Warning: Major spoilers are ahead. If you have not completed or watched through the ending of Season 3, then it may not be a good idea to read any further.
The third season of the Netflix original series House of Cards was unleashed on the world on February 27, 2015. Less than a week later, thousands of viewers have sacrificed their professional and social lives in favor of the political drama and are already left clamoring for more.
Below are a few musings (some positive, some negative) on how things played out this time around. Let's begin with something positive...
The Good: Doug Stamper is back
One of the biggest cliffhangers from Season 2 was the fate of Frank Underwood's (Kevin Spacey) most loyal colleague, Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly). The last time we saw Doug he wasn't looking too good: lying face down in the middle of the woods with his skull potentially smashed in at the hands of one of Frank's most dangerous loose ends, former call-girl Rachel Posner. However, despite Doug's almost tragic misstep, he survived the attack and begins Season 3 on the comeback trail.
I was pleased to see Doug Stamper still play a major role in this season, as his character is perhaps the most interesting and (sometimes) sympathetic. Because let's face it...
The Bad: We get that Frank is a bad dude
The first two seasons of [House of Cards](series:726551) were spent establishing that Frank Underwood is a ruthless man. No one and no thing mean anything to Francis if it can't help him advance his career or further his climb toward omnipotence. Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I don't feel like seeing Frank piss on his own father's grave or desecrating a crucifix was necessary to tell us something we already knew. I understand that being the President of the United States is taking its toll, but I was more fond of Frank's constant facade of that of a southern gentleman, one who only lost his cool once in a great while instead of every single episode. Sometimes subtlety can go a long way. On the other hand...
The Good: Claire is becoming the most well-rounded character
Not that Claire (Robin Wright) wasn't an interesting character before, but her character development speeds past the rest of the ensemble in Season 3. The first half of the season finds the First Lady trying to make an impact after being appointed as the United States' UN ambassador, much to the chagrin of Frank. Claire's tenure doesn't last long, and an irreparable rift is created between her and Francis that fills much of the screen time in the latter half of the season. It is one of the more compelling storylines heading into the alleged Season 4, and was executed impeccably onscreen. That being said...
The Bad: There's way too much filler
I understand that if we are to believe that Season 4 will be the final season of the show, then having each season be 13 episodes will result in the either devilishly clever or eye-rollingly contrived conclusion of 52 (how many cards are in a deck?) episodes. But in order to fill that 13 episode quota, House of Cards's third season got off to an incredibly slow start. When large portions of screen time are spent on Doug's physical therapy or Claire's ineptitude at beer pong, then there's probably some editing to be done.
House of Cards had previously earned the reputation of being one of the most capable of being binge-watched shows of all time, but for me the desire to binge didn't arrive until about the sixth episode (which is a near masterpiece, by the way). The second half of the season is far superior to the first half and almost worth the hours spent getting there. But if not for the probable 52 episode/card joke, this story could easily have been told in 8 or 9 chapters.
The Good: The acting and cinematography are sublime
Perhaps lost in all the commotion of murders and double crosses is the work that goes on behind the scenes and in front of the camera. The mise-en-scène of House of Cards is almost a star of the show in its own right, as the sets, music, lighting, and camera all work together to create the perfect mood for every scene. Even if the story is beginning to lose some steam, the cinematography hasn't lost a single step since the show's genesis.
At this point, anyone familiar with Kevin Spacey's work knows what an amazing actor he can be. But being surrounded by such a strong supporting cast really makes the show a pleasure to watch. Spacey, Robin Wright, Michael Kelly, and Molly Parker in particular are phenomenal in their respective roles.
House of Cards has lost a step following the paragon of television that were Seasons 1 and 2. Given the way Season 3 ended, it is fair to assume that there will be a fourth and probably final season next year. Here's to hoping that the cast and crew can pull together and make a few tweaks to give the show the satisfying conclusion that it deserves.