By JIMMY LICHTENWALTER
****This review contains some spoilers from previous seasons****
There is a moment in the newest season of Netflix’s popular political drama “House of Cards” where President Frank Underwood has an argument with his wife, Claire.
Without giving too much away, the heated exchanged ends with Claire tossing a stinging insult at her husband before coldly leaving the room. The camera rests on a seething Frank for a few beats, before he looks directly at the audience and angrily growls, “What are you looking at?”
It’s a fair question Frank asks of us. What are we looking at? What is it about this dark, cynical take on American politics that inspires people to binge watch 13 hour-long episodes in a weekend? What makes “House of Cards” so wildly popular?
I’ve been a huge fan of “House of Cards” since the show premiered on Netflix in 2013. As much as I would love to say that I enjoy the show because of its political intrigue, it’s not the case.
As fascinating as it is to watch, “House of Cards” is little more than political-themed melodrama. Yet, what consistently sets the show above the likes of “Desperate Housewives” or “Grey’s Anatomy” is its sleek look, clever writing and phenomenal acting. This has not changed in season three.
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright star as Frank and Claire Underwood, the ruthless political power couple who have conned, schemed and connived their way into the White House. Spacey and Wright are just as fantastic as they were in the previous seasons.
While Spacey chews the scenery around him, delightfully breaking the fourth wall every so often, Wright is cool, cold and calculating. As characters, they go hand-in-hand. It is this husband-wife dynamic where the show really shines.
Overall, season three offers a more focused and interesting narrative than the previous season. Following Frank’s ascension to the presidency last season, he quickly finds himself dealing with both foreign and domestic issues, all while trying to push a huge, radical piece of legislation called America Works. This season may offer fewer moments where the audience gasps in surprise (i.e. the train station), but it is far more satisfying. It is interesting to see Underwood off his game, something the previous two seasons have not really explored, and a few of the show’s peripheral characters have particularly interesting developments.
To answer Underwood’s question, the reason why “House of Cards” is such a phenomenal hit is because it is an incredibly involving, interesting television show. It is certainly head-and-shoulders above the vast majority of shows on cable. With strong performances and great writing, the third season of “House of Cards” delivers and will certainly leave audiences craving the next season.