‘House of Cards’ season three: Could’ve been better

Kevin Spacey returns as Frank Underwood for the third season of Netflix’s “House of Cards.” Picking up where they left off last season, Frank and Claire (Robin Wright) take the White House as president and first lady. Underwood now faces low approval ratings, troubles with his economic plan, conflict with Russia and the Middle East, abandonment from the Democratic leadership and the 2016 election. All these elements cause, at times, the plot to lack focus, leaving the viewer wondering which storyline to follow. However, Spacey continues to drive the story along with an excellent portrayal of a corrupt politician.

Meanwhile, Claire Underwood struggles with gaining the position of United States Diplomat to the United Nations. Her lack of experience opens her to attacks from both sides of the aisle. She also spends time dealing with U.S.-Russian relations with Russia’s president Victor Petrov (Lars Mikkelsen) and the Russian ambassador to the United Nations.

Moreso than other seasons, season three seems to focus more on the minor characters such as Heather Dunbar (Elizabeth Marvel), Jackie Sharp (Molly Parker), and — spoiler alert — Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly). In fact, the beginning of episode one begins with Stamper and his journey of recovery after being hit in the head with a rock. Season three shows a more complex side of Stamper as he tries to regain Underwood’s trust. Dunbar and Sharp play pivotal roles in Frank’s re-election in 2016 — no spoilers on that one.

Throughout the season, Underwood slowly isolates himself. He abandons his party, abuses his staff, neglects his wife and ultimately forgets about the viewer. One of the things that set “House of Cards” apart from other shows is Underwood’s direct address to the audience. Without it, the show takes on a more good-versus-evil dynamic when failing to see Underwood’s motives. Essentially, he turns into a tyrant and falls into the cliché “evil villain” trope, complete with minion. Despite Frank’s tyranny, the other characters continue to develop and become more complex and enjoyable to watch.

Overall, the third season still keeps the viewer binge-watching. The end of every episode contains a cliffhanger that keeps its audience up until 6 a.m. watching the next episode. The season, however, does not end on an optimistic note like the previous two seasons. It gives the viewers another reason to watch season four. In the end, it was the worst of the three seasons, but still, the worst of “House of Cards” beats most shows’ best.

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