The Cheekies

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

House of Cards Season 3 Recap and Review (Spoilers) Part 1

Ah, it's here! Netflix has officially released the third season of House of Cards, and it is AMAZING as always. I just very recently finished the third season this morning after binge watching for the last couple of days (no, I did not look at any of the leaks), and I can say that the show seems to be taking an interesting evolutionary pathway as a political thriller. Because there is so much material to go over, and so much to talk about, this recap and review will be done in 2 parts: a summary of events, and my review of the series as a whole. Now, of course there are SPOILERS in here so if you honestly cannot stand that sort of thing, then leave. Besides, why did you click this in the first place then?

 Now that the obligatory warning is out of the way, I'll do a quick (read: very long) recap of what has happened in this season in terms of plot. The first episode, Chapter 27, begins with a character that many, myself included, thought was out of the game permanently : DOUG! Yep, Doug returns from his grave in the woods this season, and there is quite a long arc about his return to Frank's side. Doug's encounter with Rachel in the woods at the end of Season 2 left him with serious brain injury that hobbles his movement and his political involvement for several months. After coming out of the hospital, Doug quickly finds that life is going to be difficult for a while, and still has moments of intense pain. He tries to go back to working for Frank, but Frank tells him to rest up, and that he will only be allowed back when he has fully healed. Doug continues to try and get involved again with Frank again, but he continues to be pushed off, and feels increasingly isolated. This leads to him losing his sobriety, and even to working for Frank's political enemy, Heather Dunbar, who is running against Frank for the Democratic nomination for 2016. By the end of the season however, he is accepted back into Frank's inner circles as Chief of Staff, and has finally killed Rachel.

 Before Doug was accepted back into that position, Remy Danton served that role. He also experienced an interesting story arc, along with Jackie Sharp. Frank, who is running for election in 2016, had Jackie run to further split the vote in his favor. He would have her attack relentlessly, and then later quit the race for Democratic nomination, in return for being on the ticket with Frank for the actual election. However, after being pressured by Frank to

argue about private school and public education during an Iowa Caucus debate and then being burned by Frank who brings her family into the debate, she decides to leave the race and vocally raises her support for Dunbar. Remy, who still has feelings for Jackie, and has advocated for her to Frank as well as for better treatment of staff in general, approves of this move and decides to quit working for Frank as well. Remy decides after his long history in politics and from indignity suffered from Frank to quit politics, and move on with his life. Though he still has feelings for Sharp, they both are committed and cannot continue correspondence, and their relationship ends in passion, though with hints that it's their final meeting.

Gavin has somewhat an interesting story, which is intertwined with Doug. Doug enlists him to help find Rachel, and to end her for once and for all. Gavin agrees, on the condition that he is allowed to leave the U.S. and all his charges are dropped. After several months of snooping, he tells Doug that Rachel died, after which he leaves the country. Later however, it turns out that he lied, and is using the information to get his other friends out of jail. Doug hunts him down and gets the real information out of him, beating him until he confesses.

There are a couple major new (ish) characters this season of House of Cards; among them are Heather Dunbar, Kate Baldwin, and Tom Yates.

Heather Dunbar isn't exactly new per se, as she appeared in Season 2 as a lead investigator against the previous President. However, her role in this season is definitely new. She starts out working with Frank on a military case where drone strikes resulted in civilian death and injury, and defends the actions. As it is revealed that a seat in the Supreme Court is about to open, and that the Democratic leadership in congress does not want Frank to run, but instead is considering Dunbar, Frank tries to get her to agree to the position. She seems to go along, until she suddenly announces her will to run for president,
kicking off her campaign early. Frank is exacerbated and annoyed, as Heather rises to become his main opposition. He crafts a plan with using Jackie to split up Heather's vote and strengthen himself, but in the end this plan backfires when Jackie later confirms her support for Heather. During the time when Doug reaches out to her, she uses him on her staff for a while, until he becomes disinterested and leaves for Frank. Still, during his time with her, Doug shows her Claire's abortion record, which Heather later tries to use as leverage against Frank to force him to back off from his quest for the nomination. Doug ends up destroying the record, and Frank reveals Doug's position on his team. The season ends with a very close Iowa Caucus between Frank and Heather, though Frank ends up being the winner.

