A mere three days after our nation’s Super Tuesday and 11 days before our sunshine state presidential primary, Netflix blesses us with 13 new episodes of “House of Cards.”
For some, it’s the closest to participating in the political process they wish to get, and for others it’s a chance to take a break from the hubbub of our own election year.
Then again, at the rate our 2016 election is going even a bloody, divorce-filled season of “Cards” still seems fairly tame.
Last season, Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood — Mr. President to you — was settling into his first term after rising to the post due to the president’s resignation. Only six months in, Underwood begins to realize the presidency doesn’t hold as much power as he had hoped.
Both he and the first lady, Claire (Robin Wright), refuse to be “placeholders” until the election in 2016. Classy Claire doesn’t just want to do typical first lady duties. She breaks tradition by landing the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations seat. For Frank, making his mark means trying to pass a massive jobs program unlike anything the country has seen since President Roosevelt’s New Deal.
In the real and fictional worlds of politics, plans and goals don’t come easily.
Despite obtaining his ultimate goal (is it really?) of the presidency, Frank still stops at nothing to gain the respect — and fear — of leaders and his constituents . He survived international, national and personal crisis last season. He first lost the man who devoted his entire professional life to Frank’s success — former chief of staff Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) — only to gain him back in the end. He lost and won the respect and favor of the Democratic leadership numerous times over the course of his campaign, ultimately winning the Iowa caucus over fellow candidate Heather Dunbar (Elizabeth Marvel), former U.S. solicitor general.
In the thick of a heated campaign, Frank’s personal life took big hits that may or may not break him in Season 4. We all knew Frank and Claire’s marriage wasn’t the healthiest. They both admitted their relationship and marriage was partly a stepping stone to obtain power and respect. In a not-so-surprising upset, Claire tells Frank she’s leaving him just as he is in the fight of his life in the election.
Claire was visibly dissatisfied for much of the season. At the end she realizes it wasn’t just her role as first lady and Ambassador that wasn’t satisfying her; it was also her husband. At least he’s not cheating anymore.
Now, about Doug …
Much of the third season focused on Doug’s recovery from almost dying, descent into alcoholism again, then more recovery.
At the end of Season 2, Doug was left for dead in the woods by Rachel Posner (Rachel Brosnahan), a former prostitute and seducer of the late Peter Russo (Corey Stoll). Just like Doug and Frank planned, Russo spirals out of control until he’s murdered by Frank. Doug had a scary hold over Rachel, spending most of Season 3 trying to find her and control her. His craziness ends when he kills her and buries her in New Mexico.
The end of Season 3 left “Cards”’ main characters wounded, both professionally and personally. In Season 4, will Doug shine as Frank’s right hand man, helping him obtain the presidency again? And what of Frank and Claire’s marriage? Even if they pick up the pieces and remain married, a public separation is not something a presidential candidate easily bounces back from. Will Frank even get elected?
We’ll find out today.