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The Dose: The ‘House of Cards’ season so far

The Dose: The ‘House of Cards’ season so far

The Dose: The ‘House of Cards’ season so far
February 27
20:25 2015

By Dalton LaFerney / Views & Digital Editor

This article contains spoilers for season 3. Please do not read further if you are not current.

The cards are stacked against President Frank Underwood through the first 5 chapters of Season 3, forcing him to reevaluate his priorities and tactics, dealing with a defective Democratic Party, poor approval ratings and the stress of the Oval Office.

Season 3 is framed very presidential. The angles are wide enough to portray distance, but the composition of the frames depict the White House, forcing the audience to glare at the magnitude and perspective of the presidency.

I’ve yet to truly connect with the Underwood Kevin Spacey mastered in the preceding seasons. He’s different to me, possibly because of his new status, but it’s unfortunate because his character and thoughts drive the show. I’ll give it time, though.

Underwood is portrayed as untrustworthy, a sly fox singled out in the press and at the polls. It’s a time of turmoil and rocky leadership for the Democratic Party, Frank’s party. We can’t forget the impeachment and conviction of Underwood’s predecessor, so the attitude is underscored with skepticism and uncertainty.

The Democrats don’t want Frank to run in 2016 (the season begins in 2014), so he is faced with the sobering reality that not even the president of the United States can control his own political fate. When the money stops flowing your way, you have to think alternatively, which is exactly what Underwood does in his own weaseling way.

The press this season is getting more and more restless because of the cold treatment the White House correspondents receive from Press Secretary Seth Grayson, an elite public relations specialist. The relationship between journalists and Underwood has been a fun dynamic, but season 3 will be the best so far. Each move Grayson makes is countered by an increasingly speculative press. Release the hounds.

First Lady Claire Underwood revealed her intentions to one day run for public office, insisting Frank nominate her as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. She smells blood from her husband; he has 18 months before the 2016 General Election, and Claire doesn’t want to waste the spotlight. Whether her husband his in office next term or not, she intends to extend her career.

The malodor of death compels the First Lady to pursue her own agenda, but that’s nothing new to the series, although season 3 does more bluntly explain each character’s intentions. It’s a desperate, yet opportunistic time for everyone in Washington when the presidency is up for grabs.

Frank even complies with the Party wishes, announcing to the public he will not run for reelection, his rhetoric optimistic that, because he’s no longer a political candidate, he and lawmakers can pass meaningly reform. But don’t let Frank’s words fool you; it’s all part of his vision.

He decides not to fight the Party leadership, instead going with the flow of things, an internal realization to Frank that if he’s going to succeed as the president, he must better balance his authority and his politics.

“House of Cards” reminds us that presidential politics isn’t cut out for the novice; this isn’t Congress anymore. Frank spent so much time clawing his way to the White House that he may not have calculated all aspects of the job.

The finale of season 2 showed Underwood’s chief of staff Doug Stamper beaten with a rock, convincing us of his death, but he lived. He spent many months recuperating the right side of his body, as the trauma caused brain damage.

Chapter 1 followed Stamper through his physical recovery and his mental reconfiguration. Because of the injuries, he was sidelined from his political duties. His temporary replacement is Remy Danton, the Sancorp lobbyist close to Frank. Naturally, Stamper is eager to return, but Underwood encourages him to see his rehabilitation as priority. Stamper soon senses rejection, and like any warrior in this series, finds his own way back into the game.

The special prosecutor, Heather Dunbar, who investigated the White House in season 2 for its involvement in a money laundering scheme, is where Stamper turns for retribution. When Dunbar announces her candidacy for president, Stamper reaches out to her, offering his special set of skills.

He knows Frank will still run, and he knows how Frank got to the White House. Stamper even offers Dunbar deadly information on the Underwoods. This should be an interesting storyline, for Stamper holds the demise of Underwood, and the strength to propel Dunbar to victory.

The underpinnings of the show are still the same — that is power, more power and victory — but the direction of this season is thus far unclear, understandable considering Frank’s disorientation. There’s a lot going on, and it may be too much for the viewers, but a framework is setting up a season of vast potential and sheer drama.

Tones and themes characterize films, but the little moments drive them. Season 3 has the big moments, the memorable lines and deceitful shade viewers have come to expect. In Chapter 1, Frank is depicted in a meeting with his education bill team, and they have dissatisfied him. He barks confidently what he wants, using powerful lines and firm language. Unlike in the previous seasons, Frank is able to demand exactly what he wants, and people are expected to act. However, there are many instances of disobedience that are frustrating to the president, and transitively infuriating to the viewers.

The First Couple have sex on the White House floor, and it is super awkward. They looked into each other’s eyes the whole time on film, and the implicative sexual motions looked unnatural. The sex was not sincere. Claire sensed Frank’s mental anguish, so she did her part in helping the president overcome stress. The scene is a metaphor of Claire’s manipulation over Frank — she even laid him on his back, a symbolic jester to Frank himself. Frank and Claire don’t even sleep in the same bed anymore, emphasizing their curious and alluring marriage that is poised to complicate the future.

In one scene, Frank must make an executive order to strike down a high-profile enemy. It’s intense, Frank bringing the First Lady along to watch, insisting she be exposed to presidential decisions before she be nominated for ambassador. Innocent people would be killed if the president ordered the strike. He considers it quickly, showing no hesitation and full faith in his military. Within seconds of a casual nod to a commander, Frank sees a missile destroy the target, killing the enemy and many others, even children.

President Underwood squares off with the Russian president, a man named Petrov, a tall, lanky man with the most blatant of intentions. Petrov is invited to the White House, Underwood with a Middle East plan in mind months before an international legislative summit. The Russian president is resolute in his decisions, like Frank.

The Russians will be a continuous thorn in the side of the Underwoods, both for the executive and the ambassador. Even as Claire seeks her own future, she remains loyal to the cause. She goes to work on Petrov, finding a way into his mind, persuading him to soften up, but fails. Her advice to Frank on the situation: don’t back down to him. What does Frank do? Negotiations continue, but nothing is accomplished collectively. Underwood is fed up, rejecting further negation and all but throwing Petrov out of the White House.

I’ll have another review as I get through the season. Binge on, my friends.

Featured Image: Kevin Spacey walks the red carpet. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

About Author

Dalton LaFerney

Dalton LaFerney

Dalton is the editor of the Daily.

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