John Villarose VI
*WARNING: This review contains spoilers*
On February 27, Netflix premiered the entire newest season of arguably their most popular original series, leading fanatics everywhere to spend the weekend binge-watching. “House of Cards,” the political thriller starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, grew to popularity in the last few years due to its outstanding performances and direction, its dark tone, and its ability to catch the viewers off guard at every turn. Season 2 made some significant changes to the series, so does season 3 capitalize on these changes? Yes and no. Just a warning: there will be slight spoilers for the first two seasons of the series.
Season 3 starts off six months after the ending of season 2, where Spacey’s Frank Underwood had just taken over the presidency and the fate of his chief of staff Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) was left questionable. When events resume, Stamper is alive, but in awful condition. Much of the first episode, “Chapter 27,” follows Stamper’s recovery. He awakes from a coma and is forced to undergo physical therapy while solely trying to get to work. Meanwhile, things aren’t going well for Underwood either, as he has completely failed to maintain any public support and he faces criticism on all sides.
Admittedly, “Chapter 27” doesn’t have the same impact as the first two season premieres, refraining from presenting anything entirely new or shaking things up like season 2 did. However, this does show Underwood in a bit of disarray, which is unusual for the character given his successful rise in the first two seasons. Just as he reaches the height of his power, everything falls apart.
“Chapter 28” focuses more on the relationship between Frank and his wife Claire (Robin Wright). Their complex relationship has slowly revealed itself over the course of the first two seasons, but in this episode we see Frank at the lowest we’ve ever seen him. Meanwhile, Claire refuses to give in to the stress as easily. This makes for one of the most powerful and provocative scenes of the series. Meanwhile, Claire is attempting to move forward with her own career, to Frank’s dismay.
“Chapter 29” introduces the first major new character of the season: Victor Petrov (Lars Mikkelsen), the president of Russia. Foreign affairs in the series are nothing new, but this is the first time “House of Cards” blatantly confronts modern real-world affair. Petrov is an obvious reference to Vladimir Putin, as the show takes on everything from his confrontational dealings with the United States government to protests against homophobia in Russian law. Petrov makes for an interesting new antagonist, while real-life feminist punk rockers Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina bring some much needed color and thrill into the episode.
Season 3 gets off to a surprisingly slow start. Rather than having Underwood ride on his newly found power, the the creators dropped him back down, leaving him to really face the reality the what he thought he wanted might not have been so desirable after all. The acting is top-notch all around, but, at least at first, the series doesn’t seem entirely sure what it wants to do with its characters, while the absence of certain characters (most notably Kate Mara’s Zoe Barnes) takes its toll. “House of Cards” is still one of the best shows currently available, but it needs to pick up the pace if it wants to keep that title.