Why House of Cards’ Third Season is the Best Yet

Veronica Brown ’17

Assistant News Editor

House of Cards returned for its much-anticipated third season on Feb. 27. While Netflix does not release official viewership numbers like traditional television networks do, it is evident that the previous two seasons contributed to the cult of the binge-watching. The first two seasons were met with critical acclaim and many awards, solidifying Netflix streaming as an honest competitor for other highbrow television companies, like HBO.

With this new season, Netflix has refined House of Cards into a slower, but ultimately more rewarding and intelligent drama. Gone are the far-fetched and off-putting subplots of season two; season three features almost no sex scenes and no surprise threesomes. The presidency almost seems to have mellowed Frank Underwood. His air is more of a quiet desperation to maintain his administration than the aggressive style of a man who pushed someone in front of the metro.

Season three’s story arc focuses on political narratives that are far-fetched, but only in ways strikingly parallel to real life. Lars Mikkelsen, the brother of Mads Mikkelsen from Hannibal, plays Russian President Victor Petrov, a version of Vladimir Putin who spends his time posing for photos on a surfboard in Sochi. When Petrov visits the White House, so do two members of the activist punk rock group Pussy Riot, who play themselves. The entire episode is a perfect blend of truth and fiction, illuminating how so often headlines can be more theatrical than anything dreamt up in a writers’ room. Pussy Riot also debuteed a new song, “Don’t Cry Genocide,” during the credits sequence of episode three.

The writers cut down on the quantity of subplots, but step up on the quality, leaving viewers wanting to know more in just the right way. One of the most underutilized actors on the show has been Mahershala Ali (Remy Danton), who brings a dignified melancholy to all of his roles. Finally, in season three, the show teases us with a potential subplot for him, when a couple of police officers pull him over for essentially Driving While Black. The thread is not explicitly followed, but the experience hangs over Remy’s character for the rest of the season.

Season two had so much going on that the creators almost forgot the potential of their most obvious asset: Kevin Spacey. His southern accent remains debatable to a trained ear, but there is no doubt that he’s a wonderful performer. Season three really allows him to shine, not only dramatically, but also comically, as his narration to the camera is awkwardly overheard in episode four, and musically, as he sings at a state dinner in episode three.

“Vanity Fair” criticized the new season, claiming the show had become a “workplace drama.” They have a point, but the workplace drama is a well-established niche, and as long as House of Cards continues to do it this well, it should go ahead and settle in.

Comments are closed.