House of Cards season 3: still via Netflix

By Alysse Glick

(Please note that this Season 3 recap/review contains significant plot details of the show.)

House of Cards ended like watching a the last 20 seconds of the Super Bowl, with some overpaid quarter back throwing a Hail Mary – and then the power goes off.

Claire, ever elegant, tells Francis she’s not going to Iowa with him. Ok, not great for optics but nothing to worry about just yet. She says she’s leaving him. And clicks down the hall in her staple Louboutins. And then the credits leave you perspiring just a bit longer before they started to roll.

Let’s back track just a little bit here to essentially when this season finally started. A slow, deliberate – at times back peddling – start. Like trying to turn your car on and the engine keeps turning. Doug finds Rachel. Ok, he’s going to kill her. But wait, he doesn’t. Plot twist! She starts walking to the next town, water-bottles of mercy in hand. Next thing we know, the plot pulls a U-turn like the big rusted white van, and she’s in the grave.

Why? Did Doug Stamper need that moment of retribution, where you thought – wow this guy was wicked, he betrayed his only ally, he’s an alcoholic again. But then doesn’t – handing the journal back to Frank in the 11th hour, and staying sober. You start to think that maybe he’s coming around and digging himself out of the alcoholic relapse hole he crawled into. Instead, he throws Rachel, or sorry, Cassie, into it.

For what it’s worth she gave it her best shot, I would likely have more empathy for her if she had stayed with her girlfriend, or stolen away together to their quiet place in the woods. But she was an empty shell of a person, working off the books and saving enough to go back up north to a quiet place… this didn’t seem like much of a life. Plus, she served her purposes. She was always a pawn in a cruel boy’s club game and this was the final move.

Remy quits. I don’t blame him; in fact I’m happy someone could save some face and get out of those hallowed halls. I couldn’t help feeling sorry for him and what could have been, as he embodied the mistakes of Jackie Sharp. She married for an election she would never run in, scorned her would-be President, losing her VP seat. Jackie stands without a seat to call her own, a husband she doesn’t love quite as much as she could, watching Remy – her anchor through the past two seasons – walk away with all the choices in the world. Sympathy points here, but happy thoughts for Remy. I did always respect him.

 In terms of Dunbar losing the democratic seat – I’m not surprised. Though I have no doubt Frank will appoint her to the Supreme Court and she’ll come back to haunt him. Perhaps playing dirty and soiling the once clean reputation she was starting to earn.

But Claire. Unless you were looking for chasm throughout this season and psychologically evaluating her frigid composure, broken with practiced and graceful smiles – almost believable on the campaign trail – I didn’t quite expect what happened. Because, frankly, she’s always been like that. Emotionless, composed, a bit cold but then warm, always a beacon of sound judgment.

So it’s not really a surprise that she made this call. Frank Underwood was becoming a monster. Part of her in the hotel room, slapping him around and demanding he rough her up, wanted him to follow through – hell, I wanted him to follow through. I wanted to see him broken once and for all and cross over that last line of respect you had for him. The respect Tom Yates swore Francis carried with him for Claire. The love they shared that could not be broken through murder, deception and shade.

That’s why I was a bit disappointed that Frank handled the situation calmly. Though – it should be noted, that he almost did it. He almost took her, but not when she demanded eye contact. She wanted to know he lost his sense of self; she wanted to know how far he would go. Turns out, not this far. So while that scene had not played out as monstrous as one would hope, the following one did. Perhaps the most tense and incredibly raw piece I’ve seen on this show – the confrontation in the oval office. Frank bearing down upon Claire, thunderous in his reproach, grabbing her face with such a sign of disrespect and ownership that only a man could prevail.

Kevin Spacey & Robin Wright take it literally.
Kevin Spacey & Robin Wright take it literally.

And Claire. This amount of strength was paramount, even for her. She didn’t recoil from his touch, but if you looked close enough, there was fear – or perhaps hate – in her eyes. After this, I fully believed that she would go to Iowa, stand by Francis and recalculate her priorities, taking a new approach to get what she wanted. Perhaps this was the key to her departure. What was she playing for anymore? What did she want? Gone are the days of her command at the non-profit, her determination in backing Francis, even her shot at the UN. What does she have left?

Nothing. It used to be Frank, but he’s only a shadow of the person he was before – he’s becoming an omnipotent presence, despite seemingly losing his grasp on the senate, his chief of staff and his wife. But yet, he still reigns. And the Republicans might rip him apart in the upcoming election, but consider this: he’s got nothing. left. to. lose.

Claire, the one beacon of hope, his guiding conscience of doing the right thing, is gone. Francis Underwood was never before afraid of threats, violence or playing dirty. And that was with a loving relationship at stake.

Now she’s gone.

And all this, despite repetitions each episode of how long they’ve been together, how much Frank loved her.  But it was never stated how much Claire loved him, not unless it was on the campaign trail. Tom Yates, the author, had a point. No one got her side of the story. No one knows her perspective. We’ve seen fleeting moments of torrid love affairs, cold indifference to her husband and at times support and reliance. But I wouldn’t call anything “love”.

What’s that old, over used quote? Oh yeah.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Read part one of Alysse Glick’s House of Cards season 3 coverage here.