Noah Sunshine || Senior Staff Writer
What happened to House of Cards? It’s not the same series anymore. Once upon a time, Francis Underwood was a murderous and bi-curious hick-turned-antihero in Netflix’s DC-based political drama, arguing and killing and sleeping his way to the top along with his equally icy wife, Claire, who might have been worse than him. What season three has shown its viewers so far, though, is that with great power comes an inexplicable shift in personal values — Francis Underwood is no longer the political juggernaut we thought he was.
House of Cards spoilers to follow.
Francis’ meteoric rise from Democrat Whip to President over the last two seasons have established his character as someone that will do anything for power (which is separate from money, as he notes in season 1; this means there is a theoretical limit). With all the carnage of previous seasons behind him, Francis sits in the Oval Office plotting for… what? Re-election? There’s nowhere left for him to go now that he’s slithered into the White House via the backdoor as the former president walked out the front; House of Cards has jumped the shark.
Instead of continuing his cutthroat politics, the new season has Francis fighting Congress for America as a particularly ballsy public servant, using FEMA funds to employ the unemployed and trying to strike up conversations with a Putin-esque Russian president. Audacious, sure, but the pattern of behavior is more Ralph Nader than anything from previous seasons. I’ve been more interested in Doug Stamper, Francis’ former chief of staff, as he struggles through physical therapy and some alarming demons. If we’re lucky, he’ll wind up the center of more episodes moving forward.
What we could be ignoring, of course, is that, like a house of cards, things will fold and fall around Francis and Claire. While viewers may find themselves invested in their exploits, I wouldn’t be surprised if they turned out to be the villains as characters such as Stamper find themselves on different sides. The resolution to the series, if this were true, would be the Underwoods’ undoing, and would justify many things going wrong with this season, but not all.
I’m worried that unless there’s a very, very big bait-and-switch at the end of season 3, Netflix’s series will go belly up just three short years into its flagship series; Orange is the New Black remains a contender, but House of Cards was the HBO killer they needed in order to assert their dominance as not just a content provider, but producer. No one is watching Marco Polo, after all.
Noah Sunshine is a senior staff writer. His email is email@example.com.