Kate Baldwin is a journalist from the Telegraph who becomes the White House Correspondent, after the previous correspondent is thrown out by Frank and his team for comments she made. Kate throughout the season tries to get something on Frank, and repeatedly warns the world about him, though in the end she manages to accomplish little. She is in a relationship with Tom Yates, the last major new character. He is an author hired by Frank
to outline the thinking behind America Works, Frank's main running point and jobs bill that aims to bring unemployment down to near zero. Frank first finds out about Tom after reading one of his video game reviews, and decides to get Tom to write a book selling AmWorks (AMerica Works), which he hopes will be enough to get the bill passed nationally. After meeting Frank, Tom accepts; however, the book soon quickly becomes more of a biography of Frank rather than a pro-AmWorks propaganda piece. Tom starts out trying to understand Frank's story, and as Frank travels politically, he accompanies him, asking questions for the book whenever he has a chance. He quickly becomes a bit of an insider, though he keeps to his word about not telling anyone what he is doing with Frank. During this time, he meets Kate Baldwin, and they get together. The book becomes increasingly based on Frank and his rise to presidency and seems to be coming together, but Tom continuously finds a mental shield when he tries to delve deeper into Frank and Claire's life. He decides to approach Claire, who is initially hostile towards him. However, during a blood drive, she finally talks to him, and lets her mental shield drop. This convinces Tom to change the book into one about the relationship between Claire and Frank, which he turns into them. They both feel as if they've let their guard down, and Frank fires Tom, threatening him if he tries to publish the chapter. Tom tries to get Kate to print it, however she refuses, to which he responds by leaving her. His final appearance is when Claire later calls him back to the White House. They talk, and Tom mentions the rift he has observed between Claire and Frank. His words to her provide the impetus for her to leave Frank at the very end of the season.

Speaking of Claire, let's talk about her story line. She begins the season wanting to become the U.N. Ambassador from the U.S. Frank nominates her, and she goes about securing her passage into the role. However, after an accidental slip of the tongue where she calls the military irrelevant, she does not get the nomination. She ends up asking Frank to hold another separate session, at which she gets nominated. However, she has mixed feelings about having to ask Frank to do that for her. At the U.N., she faces a crisis in the Jordan Valley, where Russia is blocking U.S. troop deployment. They end up being unable to reach an immediate agreement, and publicly support a group that is protesting the Russian
government. Claire then decides to try and get the Jordan Valley measure through the U.N. by getting a General Assembly vote to overrule a Russian Security Council veto. She encounters stiff opposition, and is slightly ridiculed due to her lack of experience. She does however manage to get the measure up and running, which results in the Underwoods being called back to Russia with Russian President Viktor Petrov, who has also since arrested a member of the very group that the Underwoods supported. Frank and Viktor discuss, and manage to get an agreement on the Jordan Valley, as well as the release of the member, who is a citizen of the U.S., as long as he says a scripted apology. Claire tries to convince him to say the words, but he refuses to on ideological grounds, prompting Claire to stay with him all night trying to convince him. When Claire falls asleep, the activist hangs himself with her scarf, the scene she wakes up to in the morning. Everyone, especially Claire, is shocked, and Viktor as well as Frank decide to give a remembrance speech and use it to announce their partnership in the Jordan Valley. Claire says she wants to speak a few words, and at first goes along with their previous plan. However, she reveals that she was there when the activist was there, calls him brave, courageous, and heroic, then proceeding to defame Viktor on his involvement with the death and condemning him. This results in the failure of the Jordan Valley deal, and a big fight between Claire and Frank. She feels as if it was worth it, but Frank disagrees, and he demands she get the Jordan Valley initiative passed through the U.N. Claire manages to do so, though it requires a lot of effort, but her differences with Frank are not wholly settled. They eventually get together again however, renewing their wedding vows, and determined more than ever to continue strong. After this however, there is another crisis in the Middle East, with 8 Russian soldiers dying. Viktor uses this to shut down the Jordan Valley initiative, and tensions rise. Claire, based on her dealings with the Russian ambassador, is led to believe that the Russians were blown up on purpose by Viktor, to shutdown the operation in retaliation for forcing his hand. She convinces Frank to send a special military task force to investigate the scene, only for them to be shot down in part. In order to resolve the issue, Frank must go himself to the Jordan Valley and meet with Viktor, who agrees to leave the situation if Claire steps down as the U.S. U.N. Ambassador. Frank is forced to agree, and Claire accepts, though she is again sad and angry. They then go into full-on campaigning together, trying to get Frank up to the Democratic nomination. It quickly becomes apparent that she is wildly popular, so she is used throughout in this campaign mode style. However, Claire's own reservations and doubts about her marriage and commitment are coming to light. While talking to Yates, she talks about how she considers every 7 years whether to leave Frank, and how she feels as if now is a time. She gets shuffled around constantly, to the point where she just seems tired, and doesn't care, even missing Frank's Iowa Caucus win. At the very end of the season, this all culminates, with her finally telling Frank she is leaving him.

