House of Cards is without a doubt the jewel in Netflix’s crown. It’s the original series that got everyone talking about the streaming service and it’s paved the way for Netflix’s other original shows such as Orange is the New Black and Marvel’s Daredevil. Earlier this year the show returned for a much-anticipated third season that proved incredibly divisive with fans. Offering another 13 episodes, House of Cards: The Complete Third Season arrives on Blu-ray and DVD this week.
The third season of House of Cards picks up with Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) taking up residence in the Oval Office after usurping President Walker (Michel Gill) at the end of the second season. With Claire (Robin Wright) by his side, Frank soon realises that being President of the United States doesn’t give him the freedom and control that he craves and his first term in the position proves to be a much bigger challenge that he anticipated. Alongside the opposition from his own party, Frank faces an even bigger challenge from Claire who expects him to use his position to further her political agenda and career.
Another storyline that features prominently in season 3 is that of Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) who was left for dead by former prostitute Rachel (Rachel Brosnahan) at the end of season 2. As season 3 begins Doug is facing a lengthy rehabilitation and has been pushed out of Frank’s team by Communications Director Seth (Derek Cecil) who is angling for the position of Chief of Staff.
Over the course of the season the Underwoods face a variety of threats as Frank tries to decide his political future as United States Solicitor General Heather Dunbar (Elizabeth Marvel) announces her candidacy for President of the United States. He also faces potential trouble from Jackie Sharp (Molly Parker) who also has her eye on Frank’s job and has to decide between her ambition and her loyalty.
Season 3 of House of Cards is very much an exploration of the relationship between Frank and Claire. For the first two seasons of the show, the two were very much a team but season 3 finds them in a very different place. Claire feels that Frank doesn’t appreciate her as much as he should and she continually pushes him to abuse his position to her advantage. Frank on the other hand has achieved his ultimate goal and is happy to all but abandon his wife now that he no longer needs her help as much as he did previously. The dynamic shift between the characters is huge and it leads to a potentially huge fallout ahead of the show’s fourth season.
The only real criticism we have of the third season is the amount of time devoted to Doug’s on-going obsession with Rachel. When the storyline (eventually) reaches its climax it’s a huge anti-climax and you feel annoyed that so much time was spent on something that could, and should, have been wrapped up last season.
Performance wise there isn’t a weak link in the cast. Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright continue to excel in their roles, with Wright giving her best performance to date. Elizabeth Marvel is a revelation as Heather Dunbar and she really steps up this season. She’s a character you’ll either love or hate but she’s the first real adversary Frank has had over the course of the series so far. Also worthy of note is Molly Parker who continues to be excellent as the manipulative and ambitious Jackie Sharp. Keep your eyes peeled for Lars Mikkelsen (Mads’ brother) as the slimy Russian President Viktor Petrov who steals a few scenes over the season.
The release features a single special feature ‘Backstage Politics: On the set of House of Cards’ giving you a look behind-the-scenes of the show.
House of Cards: The Complete Third Season may have its detractors but we thought it was another strong season of the hit series. It’s true that Frank doesn’t have as much room to grow as a character this season as he’s reached his goal, but his downfall is something we’ve all been waiting for since season 1. Whether or not that downfall fully materialises by the end of season 3 or not we’re not going to say but wheels are set in motion with the promise of a truly spectacular fourth season.