‘House of Cards’ Season 3: More Policy Than Chicanery
“House of Cards” began as a fun-house-mirror reflection of Washington, an outlandish sendup decked out in the pinstripes-and-Prada props of real-life politics. This Netflix series about a conniving congressman wasn’t realistic, but it was sly and knowing enough to pass as a naughty behind-the-scenes peek at government.
Fittingly enough, the first several episodes of Season 3 are weighed down with the same burden that bedevils real politicians when they come to power: After all the campaign high jinks and maneuvering come to an end, it’s time to actually govern.
And policy is not nearly as sexy and exciting. As a result, the series, whose new episodes all [debuted last Friday], gets off to a surprisingly sluggish start.
The Missus and I respectfully disagree – at least based on Episode 1, which we watched last night.
It was pretty much the House of Doug – Doug Stamper, the Dickensian-named Number One Thug for Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood, who is now the Most Powerful Man on the Face of the Earth. In the Season 2 finale, Stamper got stoned by Underwood’s loose end Rachel Posner, and he spends the first half of Episode 1 of Season 3 in excruciating rehab, only to be blown off by Underwood when he finally gets an audience with the president.
From Erin Keane’s excellent Salon piece:
Doug, gutted over disastrous reactions to Underwood’s “America Works” program, knows that only he can help fix Frank’s sinking political ship. He is so determined to get to a meeting with Frank as soon as possible that he ignores his body’s signals, attempts to shower without assistance and falls, breaking his arm. That would be enough to make a lesser character say fuck it, let’s go work for a law firm. But when Doug Stamper splinted his broken arm on the kitchen counter with duct tape and a wooden spoon and hobbled, shattered in body and heart, to that meeting and reported for duty, I thought finally, this show understands love.
Sadly, Frank Underwood does not.
Neither, apparently, does Alessandra Stanley. From her Times piece:
Eventually, a bullying Russian president enters the mix (interestingly, two members of the Russian protest group Pussy Riot also make an appearance), challengers emerge for the next campaign cycle, and “House of Cards” gets back to a livelier tempo of chicanery and double-dealing. But it’s a punishing wait.
Memo to Ms. Stanley: Chicanery and double-dealing are exactly what Underwood rewarded Doug Stamper with.
And that’s real punishment.