Ah, who's next? That's right, FRANK! Okay, maybe Viktor Petrov should also go here, but I feel I described his story well enough when talking about Claire. Frank begins the season a few months
into his presidency already. He has 18 months to go before the next Presidential election, and is determined not to be a one term (or technically, half term) replacement president. However, when he approaches the Democratic leadership over running for the presidency, they decline and say they want a new face. Frank is shocked, and tries to find backers on his own for a campaign, but he turns up dry. He decides to go along with the leadership and announces that he will not run for reelection. He uses this as leverage for AmWorks, which is his brainchild that gets rid of or dramatically changes Social Security, Medicare, and welfare, instead with the goal of getting 10 million Americans, the unemployed population, back to work. He tries to run this past Congress, but they remain unmoving, and decide not to make it happen. So, he takes matters into his own hands, and uses Washington D.C. as a testing ground for the bill. He uses FEMA money, declaring high unemployment a national emergency, and routes money to his bill. The mayor of the district gladly accepts, and Frank uses it as a proof of concept. Meanwhile, he finds out Heather Dunbar is a possible Democratic candidate, and tries to get her into the Supreme Court. However, though she says she will accept, she instead announces her candidacy for president. Things don't go too well for Frank in National Security either, with a face off with Russian President Viktor Petrov, which has already been described in this long recap already. With all of this happening, his poll numbers are abysmal. Though they manage to clear up the Viktor issue later on (described in the Claire section), Frank still faces disapproval and low ratings, which get in the way of his will to be president again. He gets Jackie Sharp to run to keep the poll numbers against Heather Dunbar. Frank's next big issue is when there is a giant hurricane, which threatens to strike the U.S. The issue is that FEMA is depleted of funds after the use of those funds for AmWorks, so more funding is required. However, the only way Frank can get funding is by shutting down AmWorks, which forces Frank to a decision. In the end however, he folds and signs the bill, killing his brain child, only to have the hurricane have been a false alarm and swing out into the Atlantic. Frank uses this as an opportunity to declare his run for the presidency, running on moving AmWorks into a national project. Though he has several other security crises (detailed in Claire's section), this is the beginning  of his difficult run. He pushes his staff over the edge, has Jackie and Remy leave him, and gets threatened by Heather over the abortion's Claire has had. With enough campaigning, and a good Iowa Caucus, Frank seems ready to take on the presidential race again, after winning though with a slim margin, the Iowa Caucus. However, his world is thrown in a twist after Claire leaves him at the end of the season, after a series of issues they have been having. Claire does not like relying on Frank, and makes it clear that she believes she should be president, rather than him, to which he responds by saying she is nothing without him.

WOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAH. That took a while. I'm sure I missed a couple plot points, and that certain things I've written are incorrect, but that, fellow Netflix binge-watchers, is the entirety of Season 3 of House of Card's plot (at least as I remember it 72 hours after finishing the series). If I've made a mistake, or there is something you recommend I add, please, say so in the comments below. Oh, and remember to subscribe, bookmark, add me, whatever, and read my actual House of Cards analysis!