By Anamika Roy
I had promised myself I would take a full week to get through this season of “House of Cards,” but the truth is, this is a show that was meant to be watched in an irresponsibly short amount of time.
The credits for episode 13 in season 3 are still rolling in another tab as I write this. That’s how badly I wanted to get my thoughts on this season off my chest, so here goes.
If you haven’t finished season 3 yet, stop reading. I repeat, STOP READING. NOW.
For me the show has been on a steady decline since season 1. Season 2 wrapped up in a bow a little too nicely. It was just too hard to believe.
Season 3 fixed that problem right away. It’s clear from episode 1 that things are not going well for the Underwood administration. Even the most ruthless of politicians aren’t immune to gridlock in Congress.
But I don’t want to do a recap of the entire season. For me, this season was like politics: lots of big, empty promises and no results. A series of built-up plots that fizzled and then disappeared.
Here are five things that bothered me the most this season:
1. Why does this show go through White House reporters so quickly? And why do the journalists never win? Maybe it’s my personal bias speaking here but whether it be Zoe Barnes, Ayla Sayyad or Kate Baldwin, none of them can touch Underwood. I was really hoping Baldwin would finally be the one to throw Underwood off his high horse but she was barely able to make a dent. And Ayla, you were on to something! What, the press secretary takes away your credential and you just stop trying? Also, why isn’t it a story that a reporter was stripped of her credential? Does the White House Correspondents’ Association have THAT much power? There must be a blogger SOMEWHERE who isn’t afraid of pissing off the White House that will print that story.
2. Thirteen episodes later and I still couldn’t tell you what Underwood was thinking by hiring Thomas Larkin. Was he a ghostwriter writing a book about America Works? Was this a book about Underwood? Was Larkin being given free reign to write whatever he wanted? Did Frank and Claire want to have a threesome with him (maybe an homage to “Threechum” from season 2?). His purpose was really unclear throughout and he was given way to much screen time for such a vague – and ultimately irrelevant character.
I thought he was on to something when he shared the first chapter of his book, but I still didn’t grasp why even Baldwin was so against him pursuing the book further. When those two got together, I for sure thought they were going to have some investigative journalism pillow-talk (sexy right?). Alas, yet another plot that sank without a trace this season.
3. Doug Stamper. Never in my years of excessive TV watching have I encountered a character I can’t make sense of like this deranged man. He makes Don Draper look like Chris Traeger. The season opens with the very shocking news that despite getting hit in the head and left for dead by Rachel Posner, the former prostitute used to trap and kill Peter Russo, Doug is very much alive and recovering from serious injuries. At first, it seems the Underwoods want Doug to get better and have him come back to work, but it’s immediately clear that they have no such intention and plan to leave behind one of their most loyal allies.
At that point, I thought there two possibilities: 1) in true “House of Cards” fashion, this was an elaborate political plan by both the Underwoods and Doug to stay ahead of the opposition for the election or 2) the Underwoods really did leave Doug to fend for himself.
For much of the season, it felt like the latter was the case. Especially when Doug came to work for Heather Dunbar, the former solicitor general and Underwood’s opponent in the primary. I was so excited at the prospect of Dunbar finding out about Russo or the other myriad of secrets Doug has on the Underwoods. But that fizzled and Stamper came back to work for the Underwoods. My question is, why? Why is he so loyal to the Underwoods. They basically ditched him and he’s clearly not paid as well as he could be. What does he gain from working for them that he doesn’t get anywhere else? And don’t say loyalty. In that world, I’m not buying it.
Finally, the most frustrating part of Doug – his bizarre fascination with Rachel/Cassie. He’s had it since the first season and it never made sense to me. I could chalk it up to him just being a creep but for something like that to go on for three seasons, there has to be more. Why did he care about her so much? And if he cared about her, why did he treat her so badly? Oh, and why on Earth did he have to track her down when she’s clearly living a good life and kill her? None of it made any sense. Sure, in the end, it was clear Underwood wanted her dead, but why not kill her in season 1? Why keep her at arms length? I’m almost done with the rhetorical questions, I promise.
4. Diplomacy makes for boring TV. What’s more boring is watching Claire Underwood on her high horse pretending to engage in diplomacy. Everything about her stint as UN ambassador was tedious to watch. She was clearly inexperienced, nobody at the UN gave her the time of day and she still thought she was better than everyone else. When the ambassador from Russia easily tricked her into thinking that the Russians killed their own men in the Jordan Valley, it was clear that Claire was out of her league. She was MVP last season. This time, I just kept wishing she would turn into Mellie Grant.
5. The final fizzle, Jackie Sharp. She’s been a great character to watch for the past two seasons. She’s a ruthless politician determined to climb the ranks but willing to play the game and not act like she’s above it all – one thing that irks me about Heather Dunbar. I was glad to see her break away from Underwood’s ranks and endorse Dunbar, even though it cost her a spot on the ticket. But there were so many questions I wanted the show to explore! Remy Danton left politics but told Jackie that she couldn’t afford to do the same, but the show never goes into what’s next for her. She could be a real threat to Underwood if she wanted. It’s hard to believe that Dunbar has been able to keep a seasoned politician like Underwood on his toes.
One thing is for sure, “House of Cards” will definitely needs a fourth season. If nothing else, I can’t let this show go until there is justice for Peter Russo. Your move, Underwood.