with the dynamics of her marriage; she hates how much she needs Frank.

house of cards

While the marriage of Frank and Claire really is the heart of the third season, other story lines like Doug’s recovery (HE LIVES!), Jackie’s frustration with being a pawn, and of course the brief return of Cashew the guinea pig were nice background pieces. The shift of focus this season really allowed the show to shed new light on some of the characters that we haven’t gotten to know as intimately as Frank and Claire.

“What I hate is how much I need us.”

But while this season’s shift towards character development provided us with some interesting insight, I feel that overall it was not on par with what we have come to expect from “House of Cards”. Because character development takes time, the pace seemed to suffer the most from the show’s dynamic shift. The standout moment of the season for me, the all out brawl that was the Presidential Nomination debate, didn’t even come until eleven episodes in. At times, it felt like pulling teeth getting through the many innocuous conversations on legislative policy and diplomatic relations. One thing that did redeem this season was the consistently brilliant acting performances. Wright was the star this year, showing every possible side of Claire Underwood in a such a beautifully subtle way. Her performance complemented Spacey’s brash performance perfectly.

house of cards

Overall, the third season of “House of Cards” was definitely not as good as the first two, but it’s still not bad. The lack of action felt annoying and tedious, but we did get a fresh look into how these characters operate. Despite some of the pacing issues, I still highly recommend this season of “House of Cards”; it may not be what we expected, but it’s still pretty good.

My Rating: 7.5/10

house of cards

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