‘House of Cards’ continues to build on success

By Austin Miller, @AMiller_DE

A house divided cannot stand.

Growing up in the Land of Abraham Lincoln, it is not hard for me to rattle off quotes of Honest Abe. But this speech, given by Lincoln during his debates with Stephen Douglas before he was president, holds to true for a fictional head of state.

“House of Cards,” based on career politician Francis “Frank” Underwood, has become one of the most talked about shows since it first streamed in 2013. Netflix has found a way to make politics interesting for its typical consumers—young adults who are less likely to vote.

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Some critics said season two of the Netflix original series followed the recipe of season one too much. Politicians can only cheat on and kill so many people before the show becomes too unbelievable.

Season three strays from that path and delivers a much more realistic political drama that is just as interesting without death and sex.

In two seasons, “House of Cards” has shaken up the world of pretend politics. Viewers have seen Frank, played by Kevin Spacey, rise from congressman to president.

Season one saw Frank lay the foundation for his empire after he was promised a promotion to secretary of state, only to have that promise revoked. Frank then embarked on a warpath to prevent future humiliation. He made politicians align or resign with his proverbial whip of words. Or through murder (rest in peace Peter Russo).

After becoming vice president at the end of season one, Frank fortifies his empire in season two. Everyone who knew his dirty secrets were ground to dust, allowing him to pave his way to the presidency.

So now that he has reached the top of the mountain, Frank has to find a way to the peak, but it is windy up there.

Up until now, Frank has always been in control. Even though he had a lower political ranking, Frank could assert his will onto everyone. But now, as The Leader of the Free World, he has no control at all.

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His approval rating is in the toilet, with most Americans labeling him as a transitional president. The democratic party does not want him on the ticket for the next election and his marriage has hit a rough patch, with he and his wife, Claire, sleeping in separate beds after moving into the White House.

But those were just his obstacles at the start of the season.

Frank puts together a new program called America Works, which gets rid of entitlement programs, like Social Security and Medicaid, to create new jobs. With Congress unwilling to play ball, Frank takes money from FEMA to fund the program in Washington D.C. He said if citizens and politicians see Americans being put to work in the nation’s capital, they will want it country.

Then Mother Nature comes in like a wrecking ball and sends a hurricane toward the east coast. He is forced to cut America Works so FEMA can have the money to help the affected areas after the storm. Only for the hurricane to veer away from the coast, meaning the program, which was working, was cut for nothing.

One of the season’s bright spots came from the introduction of Viktor Petrov, president of the Russian Federation, who is heavily based on actual Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Petrov talks about how important manliness is to him. Putin is often photographed shirtless riding horses, or in leather on motorcycles, showcasing his masculinity to the world. If only the Old Spice horse-man could run for president in 2016 and give Putin a run for his money.

Seeing the U.S.-Russia dynamic in a show is interesting because any time we see it on the news, it is just hand shaking and smiles. “House of Cards” shows what possibly happens behind closed doors.

Petrov strongarms Frank during peace negotiations in the Jordan Valley between Israel and Palestine. The tension is high every time these two are on-screen together, especially when Petrov lists his one condition for the deal: Claire stepping down as U.N. Ambassador.

Frank wanted to shove Petrov down a flight of stairs when he kissed Claire after a White House dinner, and knowing Frank’s murderous past, it is surprising he did not even if World War 3 could have followed. He has used trains to take care of enemies before, he could probably find one in the Jordan Valley.

Political power may be the one thing Frank craves more than Freddy’s Ribs, but it is the power of his family that he ultimately loses.

Claire asks to be U.N. Ambassador to validate herself, with her own desires for power. But after she has the position taken away, she spends the rest of the season contemplating what she wants.

After having several people tell her they wished she was running for president instead of Frank, she leaves him.

“House of Cards” stands firm in quality, while Frank’s begins to tumble down.

This is where my big questions come out on the season. With Claire leaving, is the audience supposed to be sympathetic to her?

She knew what she was getting in to when she married Francis. He wanted to be president, and there is only one desk in the Oval Office. She leaves him because his desires do not line up with hers anymore. But he always supports her, even when she does not return the favor. He constantly defends her.

Heather Dunbar, a democratic presidential candidate, threatens Frank with a smear campaign centered on Claire, then he threatens to slit Dunbar’s throat in broad daylight. 

This is not even the first time she has left. In season one, she ran off with her former artist boyfriend, only to return in a few episodes.

This season felt like it was split in half and the ending is the climax, not the resolution.

The 2016 presidential campaign has just begun and Frank has a worthy challenger for the democratic nomination. But what role will Claire play? Will she run for president? I do not think that is a legal option, but who knows, I am not an expert on the Constitution.

Each season has 13 episodes, and this one ended with 39. So a 13 episode season four brings the total to 52, the amount of cards in a deck. Will next season be the last the one? I guess we will see next February. 

Austin Miller can be reached at [email protected] 

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