By Taylor Morris
The usually nefarious weekend Yik Yak stream was broken up on the night of Friday, February 27 with cries of “where is everyone” and “what’s going on tonight?” In response to the perceived lack of debauchery, there was but one response, House of Cards. The first fully original Netflix series premiered its new season last Friday night, releasing all 13 episodes simultaneously for those wishing to binge watch. While super-fans blindly devour the new content, more skeptical audiences might be concerned that the series might be losing its glimmer. Spoilers follow for seasons 1 and 2, and the first few episodes of season 3.Season 3 finds now-President Frank Underwood (two-time Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey) struggling with Senate bureaucracy and dismal approval ratings, somewhat a change of pace for the series. With Underwood now the leader of the free world, he cannot climb the ladder of power any higher. His relentless assent from State Representative to Vice-President, and promotion to President after orchestrating his predecessor’s resignation was the major reason the show was so addictive. It was enjoyable and fascinating to watch Spacey ascend the political hierarchy. This aspect is all but gone in season 3, so it’s easy to expect that Underwood’s story has become much less interesting. However, this serves as the logical next step in the tale of the rise, rule, and perhaps later fall of leaders, and the consequences of their actions. The Underwood on top of the mountain might be different from the Underwood climbing it, but his actions nevertheless fit into the series’ grander philosophical thesis.
Another change in the show, one that has come under a fair degree of fire, is that of the instillation of Underwood’s First Lady Claire (Golden-Globe winner Robin Wright) as United States ambassador to the United Nations. This development has been criticized has somewhat preposterous, as many find it difficult to imagine presidential family members being appointed to positions of substantial power (Obama’s cabinet members aren’t his family, after all). To an extent I agree, but the series’ overall high degree of believability allows me to suspend my disbelief. The appointment is perhaps objectively contrived, but its benefits to the show are welcome. There is a limit to how much the show runners should be shamed for trying to make their lead actress relevant to the main plot.
Season 3 of House of Cards is just different enough to displease some viewers. However, for a show with a focus on providing commentary on the pursuit and acquisition of power in a cutthroat society, this new direction was the right way to go. Furthermore, the political relevance of the show is as strong as ever. While the previous season focused on America’s relation with China, season 3 moves on, very wisely, to tackle the tumultuous relationship America has with Russia. Underwood’s battle with President Viktor Petrov, who could only be more obviously Putin if he was shown overpowering a grizzly bear with his bare hands, is a particularly welcome addition to the cast. While the new season has substantial changes, the overall themes of the show remain pertinent and addictive. The only show worthy of filling the hole left by Breaking Bad, it rightly remains the early Emmy frontrunner for Best Drama Series and Actor. Much to Jon Hamm’s dismay, Netflix remains the undisputed up-and-comer and, for collegiate audiences at universities’ with criminally low access to cable, kingpin of television.